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Wednesdays with Wade: The story of Epcot's Innoventions Fountain

Wednesdays with Wade: The story of Epcot's Innoventions Fountain

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"In a ceremony signifying international understanding and cooperation, representatives of the performing groups gathered around the Fountain of World Friendship in CommuniCore Plaza and added water from their own countries into the fountain."

---EYES AND EARS (a Walt Disney World cast newspaper) reporting on the ceremony in the
October 28, 1982 edition

The Fountain of Nations? The Fountain of World Friendship? The CommuniCore (Community Core not Communication Core) Fountain? Innoventions Fountain? Over the years, the fountain in the middle of Epcot has been called many different things.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Whatever guests and cast members call it, it is often used as a meeting place landmark and photo location with SpaceShip Earth in the background. However, for me, one of the stories forgotten by cast members and guests is what makes the fountain so memorable. That story is about its dedication.

On Sunday, October 24, 1982 at precisely 11:00 am, double Westminster chimes signaled the beginning of the Grand Opening Dedication Ceremonies at E.P.C.O.T. Center.

A group of sixteen herald trumpeters and six drummers joined by the West Point Glee Club soon followed the chimes as did the 450 piece All-American College Marching Band assembled by Walt Disney World from 146 colleges.

There were over four thousand invited guests including Walt Disney Productions executives Donn Tatum and Card Walker along with Mrs. Lillian Disney (Walt Disney's widow), corporate executives, foreign and American political figures and many other VIPs.

There was a flag raising ceremony with an American flag that was a gift from President and Mrs. Reagan and had been flown at the White House.

This activity was followed by what was called the "International Ceremony of the Waters". This ceremony was inspired by a similar event during Walt Disney's lifetime where the dedication of the "it's a small world" attraction at Disneyland included children of many nations pouring water from the waterways of their countries into the attraction flume. (The attraction opened there on May 28, 1966. It involved 10,000 balloons, 500 costumed children and 1500 foreign dignitaries. At the opening ceremony, a liter of water from each of the 100 countries represented was poured into the canal, which is called the Seven Seaways.)

International performing groups surrounded what was then known as the CommuniCore Fountain and one by one, they poured a vessel of water into the fountain. Each vessel was unique to represent the country and each was stored in Cash Control so that the integrity of the water being from that particular country could be maintained. The water (often with publicity photo opportunities in the respective countries) was gathered from the lakes, rivers, and oceans of the twenty-three countries and was to "signify the international understanding and cooperation that Epcot Center stands for."

CEO and Chairman of Walt Disney Productions Card Walker walked to the podium and said:

"It is a great thrill, really a wonderful thrill. Lilly, thanks for being with us. Joining us around this magnificent fountain are representatives of nations from around the world. They have brought with them waters from the great oceans, the seas, the rivers, and the lakes on our planet, spaceship earth. These waters will flow together as a symbol of the oneness of humankind and the hope for peace among nations, making this truly a fountain of world friendship. And now it is my great pleasure to read the bronze plaque officially dedicating EPCOT Center. I'll read it right here: 'To all who come to this place of joy, hope, and friendship, welcome. EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision. Here human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform, and inspire, and above all may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.' Thank you."

As Card Walker led Lillian Disney off the stage, he said in an undertone: "Well, we've done it."

Mrs. Disney, who was known for her shyness, did not officially speak at the event.

The countries represented who poured urns containing one gallon of water into the fountain were: Canada, Denmark, Italy, Korea, Japan, Africa [several countries included in group], Egypt, Morocco, Colombia, Mexico, Barbados, Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, U.K., Yugoslavia. Water came from as far away as the Arctic Ocean, the Nile River in Africa, and Yangtze River in China.

At the conclusion, an aerial salute of fireworks created "The Colors of the World" immediately followed by a jet flyover by the Florida Air National Guard.

Preparation for these festivities began nearly four years earlier with the minute-by-minute planning starting in March 1982. Twenty different committees were involved in creating the Dedication ceremonies from design of invitations to finance to talent booking to transportation and more.

Dennis Despie, then Vice-President of Entertainment for Walt Disney Productions said that he hoped this celebration would become an annual event because it was one of the few opportunities for this type of international celebration in the United States. One thousand, five hundred folk festival performers from twenty-three nations performed during the weekend of October 22-24. They performed in and around the nine international pavilions.

Today, every fifteen minutes, the fountain showcases water ballets where over two hundred shooters propel over fifty gallons of water up to one hundred and fifty feet in the air. Once upon a time, human cast members actually measured the wind and controlled how high the water shot in the air so as not to soak guests on windy days.

There are seven different musical selections that rotate: Instrumental from the "Air Battle" sequence from "Surprise in the Skies" a former daytime lagoon show at Epcot, "Day One" by John Tesh, Main title selection from the Disney live-action feature film "Iron Will", "Mickey's Finale" selection from a proposed Epcot show tentatively titled "Around the World with Mickey Mouse", Selection from Disney's animated feature "The Rescuers Down Under", Selection from the Disney live-action feature film "The Rocketeer", and "Standing in Motion" by Yanni.

Photo by Jeff Lange

It took three months of computer programming to design the seven different water ballets and at night, over a thousand colored lights highlight the streams of water. It is the largest fountain on Disney property. The fountain holds approximately one hundred and fifty thousand gallons of water with computer controlled pumps sending almost thirty thousand gallons of water per minute cascading down its tiered walls.

The fountain uses almost thirty-five miles of electrical wire. Chloride is too corrosive for this fountain so Disney uses bromine to keep it clean and to ensure there is no algae. The coins that are retrieved from this fountain, like others on property, are donated by the Disney Company to local charities.

Running underneath the entire fountain is an underground work area that houses the pumps and computer systems, as well as a workshop for cast members who maintain our Epcot fountains. There is also a space with special lifts that are used beneath our stage area for performers and equipment. The underground work area was built and then the fountain placed on top with no planning on how to get new equipment down into the area. Over the years, the fountain has been damaged like when a temporary stage for performing elephants was put on top of it when Epcot showcased a daily circus.

In the 1980's the fountain team at Walt Disney World included a young civil engineer whose thesis was on the behavior of turbulence free water. Mark Fuller later founded WET Design. This company became the premiere fountain company in the world. Mark Fuller is also responsible for other Disney fountains including the leapfrog fountain at the Imagination pavilion. His greatest creation to date may be at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Again, the story of the fountain being a representation of the harmony between countries of the world is yet another story that is being lost as the years go by and Epcot races to include more thrill rides.

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  • I was a member of the Philippine performing group known as the Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company from Tacloban City, Philippines.  We were on our last leg of a nine-month goodwill tour of the US & Mexico.  We  covered about 30 US states (from west to east coast) and included performances at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee earlier in June that year.  We were fortunate to have been selected by the Disney people to represent our country.  if you visit the company's site: www.kalipayan.org, you will find Epcot Center's Opening in 1982 listed in its chronology of performances.  We had no photographs of Epcot's opening since we could not carry our cameras with us at that time. It just sad that not one image (video or photo) of the ceremony can be found in the world wide web (as long as I could surf anyway).  You described the "real" opening full well.  The International Ceremony of the Waters was  solemn and meaningful which is a far cry from what are loaded in the YouTube now.  The Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company  will be celebrating its 50th Founding Anniversary next year.   Our participation at Epcot's Opening Center in 1982 is remembered by our generation with great fondness and on occasions like reunions, we even sing the theme song after the ceremony.  Thanks for the memory.

  • I was a college intern for the office that organized the visits from international performing groups and the water collection for the fountains.  The small office was in Reston, Virginia because the woman in charge (Margaret Lynn) didn't want to move to FL. Getting the water into the US was quite a production. We had to mail medical grade containers and mailing boxes to each country along with special decontaminating tablets.  Lots of work with Customs on how best to do it. The performing groups from each country were responsible for gathering the water and mailing it back. The special decorative containers for the water were hand carried by the groups. It was an amazing internship! Wonder where the containers ended up?

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