D23′s Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration – Part 1
I ended up getting less than four hours of sleep that first night, and one hour in I was awoken by R2D2 when Patrick, bless him, replied to a text message I’d sent before bed. Note to self: Turn off ringer before bed…
I’d lucked out and gotten a World Key ticket to D23’s Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, which theoretically meant that I could just breeze into World Showplace right before the event started and get a great seat. However, I got the opening time for the International Gateway mixed up and arrived WAY before it was opened for attendees. Even after I accidentally stood in the World Passport admission line for 10 minutes, I still ended up being about the 12th person through the door and scored a fabulous seat in the front row, about 4 seats from center.
It gradually dawned on me that I was sitting right in the middle of a big group of veteran D23 event attendees who all knew each other, but they were quite friendly and didn’t seem to mind the interloper.
What I didn’t know was that I’d picked a spot that would place me right in the front of D23’s official photo of the event. They took a bazillion shots of the other half of the crowd and only two of ours, but for some reason the one featuring pale, overdressed Gargantua in a sea of tans and T-shirts made the final cut…
Look, Ma, no tan!
There was plenty of time to run back and shoot the special merchandise, which you had to pre-order with a form and then pay shipping and handling to have mailed to you. I thought that was a little disappointing, and the price of shipping jumped to a jaw-dropping $15 for purchases over $25, so I bought less than I’d planned to, just the event logo pin.
These are supposed to be the freaky big-head walkarounds they used to have at Epcot, which I didn’t understand til we got to that part of the presentations
While we waited for the event to start, they used the giant screens to display a mix of vintage photos and waggish graphics aimed at hardcore fans.
OK, let me apologize now for many of the photos: Sitting in the front row meant having an obstructed view of the screens, and most of the event seemed to take place on the screens. Sorry about that!
Steven Clark kicked off the event with an unintentionally depressing montage of Epcot in all its long-faded glory, plus a crowd-activated re-creation of the old World Key information system.
I screamed myself hoarse voting for Adventures with Duffy The Bear, but instead we got…
Epcot: The Dawn of a New Disney Era
This was a taped presentation by Marty Sklar, since he had to be in SoCal that day for the annual Ryman Foundation fundraiser. I wish they still raised funds by selling tickets to breakfast at Club 33!
Marty called. Wants to be in two places at once
So exuberant were the fans over even a canned show that if Sklar had then burst through the screen and taken the stage, at least a third of them would’ve passed out.
He gave an overview of what it was like to work with Walt Disney and then have to build Epcot without him. The team became directionless after Walt’s passing, but eventually there was an idea to hold “EPCOT forums” consisting of industry leaders and creative folks (like Ray Bradbury) who brainstormed what EPCOT could become. This is how it transformed from a visionary community into a theme park with an educational bent. Sklar said that he felt the Land Pavilion, with its working garden and fish hatchery, came closest to Walt’s original intent.
He talked about how the park was built at the geographical center of Disney property, just about in the same spot as he towering hotel in the original Epcot concept art I adore.
One of the earliest Epcot concepts had two identical buildings, one housing exhibits by industry, the other exhibits of various foreign countries. The entrances to each would be identical to promote equality, but each country could expand out the back as far as it could afford to.
Harper Goff’s concept art is what convinced Imagineering that the distinctly different countries of Epcot could coexist in visual harmony
Ray Bradbury’s initial script for the 9-minute narration of Spaceship earth was 28 pages long!
Epcot takes a dump…
…and these guys gotta shovel it!
“Whaddo you mean, the big golf ball isn’t done yet?!”
Michael Landon narrowly escapes the sinkhole that conveniently became World Showcase Lagoon
I’m not sure there was anything in this presentation I hadn’t heard before, but it was still interesting and an appropriate kickoff to D23’s Epcot 30th.
We Can Do It!
Up next was a panel featuring people who were part of the building of Epcot, which I noted in my journal was “not as boring as the talk by a similar crew of Magic Kingdom vets at last year’s Destination D.” The quip-witted Jason Surrell hosted Duncan Dickson, Bob Matheison, Jim McCaskill, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgway, Howard Roland, and Bill Sullivan, all of whom are pictured below, but you have to guess who’s who!
One of the first things they talked about was the “We Can Do It!” motto used to rally the troops in the wake of Walt’s passing.
The slogan that launched a hundred bumper stickers
We got to hear hair-raising tales of construction difficulties, including the aforementioned sinkhole, which was dug out to create World Showcase Lagoon and its muck moved to form the beach at Caribbean Beach resort—but not before they lost seven huge monorail track pylons into its depths!
They also shared the story about how all the plants in The Land Pavilion are pollinated by hand cuz you can’t have bees flying around inside an operating theme park attraction!
Marty Sklar invents bull wrestling as the macho man’s alternative to bullfighting
Two Concordes landed at Orlando International to celebrate the opening—supposedly the only time there were ever two in the same place!
My favorite part of this presentation was when one of the panelists was asked, “What would Walt have thought of the work you did on Epcot?” and replied, “I dunno, but he sure would have TOLD us!”
Looking Back at Tomorrow
This look at the Epcot that never was turned out to be the best panel of the entire event. It had everything an Epcot nerd could want—rare photos and video, never-before-shared trivia, D23’s most polished presenter (Steven Vagnini), and @ProgressCityUSA, a.k.a., D23’s Michael Crawford, the blogosphere’s foremost and funniest scholar on Epcot!
So it turns out I was the only one who didn’t know you weren’t s’posed to take photos of a lot of the stuff in this presentation. I thought only that afternoon’s Journey into Imagination presentation was on the no-no list, so I spent this one firing away. Whoops! I’ll try to re-create the parts I can’t show you….
Right outta the gate we got to see a 1972 memo featuring the earliest rendering of World Showcase, and then some early Epcot logo concepts.
This one gets the thumbs down from Card Walker…
And you thought the john at Le Cellier was tiny!
I love all the gorgeous concept art you get to see at these events, and again I wonder aloud why Disney refuses to release it to the public through Print On Demand…
This one’s pretty much the only concept art I can show you from the whole presentation, so… savor it!
Because there were to be no Disney characters in EPCOT, Imagineers wanted to create new ones to go with some of the pavilions and attractions. Communicore’s robot SMRT-1 made it off the drawing board…
…but SMRT-2, a planned replacement for the Astuter Computer Review, never did. And here’s why!
“My face! My beautiful faaaaace!!!”
These characters did manage to make it off the drawing board… and into children’s NIGHTMARES!!!
Another failed character character was X. Atencio’s Communicat for, you guessed it, Communicore. I can’t show it to you, but it looked pretty much like this Aristocat but brown and white and hatless…
We got to see Ward Kimbell’s brainstorming list of names for the General Motors-sponsored pavilion, but first there was more gorgeous concept art. I can’t show it to you, but here’s a detailed rendering I created from my photographic memory:
Among the never-used names for what was being called The GM Transportation Building were…
- Transportation Center
- Transportation America
- American Transportation
- American Cavalcade of Transportation
- Transport Parade
- Parade of Transport
- World of Transport
- Horizons of Transport
- Cavalcade of Cars
- Cavalcade of Transportation
- American Cavalcade of Transport
- American Pageant of Transport
- American Mobilrama
The Land Pavilion had its share of outLANDish alternative names, too!
The Kitchen Kabaret section of the presentation got the biggest reaction. People love that show!
Little do they know that originally Bonnie Appetite was to have a sidekick called Juicy Lucy, and that after Lucy got deep-sixed, Bonnie was given a wedding ring due to the “family nature” of the show. Yowza!!!
We all know and love Dreamfinder and Figment. But did you know there could have been a rip-off set of characters for the Living Seas known as Captain Saltyhinder and his sidekick Mackerel if the folks at United Technologies had had their way?
We may never know exactly what a Captain Saltyhinder walk-around character would have looked like, but I’d say the world’s better off if he were to have looked anything like this:
The rest of the presentation was devoted to the late, great Horizons, which was intended to be a futuristic sequel to the Carousel of Progress. I am so sad I never got to ride it, because I know it would have been my absolute favorite.
Originally envisioned as “FutureProbe,” it eventually became known as “Century 3″… for a time. Interestingly, the Sherman Bros.’ song for the pavilion, “New Horizons,” was not supposed to be used for its name. But the “Horizons” part stuck, while the song did not!
I can’t show you the photo of John Hench contemplating his lunch, but I CAN show you what he was eating!
At the end of the presentation, we got to see not one but all three choose-your-own endings for Horizons, which had the crowd cheering. Take that, Star Tours!!!
Makin’ Memories: Epcot on Film
The last presentation before lunch featured former Imagineer Bob Garner and the ever-smirksome Tim O’Day showing clips and trading stories about Epcot on film.
Aw, cool! Bob just got engaged at Disney! I smell a Disney wedding…
One of the first clips they showed was a fly-through of the Epcot model. I wish they had this model on display somewhere in the park so you could check it out.
They also showed the same “We’re Getting Ready For You” music video that cracked us up in Epcot’s tiny 25th anniversary display. You know, the song whose lyrics consist of a list of things that people did to get the park ready for YOU. (You can make them up as you go along: “We did some things/And other stuff/We put things up/And laid them down/We made some costumes/And jumped around…”)
Among the other stuff that “we” did for “you”…
Eight hours trapped in a shark cage…
One thing that was rare was the test footage of Bob Garner with two potential versions of Figment—one animatronic, one puppet. He preferred the puppet…
The best part was the story about the day Bob almost killed Mickey Mouse. He had this idea for a promo that involved filming Mickey atop Spaceship Earth from a helicopter. Nowadays the whole thing would be a composite of a bizarrely bulbous CG Mickey slightly hovering over Spaceship Earth, captured in a stomach-churning and physically impossible CG flythrough. But because it was the ‘80s, this meant actually putting a guy in a suit on top of Spaceship Earth with ONLY A ROPE tied around him for “safety.”
Good thing they hadn’t invented moving-mouth Mickey yet, or you’d be lip-reading “Get me the *$%^#@! down from here!!!”
Thankfully, Mickey survived, Bob Garner kept his job, and millions of us around the world saw the ad and exclaimed, “I want to go to there!”
This shot’s just in here cuz it’s rad!
The most memorable part of this panel for me, however, was when Tim O’Day mistakenly thought I was the person in the front row who’d made a wisecrack about Puff the Magic Dragon and gave my website a backhanded shoutout by muttering “Travel Babble” into his microphone. Welcome, new readers!
“I have no idea who this Lurkyloo person is, but I’m pretty sure she has the hots for me cuz she’s always in the front row!”