A typical day at Epcot involves a few thrill rides, a walk around the World Showcase, and some international cuisine. Today is different. We're touring the park with a purpose: to discover the history, hidden stories, and the life lessons that make Epcot such a unique experience.
In the follow-up to his best-selling The Disney-Driven Life, former cast member Jeff Dixon draws upon his degrees in sociology and theology, coupled with a deep understanding of Disney history, to deliver a second helping of fun, trivia-dense Disney stories and motivational life lessons, this time drawn from Epcot's Future World and the World Showcase.
Among the many little-known Epcot stories that Dixon spins into motivational aphorisms:
CRACK THE DISNEY CODE ON YOUR WAY TO A BETTER LIFE!
Chapter 1: Follow the Line from the Past into the Future
Chapter 2: Good Enough Is Not Good Enough
Chapter 3: Learning to Take Flight
Chapter 4: Seeing Under the Sea
Chapter 5: One Little (or Not-So-Little) Spark
Chapter 6: Create the Future
Chapter 7: How About Tomorrow?
Chapter 8: Getting There as Fast as Possible
Chapter 9: It’s a Small World
Chapter 10: How Do I Get Inside?
Chapter 11: Let It Go
Chapter 12: Discoveries of a Whispering Place
Chapter 13: A Must-See Event
Chapter 14: Something Is Missing
Chapter 15: The Host with the Most
Chapter 16: A Garden to Gather In
Chapter 17: Listening to Life
Chapter 18: He Went to Paris and Missed the War
Chapter 19: The Streets of London
Chapter 20: Crossing the Border and Running Out of Time
The sleek shimmering train slides to a stop under the fluorescent illumination of the station and the doors open, inviting you to come inside. Without hesitation you do and as you nestle into the seat, the ding of a bell notifies you the doors are about to click shut. A slight shudder, almost undetectable, ripples along the 203-foot Mark VI monorail. Seated inside you don’t realize that your ride vehicle is being driven by eight 113 horse-power motors powered by a 600-volt electrical system, surging through a bus-bar mounted to the side of the concrete beam upon which the monorail car sits snuggly atop. Instead, you are sense the beginning of a journey that is about to unfold as you make the trip from the Walt Disney World Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot.
Immediately leaving the station you are pushed into the darkness of the Florida night and you begin to travel through undeveloped portions of the Walt Disney World Resort. These shadowy images are highlighted by glimpses of familiar sights and landmarks that burst through the gloom with magical displays of light, but then quickly recede into the inky blackness of the nocturnal passage toward your destination. You wait for the usual automated narration to provide general information about your trip to Epcot. Over the four miles of your journey, you will be welcomed, told about what is happening at Epcot, and how long the monorails will be running on this particular night.
Ah, but this is not your usual visit to Walt Disney World. As you have opened the pages of this book, I don’t know what you expected, so perhaps on our ride over to the resort this would be a good time to explain a few things. We are going to visit Epcot. This is a trip that, as you cross over the text and turn to the next page, will be fun and loaded with information. Together we are going on a tour, but not the usual tour. While there will be sights and sounds that jump off the page and come alive through the written word, we are also seeking something else, something far more important and perhaps life-changing.
In the adventure to be found in these pages we are also looking for a code, the Disney Code—lessons about living life, navigating relationships, leading others, and doing so in a way that changes the places and people you meet. The Disney Code will help to unleash the best version of you and will challenge you to leave the people you meet and the places you go better because you were there. Now you may be asking, apropos of Pirates of the Caribbean, “Is it a real code or is it more like a guideline?” But that’s a reference to a film based on an attraction in the Magic Kingdom, and we are not headed there. We are headed to Epcot, and these are not guidelines: they really are a code, though a non-binding code that you must choose to follow. (And I hope you will!)
How will we find this code? Well, that will become clearer as we arrive, but the code that we are going to discover is one that was created and modeled by Walt Disney himself. As I mentioned above, this is not your usual visit to Epcot. So, on this night, on this trip, it finally dawns on you that you are the only person aboard the monorail—which is extremely unusual because there are always crowds. But I suppose I should mention that for the next twenty chapters you have a private, exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour booked through Epcot. There will be no lines, no need for FastPass+, and plenty to take in.
Suddenly a voice comes on over the speakers inside the monorail and you recognize it as that of Walt Disney:
Welcome! I want to say just a word about the Florida project.
As you can see, we have a perfect location in Florida, almost in the very center of the state. In fact, we’ve selected this site because it’s so easy for tourists and Florida residents to get here by automobile.
Our Florida land is located partly in Orange County and Osceola County between the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. And the important thing is that Disney World is located just a few miles from the crossing point of Interstate 4 and the Sunshine State Parkway, Florida’s major highways carrying motorists east and west and north and south through the center of the state.
The sketches and plans we have made are simply a starting point: Everything may change time and time again as we move ahead, but the basic philosophy of what we’re planning for Disney World is going to remain very much as it is right now.
We know what our goals are. We know what we hope to accomplish. And believe me, it’s the most exciting and challenging assignment we’ve ever tackled at Walt Disney Productions.
The theme parks and all the other tourist facilities fill just one small area of our enormous Florida project. The whole area encompasses 27,400 acres. That is forty-three square miles: twice the size of the island of Manhattan. Here in Florida we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland: the blessing of size. There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we could possibly imagine.
But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.
I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities.
But where do we begin? How do we start answering this great challenge? Well, we’re convinced we must start with the public need. And the need is not just for curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a special kind of new community. So that’s what EPCOT is: an experimental prototype community that will always be in the 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 anyplace else in the world.
Everything in EPCOT will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who live, work, and play here, and those who come here from around the world to visit our living showcase.
We don’t presume to know all the answers. In fact, we’re counting on the cooperation of American industry to provide their very best thinking during the planning and the creation of our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And most important of all, when EPCOT has become a reality and we find the need for technologies that don’t even exist today, it’s our hope that EPCOT will stimulate American industry to develop new solutions that will meet the needs of people expressed right here in this experimental community.
Remember, though, as I said earlier, this is just the beginning! With that thought in mind, let’s have a look.
You are probably enough of a student of the life and times of Walt Disney to know that Walt never lived long enough to see his original vision of Epcot come into existence. I think it is important to note that there have been volumes of historians, commentators, and opinion drivers who have connected the dots about what Epcot was intended to be—but is not. They make some very valid points and provide some interesting things to ponder over what might have been. But this is not a trip into the past of what Epcot is not, but instead a journey into the future about what Epcot is and inspires us to be. And in moving forward we will find that many of the ideas and philosophies of Walt Disney helped to shape and mold what Epcot has become.
As you approach Epcot, the monorail line cuts through the parking lot. The signs designating the named parking areas zoom past your line of vision. Discover—Create—Journey—Amaze are not merely places to park your automobiles, they are invitations to what you will find on this trip. If you could see beyond, there are additional invitations that dot the massive asphalt landscape: Imagine—Explore—Wonder, each giving you a preview of why a trip to Epcot is unique and unlike any other place you could ever travel. Epcot is a world that Walt himself could see and wanted desperately to create.
The monorail streaks over the ticket center as Spaceship Earth, the symbol and centerpiece of Epcot, is illuminated in the nighttime sky in front of you. But then with a quick turn of the track, you travel inside the theme park, previewing that which awaits us on our trip together. The track winds counter-clockwise past the Universe of Energy, Mission Space, and Test Track before giving you an amazing view of the World Showcase in the distance. Journey into Imagination, The Land, and The Seas all can be seen before the monorail arrives at the station for you to disembark. You feel the monorail begin to slow and as it does, once again you hear the voice of Walt Disney:
That’s the starting point for our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. A project like this is so vast in scope that no one company alone could make it a reality. But if we can bring together the technical know-how of American industry and the creative imagination of the Disney organization, I’m confident we can create—right here in Disney World—a showcase to the world of the American free-enterprise system. I believe we can build a community that more people will talk about and come to look at than any other area in the world. And with your cooperation, I’m sure that the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow can influence the future of city living for generations to come. It’s an exciting challenge; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone who participates. Speaking for myself and the entire Disney organization, we’re ready to go right now!
The monorail comes to a halt, the doors open and wait for you to step into the future. Before you do, you must realize that Epcot is the embodiment of Walt Disney’s vision, his last and perhaps his greatest dream of all. As a dreamer and a doer, his life was one of optimism that the world could be a better place as people developed new ideas. The two sections of Epcot—Future World and the World Showcase—are living, breathing examples of what Walt believed to be essential: that at the heart of the ideas, people formed the core of where they would come from. People working and living together would generate the ideas that would shape the future and they would move into that future together.
It is time to get moving on our tour. I trust you will enjoy it. There will be tidbits of history, lots of hidden surprises, usually unseen details about the attractions and of course…the Disney Code. As we think about how Walt faced life and the future, we will see many of those ideas and concepts carefully tucked within Epcot. Some are hidden and waiting to be discovered like a treasure. Others are much more obvious and because they are so easy to see, they can also be easily missed. Each attraction contains a special marker that when collected and pieced together, completes a puzzle that reveals a way to live that can make us successful in every area of our lives. These are not collectibles that can be picked up in a gift shop; they are found in the details, stories, and history of what we are going to experience. But make no mistake about it, they are extremely valuable and very rare because most people never discover them. Hopefully, the Disney Code will inspire you to live a life with the same intensity and passion that guided Walt Disney and motivate you to see how your life can touch and change the world.
The journey begins—the future awaits.
Jeff Dixon is a native of Orlando who had the chance to spend time in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom before it opened to the general public. As a child, he was in awe of the Disney magic and later would become a cast member there and spend many memorable moments in the park over the years that followed.
Jeff has earned degrees in sociology and theology. His time spent at the Walt Disney World resort turned him into a collector of theme-parkology.
In addition, his calling as a transformational architect has made him an expert in story-telling methodology…and he has woven those “ologies,” interests, and skills together for this very unique look at the world of Disney.
He is also the author of The Disney-Driven Life (Theme Park Press).
Jeff lives in Orlando with his family and spends as much time as possible at Walt Disney World where there is always another adventure just waiting to be discovered.
You can find out more about Jeff Dixon by visiting DixonOnDisney.com.