What follows are my notes on major aspects of a redesign that I thought was appropriate to bring the Epcot theme park into the future as a experience beyond simple entertainment. Following more closely to Walt Disney's original concept for a city named EPCOT, I intended that EPCOT Center become a cultural forum that enlightens its visitors to the wonders of the world and a development hub for new technologies and ideas that benefit humankind.
Future World and World Showcase Thematic Integration/Focus and Transmission Concept
Since opening day, the two main areas/divisions of Epcot have not easily complemented each other. World Showcase is a collection of traditional, if not stereotypical, views of different nations expressed in vernacular architecture. The pavilions essentially showcase the past and present nature of each country. Future World is dedicated to visions of a tomorrow that vaguely reference an international community.
A possible solution to this issue is deceptively simple. In a conceptual as well as literal way, Future World should be rethought as a proving ground for new technologies- a concept generator and incubator for the entire world. In turn, World Showcase would become the demonstration of how the new ideas produced in Future World could be applied to everyday life in each represented culture and nation. The architecture of World Showcase would remain mostly as it is today, but have futuristic elements built in. Guests should feel that they are not walking in 1800’s Germany, for example, but rather in the Germany of twenty to fifty years ahead.
This idea was expanded upon by developing Focus and Transmission [see PDF], a conceptual "framework" that unifies and justifies the layout of the new Epcot. Focus and Transmission suggests that visitors flow through the park as would ideas and information through a global network. A collective body of knowledge would develop inside the working laboratories and pavilions of Future World, be focused into a “river” that runs along the central axis of the park, and finally be “transmitted” to the global community represented by the World Showcase pavilions.
Arts and Sciences University Integration
Walt Disney conceived of Epcot as a working and living city of permanent residents. Without large-scale and possibly disruptive changes to the infrastructure and design of Epcot and the Walt Disney World Resort, that dream is far from reality. However, another idea has the ability to at least partially realize Walt’s vision and be practically integrated into the current park and resort structure.
Walking among day guests would be students of a university specializing on the arts and sciences. Architects, engineers, performers, painters, musicians, and mathematicians could learn, practice, and demonstrate their skills in onstage and offstage environments. Practical real-world experience would be gained through internship programs with Disney and other organizations and companies.
University classrooms, studios, and labs would be concentrated in new buildings constructed on the former site of the Epcot parking lot (The parking lot would be redesigned as a one or two-level garage covered by landscaping that would be the new "ground level" of the university buildings as well as the areas around the entrance to the theme park). Many facilities would also be integrated into new and existing structures within guest areas. The nearby Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans French Quarter Resort Hotels would be repurposed as student housing.
World Showcase “Ambassador” Concept
Only one country, Russia, would be represented as a new large-scale World Showcase pavilion. In an effort to present a more complete representation of the global community, smaller pavilions would be created in and around existing ones. Countries are placed based upon geographical, historical, or cultural ties. Some of the new pavilions contain moderate or even major attractions, but most will serve to simply convey the “flavor” of the represented nations.
Here's a list of the global regions represented through the "Ambassador" concept:
- Mexico Pavilion, Ambassador of Central and South America
- Norway Pavilion, Ambassador of Scandinavian Nations
- China Pavilion, Ambassador of South Asia
- Russia Pavilion, Ambassador of Central Asia
- Germany Pavilion, Ambassador of East Europe
- Italy Pavilion, Ambassador of Mediterranean Nations
- The American Adventure Pavilion, Host to World Showcase
- Japan Pavilion, Ambassador of East Asia and Pacific Island Nations (incl. Australia)
- Morocco Pavilion, Ambassador of Africa and East Asia
- France Pavilion, Ambassador of West Europe
- United Kingdom Pavilion, Ambassador of North Atlantic Nations
- Canada Pavilion, Ambassador of Polar Regions and Cultures (incl. Antarctic Continent)
The outdoor experience in Florida can be quickly exhausting. New areas throughout Epcot would allow guests of all ages to take some time out and recharge. The amenities of these areas could be anything from just comfortable chairs in a quiet air-conditioned building to mini-spas offering basic massages and aromatherapy. A guest would conceivably spend more time (perhaps multiple days) in the park since he or she would be more energized and significantly happier.
Epcot Universal Library
At the center of the World Showcase Lagoon lies a unique structure central to the spirit of discovery. A major curatorial project would be undertaken; its goal being the acquisition of the largest collection of literary and art works on the planet. Traditional media will be present but most of the library’s assets will be delivered with digital "books", which guests and students can use to download entire volumes and then take home (and use to download more if they wish). Students would have unlimited access but guests would only be allowed a certain number of downloads with the option of paying for more (fees would go to support the library).
This large structure is "submerged" below the World Showcase Lagoon. Although Florida is not an ideal place to build below ground level, I found precedent in many areas, including two vehicle tunnels on the western edge of World Showcase. Those tunnels have a interior vertical clearance of 14 feet while still allowing water transportation to pass safely overhead. The Epcot Universal Library could use similar construction techniques to open up tens of thousands of previously unused square footage to utilization as libraries, classrooms, art galleries, and even rides (possibly based on the theme of communication).
For more details and imagery of the Epcot Universal Library, [click here to download my portfolio - 2 MB .pdf].
Arranging and Sketching The New Elements
In order to get a good handle on how best to restructure Epcot, I knew I had to obtain a reasonably accurate site plan of the park. Since no official document was available, I created my own scaled site plan [see PDF] using an image found in the 1983 edition of Birnbaum's Guide to Walt Disney World, USGS satellite imagery, aerial photography (particularly after Live Search's Birds Eye Views debuted), and personal observation on the ground. The plan, drawn in Adobe Illustrator, was fully editable (to turn it into the "new" plan) and exportable (to use as line work to build the 3D model).
With an accurate site plan, I was able to analyze what the best locations for new attractions and other buildings would be (taking into account things like existing structures that I felt were integral to the character of Epcot and preservation of as much green-space as possible). The resulting planning diagram [see PDF] served as a guiding template for further development.
The world doesn't exist on a 2D plane, so I amassed a collection of sketches (mostly doodles on scrap pieces of paper or napkins) that were the first visualizations of the new park's architecture.
The entrance plaza would be restructured to include a large transportation hub where multiple monorail lines and parking transportation would converge. I gave the hub a form suggesting a bird flying towards the entrance; a representation of the gathering of energy, knowledge, ideas, and dreams referenced in the Focus and Transmission Concept. Entirely transparent glass curtain walls would give the appearance that the roof structure "floats" above ground level. Berm-like structures covered with a combination of aluminum, glass, LED's, and landscaping flank the east and west perimeter of the entrance plaza.
I sketched the Land pavilion to appear as rolling hills covered with various flower and crop beds. As the sketch vaguely shows, I made the pavilions' atrium open-air with a recreation of Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump's Tower of the Four Winds (redesigned slightly to more directly reflect the pavilion's theme) as the central icon. The Land pavilion would contain the existing Soarin' attraction, a new weather phenomena-themed ride called Four Tempests [click here to download the attraction script], and a hybrid ride/restaurant that would have diners float through the pavilion's working greenhouses (replacing the similar Living with the Land boat ride).
Epcot's Space pavilion would be a drastic expansion of the current Mission: SPACE attraction. The towering spire is meant as a visual counterbalance to the Tower of the Four Winds at the Land pavilion; or rather the "weenie" of Future World East. Inside the pavilion, guests would board capsules (utilizing the existing ride system) for a fanciful, but fact-based, tour through the galaxy by way of a network of wormholes. Serving as the post-show or alternate experience would be multiple attractions located on a planetary outpost (housed in the former Wonders of Life pavilion).
Earlier in development, I planned on having the Four Tempests attraction be its own stand-alone pavilion located between the Space and Universe of Energy pavilions. These sketches show ideas for a cyclone-inspired building.
Throughout the design process, I was inspired by an early 1980's concept painting of Epcot [see PDF] created by Disney Imagineers Clem Hall and Bob Scifo. I took some of my early designs and inserted them into the painting using Adobe Photoshop to get a quick look at how things might look in the grand scheme.
The park's layout was solidified with the final site plan [see PDF] showing in moderate detail the location and form of all the designs I settled on. Located just south of Spaceship Earth is CommuniCore (a named used in Epcot until the mid 1990's that is a combination of the words "Community" and "Core"). Most of the structure lies beneath ground level (like the Epcot Universal Library) with small hills protruding upwards to provide entry and increased interior volume. I envisioned the structure this way to make the heart of Future World more civic park-like. CommuniCores' attractions would be themed to subjects that directly impact individuals such as healthcare, education, and household technologies.
The Concepts Enter the 3D World
With site plans and sketches in place, it was time to flesh-out the park's design in three dimensions. I imported the Illustrator site plan into Autodesk Maya to use as guides to model each and every building in varying detail. Over time, a virtual Epcot grew on the screen; one that allowed me to check for design flaws (particularly visual intrusion) and make quick modifications if necessary.
: an overall view of the model looking in what would be in reality the southward direction.
: a larger overall view looking southeast.
: another overall view focusing on World Showcase and looking northeast.
: close-up view of the transport hub.
: close-up of Spaceship Earth, the entrance plaza, and the transport hub.
: view of Future World East including Universe of Energy, the Space pavilion, and the Motion pavilion. The extension of that building
houses the now-enclosed loop of the Test Track ride featuring a high-speed run through a futuristic city "on the move."
: Future World West including The Living Seas, the Land pavilion, and the Imagination pavilion.
: close-up of the Tower of the Four Winds icon.
: World Showcase East including the Norway and China pavilions.
: World Showcase Southeast including the Russia and Germany pavilions. The design for the Russia pavilion is taken taken directly from
concept art from Walt Disney Imagineering.
: World Showcase South including the Italy, American Adventure, and Japan pavilions as well as a Greek temple. Built into the base of the
temple would be an attraction themed to the wonders of ancient and modern Greece.
: Japan pavilion.
: another view of World Showcase South including the Australia show theater and Indonesian Serenity Center.
: World Showcase Southwest including France pavilion, the Israel-Palestine attraction building, and the Egyptian pyramid attraction
: World Showcase West including the United Kingdom and Canada pavilions as well as an Irish castle and the Polar Region raft ride. This
ride would originate in a Icelandic geothermal power plant, travel through glacial waters, float past Inuit villages, and conclude with a
thrilling ascent on an erupting geyser.
: view of the main atrium of the Epcot Universal Library. The atrium is one of the few parts of the library that rises above the surface of the
World Showcase Lagoon.
: a north elevation view of the entire park (minus the large university buildings). As you can see, Spaceship Earth remains the tallest
structure in the park.
: west elevation including university buildings.
Lights, Camera, and So On...
To prepare the 3D model for presentation, I had to apply textures and lights to certain parts. Texturing every single building would have taken much more time than I felt comfortable committing at the time, so I applied varying solid colors to specific buildings and created a ground texture map to make up for the fact that I didn't model walkways. The texture was created by combining the new site plan with current satellite imagery.
The detail level of the model precluded its use in a daytime lighting scheme. I played with a nighttime setup that was inspired by the introduction of the old Magical World of Disney television show. That setup progressed into a more complicated scheme using the Final Gather method in Maya. I placed large hemispherical and planar objects in the model that emitted virtual photons, thus creating the appearance of lit walkways against cool bluish-purple moonlight. Since it would be a focal point along with the "beam of light" from the Epcot Universal Library, I paid special attention to lighting Spaceship Earth in a manner similar to how it appears today.
Final Views and Animation
Soundtrack for "Flyby 1" animation is Papillon by David Arkenstone. Soundtrack for "Flyby 2" animation is Two Captains composed by Dennis McCarthy.
The author of this website does not claim any rights to any intellectual property of The Walt Disney Company. This project is for entertainment only and not affiliated in any manner whatsoever with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries and/or its affiliates.