Watch Walt Disney's Original EPCOT Vision (1966)

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Toward the end of his life, Walt Disney developed the idea for EPCOT: the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It was intended to be a planned community in central Florida, using urban planning and advanced technology to improve city life for its citizens.

Unfortunately, Disney died before his plans took shape, and the land was largely used to build the Walt Disney World Resort. Years later, the "Epcot" theme park, a pale shadow of the original vision, opened as a view into futurism, highlighting many of these early ideas but not implementing them as an actual city. Some bits of EPCOT tech, like the PeopleMover, survive today in the Disney theme parks.

Just weeks before he died, Disney filmed his thoughts for what would become known as the "EPCOT/Florida Film," a film showing how EPCOT (and the as-yet-unbuilt Disney World) would work. After his death, the film was mostly relegated to the dustbin of history. But here it is. Behold, Walt Disney's late-1966 vision of the "Prototype City of Tomorrow." Note that the EPCOT material starts at around 6:20, after an extended intro about Disneyland:

For a transcript and tons more detail, check out this history of the film. There's a lot going on here, so reading the transcript may actually be easier than trying to digest the film. (Though the film does show lots of interesting animation and renderings of what the thing would look like.) Here's one bit that jumped out at me in the transcript:

...But most important, this entire fifty acres of city streets and buildings will be completely enclosed. In this climate-controlled environment, shoppers, theatergoers, and people just out for a stroll will enjoy ideal weather conditions, protected day and night from rain, heat and cold, and humidity.

Here the pedestrian will be king, free to walk and browse without fear of motorized vehicles. Only electric powered vehicles will travel above the streets of E.P.C.O.T's central city.

I grew up just a bit south of that land, and I cannot imagine that 50 acres of city streets and buildings could have been effectively enclosed and climate-controlled in the scalding heat of Florida. But what if they were? What might we have learned from that experiment? What would our cities look like today if Disney had lived to promulgate this pedestrian-first idea in a way that actually caught on? Perhaps some of us would be living in Arcologies by now.

(See also: Celebration, Florida.)

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