There are two Epcots. The Epcot most guests know is the theme park in Disney World with the “big silver golf ball” and people who like to drink around the world. The other Epcot, however, is the original EPCOT. The Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.
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It was Walt Disney’s plan for an actual functioning city of the future that would be the focal point of Disney World and an example for other cities around the world as to what city life could be like with proper planning and design.
That second EPCOT never came to fruition because Walt Disney died before they even broke ground in Florida. His vision was essential to the plans for Epcot, and so without him the city would never happen. That, however, doesn’t stop fans from asking: would it have worked?
Here’s my guess: Yes and no.
Let me be more specific: The more I learn about Walt’s initial plans for EPCOT, the more I believe he would have been able to successfully build, open, and populate the city of EPCOT. However I also believe the city’s overall goal of acting as an example of a cutting edge city of the future for others to follow would have ultimately failed.
EPCOT city would have been a massive undertaking for sure. The resources required to build EPCOT, which would have been multiple times larger than the Magic Kingdom might, itself, have been a roadblock preventing it from ever happening. However from a technology perspective, if you consider the details of EPCOT, there really wasn’t anything stopping them.
All of it, on paper is nothing crazy. It would all be designed in a very specific way with one person overseeing it all, which was unique, but it was all within the realm of possibility.
From a practical construction and technology standpoint, there were only two major complications with EPCOT city. The first was the fact that the proposed 50 acre shopping center surrounding the hotel was going to be completely enclosed and climate controlled.
That said, while the costs of something as futuristic sounding as a climate controlled city center might have been a problem, it still could have been possible.
The second road bump would have potentially been the city's various layers. In order to keep traffic flowing through EPCOT and in an attempt to keep the bulk of the city focused on the people mover and monorail, automotive traffic would be limited to two layers beneath the city.
In theory Disney could have allowed the trucks to pass on the ground level, and cars to pass on the level above it. That would mean putting the rest of the city center on the third layer. If building a 50 acre enclosed shopping district wasn’t hard enough, doing it on top of two other layers would just be that much harder.
Still though, while they would probably pose significant issues in building Epcot, they aren’t really non-starters.
So where do I think EPCOT would have failed? I believe in it’s goal to not just serve as a model of the city of the future for others around the world, but to also remain a cutting edge city of the future over time.
All of the homes and apartments in EPCOT would be constantly outfitted with the latest and greatest in that new technology. As cool as it sounds, I don’t think it would have worked out.
If the concept art is anything to go off of, we’re talking about ten apartment buildings and anywhere from seven hundred to a thousand houses, housing up to 20,000 residents in total.
Do we really think that every time GE came up with a new refrigerator or toaster, they’d be willing to pay to produce and install 7,000 of them, for the purposes of testing, just so they could do the whole thing over again with the next one?
Furthermore while companies were slower with products and more open to showing them off in the 60s, today’s world is virtually the opposite. In a world in which companies like Apple are updating their products every 12 months, and keep their plans a secret until the very last possible second, it’s hard to imagine a city in which companies would be willing to show off their upcoming technology to competitors in a setting like Epcot.
Besides, even if companies were willing to do all of that, would it even be possible with the speed at which new products are developed today? Would the speed result in a lifestyle in which resident’s homes were under a constant state of upgrade? Would people really want that?
I suspect had he lived the extra 15+ years he said he would need to build EPCOT, he would have probably pulled off building a city of the future. However much like Tomorrowland, or Future World in the Epcot we would eventually get, I also suspect that city of the future would quickly become just another city of the present.