Rising out of a Florida swamp is what's said to be the great man's most ambitious dream, but is it really what he had in mind? And is that what all our tomorrows are all about?
What has been left out of his Experimental Community Of Tomorrow is quite as important as what has been put in
"Right now we're just about in the center of the project," Sully hollers over the engine noise. "If we sneak onto this little bump, we'll have a pretty good look around." He slaps the Jimmy into low and noses off the precipice, slamming to the bottom of a ditch, then climbs, slipping and bucking up the rutted face of a dune. "We can get kind of an overall view from here," he says. "We're somewhere in the middle of the lagoon, with the American Adventure dead ahead and the World Showcase around it. Looking north, past the Court of Flags, you've got the Seas, Transportation, Energy, and Spaceship Earth. Over the other side of the Communicore, there's Century Three, with the Land laying in beside it, and Imagination."
High above the truck's air-conditioned cab, which has filled with Sully's enthusiastic present-tense evocation, three turkey buzzards drift in languid circles over scene of almost surreal devastation. This place hasn't been cleared, it's been erased; 500 acres of central Florida lowlands scraped as clean as if some errant glacier had slid across them. The thickets of slash pine and palmetto scrub have simply vanished, along with the boggy ground from which they grew. In their place is a vast desert of swirling dust storms which turns into bottomless quagmire when it rains. The local armadillos and water moccasins have been evicted by huge, fluorescent green and orange man-made insects, Terex Loadrunners and Caterpillar tractors scuttling about like mutant land crabs, bleating and grumbling and digging. It is a spectacle so bizarre it challenges rational comprehension. It is the biggest private construction project in the United States. "And," Sully yells, as he navigates between sinkholes, "it's all because of mouse.
It's called EPCOT Center, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, and when it opens, two years and nearly $1 billion from now, it will be the newest fiefdom in Walt Disney's Florida empire. Rising from the memory of Reedy Creek Swamp on the outskirts of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom 20 miles from Orlando, EPCOT turns out to be neither a community nor much of an experiment, but it will surely be big. "The Boss wanted to do it," Sully says, "and he wanted to do right." Sully is Bill Sullivan, who is overseeing the excavation and site preparation for the project. The Boss is Walt Disney, whose dream it all was and who is still invoked as a living presence by almost everyone involved. To do it right in the first place he bought 43 square miles of Florida. He negotiated for his own municipalities, his own zoning and building codes. When he built his World, he built his own telephone and utility systems, too. He planned everything he did with the excruciating thoroughness that has become his hallmark, and EPCOT was part of the plan.