Dateline: EPCOT Construction December 1981
What appears to be a pretty mundane press shot of EPCOT Center can be seen as a unique snapshot of the progress made on the largest construction project in the world and can reveal details on the methods f construction used to get the Vacation Kingdom’s second park closer to completion.
Presumably shot in December of 1981, 10 months before EPCOT’s debut, we can see that most of the main structures of EPCOT are recognizable and structurally sound…. but when we zoom in, there’s a few oddities that illuminate how exactly advanced EPCOT was physically created.
The overview image (image 1) shows off a completed Monorail Station and monorail loop, complete with landscaping and guest facilities. As opening day approached, guests could purchase tickets from a preview center on Main Street USA and see EPCOT Center’s construction from the monorail platform. Spaceship Earth was lit in blue for the occasional night tour.
In Image 2, Future World East is seemingly complete, save for a few minor details. The World of Motion has had it’s curtain wall of stainless steel installed, and the Universe of Energy is devoid of scaffolding, meaning the solar panels have been installed. Both of these pavilions were the first to be planned out and the first to receive sponsorship, so construction on both structures were early hurdles for EPCOT to cross. Other pavilions wouldn’t fare as well. The restroom block on Future World East has a basic structure, meanwhile, and is about to receive walls. CommuniCore’s roof and supports are constructed, but it doesn’t seem as though the massive walls and windows of glass have been installed yet. And of course, Horizons is totally missing. Horizons, though confirmed for EPCOT at this point, was scheduled to open on EPCOT’s first anniversary as part of phase two. In this shot, one can see the basic preparations on the plot of land to house the building, but there’s nothing beyond those paltry preparations on the ground. That would quickly change, however, and when EPCOT Center opened on October 1st, the steel framework of Horizons was peeking over a construction wall as it neared its own completion.
Image 2 shows off Spaceship Earth itself, and strikingly bare support “legs”. A good majority of Spaceship Earth’s 11,324 iconic alucobond tiles were installed around the “gaps” that the “legs” left, but in 1981 they had yet to be filled in. Similarly, the mirrored support column that houses Spaceship Earth’s elevator has also yet to be surfaced, presumably as the elevator was being used heavily to transport props and sets in and out of the pavilion. Behind Spaceship Earth, you can catch a glimpse of the Fountain of Nation’s concrete base being filled in, not to mention a windowless CommuniCore.
Image 3 shows of a nearly completed Future World West. The Land looks nearly complete, while Journey into Imagination is receiving the final struts on its space-frame pyramids. The rest of the pavilion is already complete, meanwhile, and watertight. The pyramids were the last part of the facade to be added in late 1981, while their glass facets would be installed in the coming months. Landscaping in Future World West is paltry, save for, ironically, the berm that will house The Living Seas one day. At that time, The Living Seas was planned to open in 1984, so it was quickly assumed that the plot would have to maintain appearances at least for a year of EPCOT Center’s operations. In reality, The Seas wouldn’t open until 1986.
The last shot (Image 4) gives you a birds eye view of World Showcase. Again, most pavilions are structurally recognizable. China had had its CircleVision 360 theater installed, but not themed, yet. Japan is still buried behind scaffolds. None of the Friendship docks have been built, but the lagoon is filled. In earlier shots, World Showcase Lagoon has water in it, but the islands are much larger implying the lagoon was slowly filled over time.
So, from this point on, with only 10 months to go, the remaining details and textures that populated EPCOT Center would be added in to make EPCOT Center the park that is still fondly remembered and celebrated to this day. Being the largest construction project in the world, it is a marvel of modern engineering how quickly and well the project would come together in these final, frenetic months.
And a heartfelt thanks to VintageDisneyparks.tumblr.com for their shout out yesterday, and a hearty welcome to all my new followers! Welcome aboard! Pleased to have you!