Friday, April 04, 2008


As part of my recent obsession with space I've been watching some old Disney Tomorrowland films. Tonight there was a great film about Walt's original design for EPCOT (embedded below), which was light years away from what it is today. Walt envisioned it as a city of the future, home to over 24,000 people. EPCOT is actually an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

While in hindsight it's easy to look back on such an idea as a bit grandiose and out of reach, but I was shocked to discover just how much time, passion, and especially resources were devoted to the project. This was an endeavor that utilized many of America's largest corporations working together and would have cost billions of dollars. Billions, on some grand dream of a city of the future? Can you imagine? Unfortunately Walt died in the early planning stages and what resulted is the place you see today, some lame "science" park with rides about the body or fossil fuels.

There seemed to be a lot of grand ideas like EPCOT in the first half of the twentieth century. There were World Fair's highlighting the great dreams of the world's future which have left us little more than the Eiffel Tower. Even the films of the time seemed to be so incredibly hopeful and optimistic of where mankind would find itself in the later half of the century. Not only did we dream big, we actually devoted ourselves to achieving them. Hell, we made it to the moon in under a decade. I can't help but wonder, where has that gone? No, I don't expect us to have flying cars, rocket packs, pill dinners, or any of the other outlandish predictions, but has our ability to dream on that scale died? Could a place like Tomorrowland be built today? I sure wish it were so.

In closing, a fantastic quote from Ray Bradbury.

“I came back from Paris one time about ten years ago, went to Disneyland, and I looked at the side of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and I called John Hench over at Imagineering, and I said, ‘I noticed something about Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: there’s a spire there that I saw last on top of Notre Dame in Paris! I said, ‘How long’s that been there, on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle?’ He said, ‘20 years.’ I said, ‘Who put it there?’ He said, ‘Walt did.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because he loved it.’

I said, ‘Ah! That’s why I love Walt Disney.’ It cost $100,000 to build a spire you didn’t need! That’s the secret of [Walt] Disney, is doing things you don’t need and doing them well, and then you realize you needed ‘em all along."

1 comment:

Leah said...

I read a really cool biography on Walt Disney on our honeymoon. It was pretty thorough (600+ pages), but it really captures his vision and dreams. It might be fun for you to browse. It's called "Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination," by Neal Gabler.