Disney’s Epcot And The City Of The Future

Celebration, Florida (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Take a look at Walt Disney’s vision for the city of the future, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow or Epcot. “No city of today will serve as the guide for the city of tomorrow,” serves as a guiding principle as varied ideas from shopping mall living, to freeways, to pedestrian safety, to high speed transit are considered. Disney himself said the city of tomorrow must abandon the old cities and their problems and be built on virgin land from scratch.

Celebration, Florida (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Celebration, Florida. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

From its “cosmopolitan convention center” to its theme-park shopping districts, Disney envisioned his 50-acre city core, completely enclosed and climate controlled like a shopping mall, hermetically sealed from the natural world. Outside of this air-conditioned environment of shops and offices, apartments, then parks and schools, then suburban houses radiate in a fantasy of controlled zoning where every use is separated from every other use.

Despite being conceived as a modern utopia based around the automobile, Epcot envisions a future of mass transit for the daily commute. “Freeways will not be EPCOT’s major way of entering and leaving the city,” declared a confident narrator. Instead, an electrified monorail and people mover will connect the city and suburb, radiating in all directions from the core. It was envisioned that the primary use of the car would be for “weekend pleasure trips.”

Repeatedly, the dangers of automobile traffic for pedestrians are cited. The pedestrian is, in fact, declared “king” as transportation uses, like Epcot’s zoning, are completely separated. The pedestrian is “free to walk and browse without fear of motorized vehicles.” Children and bikes have separate paths in the suburbs for walking or riding to school. Electric vehicles travel on elevated roadways through Epcot’s downtown while underground transit carries workers in and out of the city. Separate facilities for cars and trucks are provided further underground.

Disney did eventually build a prototype city, but the end result was far from what was envisioned for Epcot. The town of Celebration, Florida chose not to abandon the cities of the past but to embrace the patterns that make them so interesting to experience. New Urbanism has been brought in to create a mixed-use town center and compact living. Celebration was just as carefully planned as the Epcot of old, but the end result is quite different. Whatever happened to abandoning the car for transit, leaving it in the garage for pleasure trips, though?

You can watch Walt Disney describe the vision in this video over here.


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