The green Earth – care of Disney
David Hall visits Walt Disney's ideal world of high and low tech food production where erosion and exploding populations pose no threat to human survival. On the way he learns about the plants themselves and how they work for us
WE ALL KNOW Walt Disney and should know about Land. Soon everyone will recognise the EPCOT dome as quickly as Mickey Mouse. Since the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (officially the "Epcot Centres") opened in October 1982 in the midst of Walt Disney's World empire, it has attracted nearly 15 million visitors. At the centre of EPCOT is the famous dome, Spaceship Earth, a 50-metre sphere inside which visitors travel in a spiral, taking them past the earliest cave drawings to satellite technology of today and tomorrow.
From there the visitor can branch out into the Future World, where stand the Universe of Energy (courtesy of Exxon) and the World of Motion (cars etc from General Motors), take a Journey into Imagination (the spark of art and inventions as seen by Kodak), visit Communicore (computers by Sperry and communications by Bell), or Horizons (life in the next century interpreted by General Electric). Top of my list was The Land, sponsored by Kraft. The largest and most ambitious of the pavilions, the 25 000 sq m building covers a system of man-made streams along which visitors are ferried. Here one can get to grips with how plants grow and why we can produce so much food in such variety using modem agriculture and yet still remain optimistic about land conservation and rising populations. It is so interesting and well-planned that it should be essential visiting for anyone who wishes to understand the world of plants and their myriad products.
Even the press release cannot be bettered: "The pavilion's purpose ... is to show how intelligent and constructive use of land for agriculture will enable humans to continue the centuries of progress"; and "examples of the scientific research and technology now being applied should help to dispel current doomsday prophecies that the availability of food will be limited in future decades."
There is the inevitable film with the latest gimmicks – 13 sound tracks, 25 per cent more frames per second and a 20-metre screen. But this one, called Symbiosis, relates how people and the land have interacted through the ages. Visitors can also regale themselves with the Kitchen Kabaret (audio-animatronics in Disneyspeak), extolling the virtues of good nutrition and basic food groups, and taste the delights of a restaurant/market with only the best food (mayonnaise, ketchup?). But the centrepiece is undoubtedly the "Listen to the Land"' boatride.