Document details

Fun and loathing at EPCOT
Arnold Wasserman

Walt Disney World's "community of tomorrow" is neither experimental nor a community. Inhabited by robots, it is yesterday's vision of the future buttressed by industry propaganda disguised as entertainment.

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney focused his protean imagination on what he considered the world's foremost challenge-finding solutions to the problems of our cities. Wealth and power permitted him to evade the messy reality of existing cities. He would "start from scratch on virgin land and build a special kind of new community." Walt's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – EPCOT --  was to be:

always ... in a state of becoming. It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future, where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else today. Everything in EPCOT will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who will live, work and play here and to those who come here from all around the world to visit our living showcase.

Officials at WED Enterprises deny it today, but Walt's original idea was that EPCOT would indeed be a living, working community of 20,000 people, a showcase of brotherhood and experimental urban technology. Only an intuitive genius like Disney could have pursued his unitary vision to fruition. Following his death, Disney Enterprises did the only thing corporate committees can do with a creative notion – they reduced it to a mongrel mish-mash of sentimentality and sell.

EPCOT today is an eternal World's Fair located on 260 acres in central Florida. Inflated with patriotic rhetoric and furnished with banal architecture, it offers cheap tourist trinkets at high prices and outrageously costly industry propaganda transparently disguised as entertainment. While other Disney theme parks are mainly fantasies, with an occasional nod to universal brotherhood, EPCOT has explicit didactic pretensions. It would teach us things as well as entertain us. In failing to do either with any distinction, and in failing as well to deliver Uncle Walt's dream of community, the Disney "Imagineers" have created instead a rueful parable of the American present a powerful, anti-intelectual technocracy, informed by wistful Arcadian values and steered by a simplistic Boy Scout morality. Ah, but it is orderly and clean! And there is no stupidity too great for Americans to forgive so long as it is sanitary.



Source type Magazine
Volume 30.2
Language en
Document type Feature
Media type text
Page count 6
Pages pp. 34-39


Id 6324
Availability Free
Inserted 2021-09-29