Today marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of EPCOT at Walt Disney World, so I thought it would be fun to look at the park’s history and milestones to commemorate it.
EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, may have opened on October 1, 1982, but its genesis dates back much further to when Walt Disney himself was planning Walt Disney World.
In 1966, Walt recorded a film outlining plans for Project Florida, including details of Walt Disney World Resort.
Here he explains his idea for EPCOT:
Make the idea a reality
As we know, Walt never saw EPCOT become a reality, but in 1978, Card Walker, President and CEO of Walt Disney Productions, announced plans for EPCOT to the International Chamber of Commerce, where he even pitched concepts to President Jimmy Carter, the ICC’s keynote speaker.
The following year, construction began on EPCOT.
Overture to Walt’s Dream
Dreams become plans, and on October 1, 1982, plans came true when EPCOT opened its doors to the public.
At the time of its opening, it had five Future World pavilions: Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination and The Land.
It also had nine World Showcase pavilions representing Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Along with the opening of the park, a new four-mile extension of the Walt Disney World monorail system is opening, stretching from the ticketing and transportation center to EPCOT.
The grand opening
The official inauguration took place over three days, with “Carnval de Lumiere” starting on October 23 as the park’s first night show on the lagoon.
It celebrated world festivals with fountains, films, music and other effects, but due to rear-projection screens on barges floating on the World Showcase Lagoon, the show could only be seen from points in the pavilions. from Canada and Mexico.
The official inauguration of the theme park took place on October 24, 1982.
In his dedication, Card Walker said, “May the EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people all over the world.
EPCO in the 80s
The park continues to grow as its first decade sees several new additions.
In 1983, on the park’s first anniversary, “Horizons” debuted in Future World. Featuring a one-of-a-kind ride system, the attraction gives visitors a glimpse of what life could be like in the future.
In 1984, the Vitrine Mondiale added the Moroccan pavilion, and the French pavilion opened its second signature restaurant, the Bistro de Paris.
In 1985, the China Pavilion opened both the Nine Dragons table-service restaurant and the Lotus Blossum Café.
1986 saw the opening of “The Living Seas”, which had a 5.7 million gallon aquarium as its centerpiece. Home to over 200 marine species, it was the largest aquarium in the world at the time.
EPCOT introduced the new “IllumiNations” nighttime show in 1988, as well as the new Norwegian pavilion which also had a ride, “Maelstorm”.
The park ended the 80s with the opening of the “Wonders of Life” pavilion in Future World, which offered an educational and fun look at health and fitness.
EPCO in the 90s
The first phase of the EPCOT resort area opened in 1990 with the debut of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (November 5) and Disney’s Beach Club Resort (November 19).
The following year brings the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (January 13) and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (June 4).
All within walking distance of the theme park, the collection of resorts greatly expands accommodation and convention options.
In 1994, the first international flower and garden festival EPCOT debuted and “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, an animated 3D interactive adventure, opened in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion.
That same year, the Innoventions Pavilion replaced Communicore, and the “Candlelight Processional” moved to EPCOT from Magic Kingdom, where it had been presented since 1971.
With the move to the America Gardens Theater, the show was able to expand to multiple nighttime performances throughout the holiday season.
“Ellen’s Energy Adventure” debuted in 1995, bringing new story and humor to what was previously Universe of Energy.
In 1996, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival debuted to the delight of foodies around the world.
EPCOT ended the decade by opening “Test Track”, the park’s first thrill ride, in 1999.
It also kicked off the 15-month-long millennium celebration, which includes the launch of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” which will run for 20 years.
EPCO in the 2000s
The park takes visitors into space with the opening of “Mission: SPACE” in 2003 at the location of the former Horizons Pavilion.
“Turtle Talk with Crush” opens in The Living Seas in 2004. The first attraction of its kind allows Crush from Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” to speak with guests, as he learns about humans and shares his stories of the life in the ocean.
In 2005, “Soarin” opened in The Land pavilion, taking guests on a breathtaking aerial adventure over iconic California locations.
The Living Seas pavilion is transformed to become “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” pavilion. Its official inauguration took place on January 24, 2007.
Also in 2007, “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros” opens inside the Mexico pavilion. A reimagining of the opening day boat ride at the “El Río del Tiempo (River of Time)” pavilion, the updated attraction features Donald Duck, José Carioca, and Pistoles Panchito from Walt’s “Saludos Amigos” film. 1942 Disney.
After extensive renovations, Spaceship Earth reopens in 2008 with an expanded storyline and new narrative that follows the story of human innovation from prehistoric times to the 21st century.
EPCOT in the 2010s
This decade sees a revamp of “Test Track” in 2012, now sponsored by Chevrolet, which now allows customers to design their own vehicles before heading out for an exciting test drive.
L’Artisan des Glaces Ice Cream shop opened in the France pavilion in 2013, and the following year, Spice Road Table opened in the Morocco pavilion.
In 2016, “Frozen Ever After” opened in the Norway pavilion, replacing “Maelstrom”. Alongside the attraction, the Royal Sommerhus opens, allowing Queen Elsa and Princess Anna to meet guests in a charming cabin.
Across the park, “Soarin’ Around the World” also debuts in 2016 at The Land pavilion.
The year ends with new holiday experiences in what is now the EPCOT International Holiday Festival.
The EPCOT International Arts Festival kicks off in 2018, expanding the park’s festival offering to all four seasons.
The decade ends with the start of a landmark, multi-year transformation of EPCOT, which is announced at D23 Expo 2019. The Takumi-Tei Restaurant also opens in the Japan Pavilion.
The last two years
Despite a pandemic closure, the past two years at EPCOT have seen a lot of changes, including several new attractions and restaurants.
2020 saw the addition of three new films to the Global Showcase, the opening of the Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue at The American Adventure Pavilion, and a transformation of the main entrance complete with the unveiling of a new fountain, inspired by the one that originally debuted with the opening of the theme park in 1982.
2021 brought “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure”, a new 4D experience inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” and a new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris, in the newly expanded France pavilion.
It also saw the opening of the Space 220 restaurant in the “Mission: SPACE” pavilion and a new signature store, Creations Shop, which replaced MouseGears.
“Harmonious,” a new nighttime show, also debuts as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Finally, we learn that the park has received new designations on the map. World Showcase still exists, but the front part of the park is now divided into three new “Districts”: World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature.
As part of the park’s transformation, this year 2022 Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened in the Wonders of Xandar pavilion (formerly Universe of Energy), while the Connections Café and Eatery opened nearby .
As EPCOT celebrates its 40th anniversary today, there is even more in store for guests in the coming years.
Disney Parks President, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro shared a look at the park’s future at this year’s D23 Expo.
The next major step in EPCOT’s multi-year transformation will include the completion of the World Celebration neighborhood in late 2023.
It will also be home to ‘Dreamers Point’, an inspiring new area where you can see Walt Disney’s new statue called ‘Walt the Dreamer’.
“Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” will also open in late 2023, inviting guests to follow the story of water on the planet, inspired by Moana’s connection to the ocean.
Fan-favorite character Figment will return to socialize with park guests by the end of 2023.
And a brand new nighttime show will debut in late 2023 at EPCOT for the “Disney100” Party.
EPCOT may be 40 years old, but its current makeover will help the park spend another 40-plus years entertaining Disney guests.
What are your favorite memories?
In the 40 years since its opening, EPCOT has given millions of park visitors the opportunity to create unforgettable memories.
What were your fondest memories of EPCOT? Let us know in the comments.