EPCOT Sketches

Posted on Tue, 03/26/2024 - 13:19

On view in April 2024.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Walt Disney Company, The Walt Disney Family Museum is showcasing objects from the museum’s collection which highlight important moments in Walt’s career. These objects, which include recent acquisitions and fragile materials that have never been publicly displayed, will rotate periodically throughout the year.

Prior to the development of the Walt Disney World Resort as we know it today, Walt had grand plans for over 27,000 acres of undeveloped central Florida land which he had spent the early 1960s quietly purchasing. “Here in Florida we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland,” Walt explained, “the blessing of size.” The centerpiece of Walt’s ambitious plan was EPCOT—an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—which was to be a master-planned city based on modernist ideas in urban planning. Walt described EPCOT as “the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing at Disney World.” Indeed, the proposed future city would anchor other nearby developments, including an airport, an industrial district, a welcome complex for visitors, and a theme park. For Walt, EPCOT promised to solve the problems of urban living. “I don’t believe there’s a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities,” said Walt. Inspired by the garden city movement, he imagined a dense urban core and radiating residential districts connected by a rapid transportation system and interspersed with parks and open spaces. Walt envisioned EPCOT as an ever-changing community that would showcase new and emerging technologies of the day. After Walt’s death in 1966, many of these plans were shelved; however, the eventual EPCOT Center theme park (known today as EPCOT) at Walt Disney World takes inspiration from Walt’s plans.

These early concept drawings show Walt’s thinking as he developed ideas for this utopian planned community. Three were composed on yellow legal pad paper, perhaps during discussions about the EPCOT development. The other was drawn on both sides of a paper napkin. They were found—crumpled in the trash—by Walt’s gardener, who stored them in a safe deposit box for many years. The museum acquired the drawings in 2011 from the gardener’s son. Diane Disney Miller, recognizing her father’s handwriting, confirmed that Walt himself drew these sketches.