+
Culture

Disney's grand vision of the 21st Century is a reminder of the world that can still await us

Disney's grand vision of the 21st Century is a reminder of the world that can still await us

The 21st century began on Jan. 1, 2001, but for Disney fans it had been in full swing for more than 18 years, since the opening day of EPCOT Center on Oct. 1, 1982, when a sleek and optimistic vision of the future debuted in a theme park unlike any other built before or since.

Late last year, Disney started a massive overhaul of EPCOT, which will see more Disney characters and brands added to the park, and update many of its attractions for the actual 21st century – which has arguably proved a fair deal bleaker and less promising than the happy visions Disney conceived for EPCOT.

Disney's version contained daily flights to space, boundless energy, harmony with the earth and its oceans, pollution-free transportation, and a unifying message of peace and unity among people from every nation. The future didn't quite turn out that way.





But even back in 1982, it was something of a fiction. Grounded in the harsh reality of the time, it was a quintessential Disney wish that got its start in the 1950s, as Walt Disney was readying Disneyland. Even the most devoted Disney enthusiast rarely sees past the rides, shows, restaurants and shops when they go to Disneyland, but Walt Disney and his engineers (long before they were "Imagineers") saw something far different: urban planning. So impressive was Disney's ability to make something out of nothing that James Rouse, designer of the first enclosed shopping center in America said in 1963, "the greatest piece of urban design in the United States today is Disneyland."

An avid traveler, Walt Disney had also spent much time visiting cities around the world – and around the country – and by the early 1960s he was growing concerned about the state of American cities, but eager to explore solutions he saw internationally. His interest became an obsession, and by the mid-1960s he was wholeheartedly turning his company from a film studio into a think-tank devoted to creating a prototype community filled with experimental technology from around the world.

He called the city EPCOT – the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. To help fund it, and to draw even more attention to it, he placed it within the confines of "Disney World," the gigantic project his company was building in Central Florida. Building the theme park proved relatively easy; but when it come to the "city of tomorrow," even his closest aides were confounded by the visions and ideas Walt Disney had proposed. "He had come to fear that EPCOT would not be built if anything happened to him," biographer Neil Gabler wrote in Walt Disney: Triumph of the American Imagination. On Dec. 15, 1966, Walt Disney died.



So, for a time, EPCOT died. Its vision of a future created by corporations and big industries, supported by governments and social unity, was undone by the violence, unrest and distrust of the 1960s. Yet, a decade after Walt Disney died, EPCOT began moving ahead.

The idea of a "real" city that housed research-and-development arms of major corporations, staffed by people from around the world, fell away quickly, but at EPCOT's core was the belief that the ideas and innovations of companies, and the imagination of the people who worked for them around the globe, could serve to inspire the future. These two competing notions of technological innovation and of cultural cooperation were initially proposed as two parks, until, inspiration struck.

"We found that we couldn't get enough sponsorship for both," remembered Marty Sklar, who went on to head Walt Disney Imagineering, "so we pushed the two of them together, basically, and that became EPCOT Center." The building, transportation and management codes that had been created for development of the city formed the backbone of the entire Walt Disney World resort development, so the 43-square-mile complex became known as "EPCOT," while the theme park would be at its geographical heart – it would be, literally, the EPCOT Center.

Those two sections that were initially separate parks were joined and became Future World and World Showcase. A massive marketing campaign supported what was then the single largest construction project in the world – no small feat, considering a global recession that gripped the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As a company, Disney was undaunted. "EPCOT Center is a celebration of ingenuity, innovation, imagination … and most of all … hope for the future," the company wrote in its 1982 annual report. "We believe we need optimism in our world because a society just can't progress without the belief that life will be good, that individual enterprise will bring its own rewards and that the great nations of the world will be guided on the right course with a better informed public." Disney called EPCOT "the dawn of a new Disney era."

Instead of single rides, massive pavilions contained long, elaborate attractions that explored key concepts vital to the future: communication (in Spaceship Earth), energy (Universe of Energy), the environment (The Land), transportation (World of Motion), imagination (Journey Into Imagination) and, after EPCOT's first expansion, the oceans (The Living Seas) and future technology (Horizons). The Wonders of Life added a look at the human body, completing Future World in 1989.



World Showcase opened with nine countries – Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States – with Morocco joining in 1984 and Norway in 1988. Country pavilions were initially sponsored by private companies, except Morocco, which has always been sponsored by its government. Curious what EPCOT looked like in 1982? Here's a carefully restored 16 mm film taken not long after opening.

The hopeful vision of the future presented by EPCOT officially became outmoded when the 21st century really did dawn. An enormous overhaul of EPCOT was announced last summer, but construction has been stalled by the outbreak of coronavirus – an outbreak that may best be solved by cooperation among people, innovation led by private industry, and an understanding that our future is shared by everyone. One of humanity's greatest crises may find its ultimate solution in the ideas, spirit and innovation that Walt Disney left behind, and that led to a theme park – and a vision – unlike any other.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

This company makes it easier than ever to enjoy guilt-free fairly traded coffee

Thanks to Lifeboost, good coffee can be good for everyone.

Unsplash

Lifeboost coffee

Americans love coffee. Like, we really, seriously, truly love it. According to one recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee at least occasionally, while 53 percent—about 110 million people—drink it every single day. For some, coffee is an essential part of their morning ritual. For others, it’s something they enjoy when they hit the proverbial wall in the late afternoon. But either way, millions of people use coffee to boost energy, focus, and productivity.


Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Linda Ronstadt's 1970's ballad is a chart-topping hit once again thanks to 'The Last of Us'

The iconic 70s song "Long, Long Time" was an integral part of an unforgettable episode that fans are calling a masterpiece.

Linda Ronstadt (left), Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett (right)

HBO’s emotional third episode of the zombie series “The Last Of Us” became an instant favorite among fans, thanks in no small part to Linda Ronstadt’s late 1970s ballad, “Long, Long Time.”

Using the song as the episode’s title, “Long, Long Time,” moves away from the show’s main plot to instead focus on a heartbreakingly beautiful love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), from its endearing start all the way to its bittersweet end.

The song makes its first appearance during the initial stages of Bill and Frank’s romance as they play the tune on the piano, just before they share their first kiss.

We see their entire lives together play out—one of closeness, devotion, and savoring homegrown strawberries—until they meet their end. The song then plays on the radio, bringing the bottle episode to a poignant close.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

34-year-old man is learning to read on TikTok in series of motivational videos

His reading skills have improved so much that he plans to read 100 books this year.

@oliverspeaks1/TikTok

Oliver James is the biggest star on BookTok.

With over 125,000 followers, 34-year-old Oliver James is a star in the BookTok community. And it all started with a very simple goal: Learn to read.

For most kids, school is a place where they can develop a relationship with learning in a safe environment. For James, school was the opposite. Growing up with learning and behavior disabilities subjected him to abusive teaching practices in special education, which, of course, did nothing to help.

"The special education system at the time was more focused on behavioral than educating," he told Good Morning America. "So they spent a lotta time restraining us, a lotta time disciplining us, a lotta times putting us in positions to kinda shape us to just not act out in class."

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

Keep ReadingShow less