The West Coast EPCOT That Never Was

EPCOT opened 30 years ago today. Here's a look at the proposed West Coast version from a story Stacy originally posted last year.

Michael Eisner's original plans for the expansion of the Disney empire in Anaheim included a version of Orlando’s EPCOT called WestCOT.

Like EPCOT, WestCOT would have been made up of two parts - Future World, a place for guests to get hands on with science, and an area where guests could experience different cultures and architecture. Instead of being divided into individual countries, though, the mini-world tour would be split into regions: the New World (the Americas), the Old World (Europe), the World of Asia (guess) and the World of Africa (right again). Unlike EPCOT, guests would have been able to reside in any one of those regions during their stay, living right in the park. This hotel-within-the-park idea was eventually used at Tokyo DisneySea (anyone been there?). Rides included a James Bond-esque chase on a train, a trip through an Egyptian palace and a Native American Spirit Lodge.

Even more ambitious was a ride show called “The Three Great Religions of the World.” Say what?! Luckily, Eisner and other Disney execs realized doing this without offending someone or creating some sort of controversy was more or less impossible, even for Imagineers who do the impossible every day. I’m guessing it’s totally out of the picture these days, but in 1994, Imagineer Tony Baxter still had hopes for it:

“We had settled on depicting the seven days of creation and avoiding all of the problems between the Muslim and the Jewish and Christian versions of that. And we were getting very excited because we were starting to deal with seven of the great artists of the world and trying to have them depict each of the single days that they had been given. Maybe that will happen later.”

Uh... maybe not.

Like all Disney parks, there were plans for WestCOT to have a large architectural symbol that would represent the park. At first, designers thought they would replicate the giant geodesic sphere from Florida, but make it gold and almost twice as big. When mockups were made, they quickly realized that it would totally distract from the view on Main Street over at Disneyland. The fact that nearby residents were already complaining about how a massive gilded golf ball would be an eyesore whenever they stepped outside probably influenced the decision as well. In the end, a 300-foot white spire was the winner.

And all of this was just the tip of the iceberg: there were incredibly detailed plans for landscaping, hotels, restaurants and more. It was projected that the additions would attract an extra 25 million visitors to the area every year. Nearly 30,000 jobs would be created.

So what went wrong? Well, Disney ran into a lot of problems along the way, including lack of funding from outside sources (hey, someone had to pay for revamped roads, highways and parking garages), push back from some pretty prominent people, and the financial failure of EuroDisney. So, even though WestCOT had officially been announced to the public in 1991, it was scrapped just a few years later.

Still, something had to be done, so execs put their heads together at a three-day summit in Colorado to come up with the next big amusement park. The result of the long weekend was California Adventure, which opened in 2001.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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