Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, EPCOT

This time next Monday, as part of our 15th anniversary trip, my wife and I will be attending the 25th Birthday celebration for Epcot at Walt Disney World.

On Oct 1, 1992 the combination permanent World's Fair and Future Technology celebration opened its doors for the first time. On Oct 1, 2007 the Disney company will hold a celebration commemorating this event:

Epcot 25 celebration to take place next Monday
After months of denying that there would be any official public recognition of Epcot's 25th anniversary next Monday, Walt Disney World is now planning a rededication ceremony and other events to commemorate the park, which opened on October 1, 1982. Disney's plans were perhaps spurred in part by the huge response to the "Celebration 25" event created by Jenn Waitt and Adam Roth, and to a smaller event called "The Epcot Thing" created by Nathan Rose. The fact that several hundred people were willing to travel to attend an unofficial event helped convince Disney to involve the "Celebration 25" group in the official rededication ceremony that takes place at the Fountain of Nations plaza behind Spaceship Earth.

In addition to the 10:01 a.m. ceremony—which echoes the park's original dedication ceremony—Epcot is installing a special exhibit in the south corridor of Innoventions West near the character greeting location, distributing commemorative buttons to all park guests, and adding a special ending tag for the evening's showing of Illuminations. The tag will feature well-known Epcot music and the voice of Walt Disney, most likely from "The Epcot Film," and will include perhaps as many shells in the closing seconds as the show's entire holiday tag.

"Retro" guidebooks, menus and other souvenirs will also be involved in the event. The Innoventions exhibit will be in place through at least the end of the year; we'll bring you photos from the exhibit in the October 8 Park Update.

Also, park guests will have the opportunity to chat with Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar in the Circle of Life Theater inside The Land pavilion, though seating will be limited. World Showcase restaurants will also get into the act, providing menus reminiscent of the original 1982 menus. It will be interesting to see how that integrates with the opening week of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Despite that, much of Disney's focus remains on cast-oriented events, as originally planned. The 300 opening-day cast members who still work there will be recognized, and other giveaways, decorations and celebrations are also involved.
EPCOT (its original spelling, which Walt Disney named the "Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow", has morphed to the present "Epcot") is my favorite of all the WDW parks and the one I most enjoy spending a day just walking and wandering. Here's a great article about Illuminations, the nightly fireworks/lasers/fantasy show at EPCPT

Illuminations takes it for granted that you know full well where you are, and proceeds from the assumption that you want to be entertained, you want to be astonished, you want to be moved. It doesn't try for humor, because its designers knew that a smile genuinely earned is better than one that's forced or coaxed.

And I'll say it again -- it succeeds despite (or, more likely, because of) a complete and utter lack of anything overtly Disney, save for a few fleeting seconds of Walt Disney's image in one of its visual montages. Despite music that becomes bombastic, overwhelming images and the thunderous fireworks, Illluminations is paradoxically subtle.

It conveys all of the values, all of the spirit, all of the inspiration and emotion of EPCOT's core themes (an ideal future, a peaceful world, a collaborative people) by combining music, images and a visceral experience with flair, creativity and, dare I say it, artistry.
When we as a family first visited Walt Disney World, they were in the midst of the huge Millennium celebration in 2000 so we got to see this show close to its debut, and it's simply amazing.

I missed the 25th Anniversary of the 1982 World's Fair here in Knoxville back in July, so at least I'll get to see this one in Orlando next week. I can't wait.

However, all that said, the thing I'm most looking forward to is walking down the paths and streets of EPCOT, holding my wife's hand and just enjoying the company :)

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