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Wednesdays with Wade: The Epcot we never got

Wednesdays with Wade: The Epcot we never got

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One of the things that strikes me as foolish about the "Happiest Celebration on Earth" is how short sighted it is. Yes, Disneyland is celebrating its 50th on July 17th and that is a big emotional button for me in particular having grown up in Southern California and I literally grew up going to Disneyland from being a wide-eyed young child, to a teenager who took dates to the park, to proposing to my ex-wife on Main Street late one night under the stars.

However, if we are to believe the Disney Company, we are not just supposed to be celebrating Disneyland's birthday but the whole "Disneyland Concept" that is also represented in the other Disney theme parks. So, how come the Disney Company is so short sighted that it is not preparing for the other celebrations.

Other celebrations?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone in the Disney Company that 2006 will mark the 35th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom in Florida and 2007 will mark the 25th anniversary of Epcot. Aren't those milestone celebrations? If Disney really wanted to extend their Disneyland celebration, shouldn't they be thinking that the logical way of doing that is to move the party out to Florida in a year or two? I would bet there are just as many people who during the last two or three decades have just as strong emotional buttons about the East Coast Disney theme parks as I do about Disneyland.

However, the storytellers who know the stories about the parks and who can supply the stories that could help attractions, merchandise, entertainment and more create a truly magical experience for the guests have left the building or have been re-located to jobs where they can no longer share the stories or are living in hourly fear that they will be the next ones to be shown the door because the Disney Company sees no immediate revenue value in those stories.

One of the biggest complaints I get from my friends who actually work for the Disney Company is that they have to go to unofficial internet sources to get the information about Disney and that the internet sources seem to know what is going on at the Disney parks before they are officially notified sometimes weeks later.

Obviously, the official notification is so late because like any other major corporation Disney is trying to keep things secret so they can spin the information the way they want. In addition, everything at Disney is in constant flux and something that is permanent and has received a commitment one minute can be gone the next. We've all heard of the stories of things Disney supposedly announced from the Oz attraction in the Rock Candy Mountain at Disneyland to the Western River Expedition at Walt Disney World. In fact, Jim Hill will be writing a book about all of these and more just as soon as he finishes writing that book about Disneyland and finishing those missing internet chapters on the Muppets and Light Magic and... Come to think of it, I guess it isn't only the Disney Company that announces things that never seem to appear.

So in that spirit of things that never were at Disney, I dug through some of my Epcot files to present some Epcot dreams that never became a reality, at least not in the way they were originally described:

From a 1969 press release:

"Epcot is designed to provide an environment that will stimulate the best thinking of industry and the professions in the creative development of new technologies to meet the needs of people, expressed by the experience of those who live and visit here. Epcot Center is designed to respond to the needs of people by providing an international forum where creative men and women of industry, government, and the arts can develop, demonstrate and communicate prototype concepts and new technologies, and their application in creating better ways of living."

In 1975, various Advisory Boards were formed, committees of experts from all over the country. These scientists, business leaders, educators and government officials met to critique and to offer their knowledge in the areas of energy, transportation, the land, the sea and others.

Carl Hodges, Dan Aldrich, Chuck Lewis, Ralph Cummings, Tom Paine, Alex Haley, Ann Landers, Girard O'Neal, Ray Bradbury and many more contributed their time and creativity to the Epcot project. Many worked for no fee, because they hoped Epcot would offer some solutions for future generations.

At the time, Ray Bradbury wrote:

"It's been an amazing experience working on this project. You leave here at night with some ideas scribbled down on paper and the next morning there are three watercolors (concept paintings) waiting for you.

What we have here (at Epcot) is a positive statement about the future, something we surely need these days. If we build it beautifully, if we set an example for the world, we can change the whole damn country. That's how important you are. That's how important I feel, working with you.

People will come from all over the world; they're already doing it at Disneyland and Disney World...so what we're going to do in the next year and the next five years is change our own country, only for the better. And after that---the world.

It's a big project. But of all the groups in the world, while everyone else is busy talking, you're doing the stuff that's really going to count."

From a 1979 press release:

"Already committed to participating in World Showcase are Mexico, Canada, Japan, West Germany, United Kingdom, France, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Israel and Morocco. WED Imagineers are now working with representatives from each country on preliminary design concepts for their pavilions.

For instance, part of the United Arab Emirates pavilion envisions a magic carpet ride with a holographic genie that will take you through a starlit night-and show you early Arabic contributions in the fields of astronomy, navigation and mathematics."

From another 1979 press release:

"The Space pavilion is the 768 passenger starship, designed by Disney Imagineers with help from Ray Bradbury. Ride a 12-story-high gantry to board the interstellar craft. Blasting off, you look out the expansive windows to see Epcot recede in the distance below. After a quick zoom around Earth, you're off for the reaches of deep space-complete with the simulated sensation of zero gravity.

At the Seas pavilion, take an underwater journey with Poseidon, the Lord of the Sea, through the oceans of the world-from the Continental Shelf to the Great Coral Reef.

The Life and Health pavilion has a 'Fantastic Voyage'-like trip through the complex inner workings of the human body, 'The Incredible Journey Within', is the main attraction here. Also, don't miss the 'You Bet Your Life' Midway-a casino setup that imparts valuable information about your health along with the gaming.

In the Transportation pavilion, experimental transportation systems and prototype vehicles of tomorrow are showcased. Highlight will be a series of simulated trips-many at dizzying high speed-onboard present-day modes of transportation."

From the official 1982 Epcot Center Pictorial Souvenir booklet:

"Coming (to) World Showcase!

ISRAEL: The Menorah, symbol of the State of Israel, stands at the courtyard center, surrounded by buildings reflecting the rich balance of new and old. Walk through ancient Jerusalem to an amphitheater to hear performances of both classical and folk music. Sample native dishes under the shade of olive and cypress trees in the Israel Pavilion.

EQUATORIAL AFRICA: The Equatorial Africa pavilion takes you on a safari through a world of natural beauty and adventure. You'll view the drama of wild animals from the safety of a giant Cailcendra tree. You'll feel the electrifying energy of the 'Heartbeat of Africa' show and sway to the jungle beat of the music and dance. Alex Haley, noted author of 'Roots', is your host for 'Africa Rediscovered', an adventure uncovering Africa's ancient cultural heritage.

SPAIN: Take a spectacular journey through Spain by film to little known and out-of-the-way vacation Edens. A ride attraction captures the country's passionate heritage and spirit in her arts. In a waterside restaurant, indulge in tapas, or Spanish-style finger food-a blend of varied ingredients but suitable to simple tastes. And browse the market places of striking contrast, from pueblo village to aristocratic opulence."

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