Epcot is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks, Experiences and Products division. Inspired by an unrealized concept developed by Walt Disney, the park opened on October 1, 1982, as EPCOT Center, and was the second of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World, after the Magic Kingdom. Spanning 305 acres (123 ha), more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park, Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a “permanent world’s fair”.
Epcot was originally conceived by Walt Disney during the early development of Walt Disney World, as an experimental planned community that would serve as a center for American innovation and urban living. Known as “EPCOT”, the idea included an urban city center, residential areas, and a series of mass transportation systems that would connect the community. After Disney’s death in 1966, the “EPCOT” concept was abandoned as the company had uncertainty about maintaining an operating city. In the 1970s, WED Enterprises began developing a second theme park for the resort to supplement Magic Kingdom, as that park’s popularity grew. The new park maintained the idea of showcasing modern innovation and enterprise through avant-garde edutainment attractions, as well as the addition of a world nations exposition. The newly-designed park, featuring two sections—Future World and World Showcase—opened as EPCOT Center in 1982. In 1994, the park was renamed to “Epcot,” dropping the acronym and “Center” from the name.
In 2018, Epcot hosted 13.444 million guests, ranking it as the fourth-most-visited theme park in North America and the seventh-most-visited theme park in the world. The park is represented by Spaceship Earth, a geodesic sphere.
- The Walt Disney World Monorail System passes through Future World.
- Glass pyramids of Imagination! with the jumping fountains in the foreground.
- The conservatory-inspired architecture of The Land pavilion.
- Curvatures and planetary figures of Mission: Space.
Future World consists of a variety of avant-garde pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications including technology and science, with each pavilion featuring self-contained attractions and distinct architecture in its design. Future World also serves as the park’s main entrance and features Spaceship Earth, a large geodesic sphere structure and the anchor pavilion, which also houses an eponymous dark ride attraction that depicts the history of communication. At the center of Future World is the former Innoventions plaza. From this position, the remaining six pavilions surround the plaza in clockwise order:
- Imagination! is themed to imagination and creativity and features two attractions; Journey into Imagination with Figment and the Disney-Pixar Short Film Festival.
- The Land portends the human interaction with the Earth, focusing on agriculture, ecology, and travel. The pavilion contains Soarin’ Around the World, an attraction that simulates a hang gliding flight over various regions of the world; and Living with the Land, a narrated boat tour through Audio-Animatronics scenes, a greenhouse and hydroponics lab.
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends is based on ocean exploration inspired by Finding Nemo and features an Omnimover attraction, Turtle Talk with Crush, and an aquarium with animal exhibits.
- Mission: Space, centered on space exploration, is a centrifugal motion simulator thrill ride that replicates a space flight experience to Mars and a low orbit tour over the surface of Earth.
- Test Track is a thrill ride inspired by the rigorous automobile testing procedures that General Motors uses to evaluate concept cars.
- The Odyssey Events Pavilion currently features a Walt Disney Imagineering preview exhibit detailing the forthcoming redesign plans for Epcot.
Originally, Future World debuted with six pavilions; Spaceship Earth, CommuniCore, Imagination!, The Land, Universe of Energy, and World of Motion. The Horizons pavilion opened the following year, and The Living Seas and Wonders of Life pavilions were added in 1986 and 1989, respectively, bringing the lineup to nine. CommuniCore, World of Motion, Horizons, Wonders of Life, Universe of Energy, and Innoventions closed in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2007, 2017, and 2019, respectively. The Fountain of Nations, a large circular musical fountain, was closed in 2019 as well. Each pavilion was initially sponsored by a corporation which helped fund its construction and maintenance in return for the corporation’s logos and some marketing elements appearing throughout the pavilion.
Additionally, each pavilion of Future World featured a unique circular logo which was featured on park signage, and throughout the attractions themselves. The pavilion logos were gradually phased out in the early 2000s, as the pavilions instead were identified by name and recognized by the main attraction(s) housed inside. Several homages remain scattered throughout the park, including merchandising. However, at D23 Expo 2019, Disney revealed that the concept of the circular pavilion logos would be revived as part of Epcot’s transformation, with both classic logos revived and new logos introduced.
The Japan pavilion features a large pagoda.
The Mexico pavilion.
The China pavilion.
The Germany pavilion features typical timberframe houses and a biergarten.
The Italy pavilion.
World Showcase is a large area reminiscent of a permanent world’s fair containing 11 pavilions, each themed and dedicated to represent a specific country. The pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, a large man-made lake located in the center of World Showcase with a perimeter of 1.2 miles (1.9 km). In clockwise order, the 11 pavilions are:
Of the 11 pavilions, only Morocco and Norway were not present at the park’s opening, as they were added in 1984 and 1988, respectively. Each pavilion contains themed architecture, landscapes, streetscapes, attractions, shops and restaurants representing the respective country’s culture and cuisine. In an effort to maintain the authenticity of the represented countries, the pavilions are primarily staffed by citizens of the respective countries as part of the Cultural Representative Program through Q1 visa agreements. Some pavilions also contain themed rides, shows, and live entertainment representative of the respective country. The only pavilion that is directly sponsored by the government of its respective country is Morocco; the remaining pavilions are primarily sponsored by private companies with affiliations to the represented countries.
Originally, the showcase was to include partnerships with the governments of the different countries. According to Disney’s 1975 Annual Report, the Showcase would:
…offer participating countries a permanent installation for such features as themed restaurants and shops, product exhibits, industrial displays, cultural presentations, a trade center, and even special facilities for business meetings.
Major sponsorships for each participating nation will be asked to provide the capital to cover the cost of designing, developing and constructing its attraction and/or ride and all exhibits, as well as the Pavilion itself. It will also have the responsibility for funding the housing for its employees in the International Village. Its land lease will cover the cost of maintaining the attraction for a minimum of ten years.
The Disney organization will be responsible for area development, including the construction of transportation systems and utilities. We will also build and operate the internal people moving system, the Courtyard of Nations and central theater facility.
Proposed pavilions and unused locations
Pavilions for Brazil, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel have occasionally been rumored as potential future pavilions but have never made it past the planning phases to date. The Israeli, Spanish, and an Equatorial Africa pavilion (blending elements of the cultures of countries such as Kenya and Zaire) were even announced as coming soon in 1982, and a model of the latter was shown on the opening day telecast, but never took off. Instead, a small African themed refreshment shop known as the Outpost currently resides where Equatorial Africa was to be, Israel, five African countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa), as well as eight other countries (Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, and Sweden), took part in the Millennium Village during the Millennium Celebration.
There are currently eight undeveloped spots for countries around the World Showcase—including the space occupied by the Outpost—in between the locations of the current countries. Two of the potential locations, on either side of the United Kingdom, are currently occupied by World ShowPlace. Two more lie on either side of the American Adventure, though this pavilion’s use of reversed forced perspective may preclude the construction of additional buildings as they would ruin the illusion.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, which up until 2012 did not serve alcohol and now only serves it in all table service locations, most stores and restaurants at Epcot, especially in the World Showcase, serve and/or sell a variety of alcoholic beverages including specialty drinks, craft beers, wines, and spirits reflective of the respective countries. The park also hosts the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, an annual event featuring food and drink samplings from all over the world, along with live entertainment and special exhibits.
The World Showcase Adventure
Originally based on the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible, the World Showcase Adventure is an interactive mobile attraction taking place in several pavilions throughout the World Showcase. The attraction is an electronic scavenger hunt that has guests using special “Kimmunicators” (in actuality, customized cell phones) to help teenage crime-fighters Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable solve a “crime” or disrupt an evil-doer’s “plans for global domination.” The “Kimmunicator” is able to trigger specific events within the pavilion grounds that provide clues to completing the adventure. Launched in January 2009 and presented by Verizon Wireless, the Adventure is included in park admission. It was succeeded by Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, based on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, on June 23, 2012.
Epcot during the annual Flower and Garden Festival.
Epcot hosts a number of special events during the year:
- The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, inaugurated in 1994, uses specially-themed floral displays throughout the park, including topiary sculptures of Disney characters. Guests can meet gardening experts and learn new ideas they can use in their own home gardens. The 18th annual event was scheduled for March 2 – May 15. Each event takes more than a full year to plan and more than 20,000 cast member hours.
- The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, inaugurated in 1995, draws amateur and professional gourmets to sample delicacies from all around the world, including nations that do not have a permanent presence in World Showcase. Celebrity chefs are often on-hand to host the events. In 2008, the festival featured the Bocuse d’Or USA, the American semifinal of the biennial Bocuse d’Or cooking competition.
- The Epcot International Festival of the Arts inaugurated in 2017, is a festival showcasing visual, culinary, and performing arts. The first annual event took place on weekends from January 13 through February 20, 2017.The 3rd annual Epcot International Festival of the Arts took place January 18 — February 25, 2019.
- The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is Epcot’s annual holiday celebration. The World Showcase pavilions feature storytellers describing their nation’s holiday traditions, and three nightly performances of the “Candlelight Processional” featuring an auditioned mass choir and a celebrity guest narrating the story of Christmas. During the festival, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth features a special extended ending.
- On New Year’s Eve, the park offers a variety of additional entertainment including live DJ dance areas throughout the park and a special New Year’s Eve countdown edition of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.