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Speaking of EPCOT…

When I posted my EPCOT rant last week, little did I realize that there was a bit of a wave of EPCOT discussion sweeping the web already. Specifically, this thread on WDWMagic discussing a recent interview with Imagineer Eddie Sotto. The article itself is revelatory; it’s full of Sotto’s ideas of what Tomorrowland and EPCOT should be, and how the DVC concept could be leveraged into finally bringing Walt’s Progress City to life. It’s all spot-on. Long-time readers will know that I’m always grousing that Disney should put a single Imagineer in a position to supervise EPCOT as Joe Rohde does with Animal Kingdom. I’m convinced now that were I in charge, I would beg Sotto to come back to WDI and transform EPCOT into what it deserves to be.

For those who don’t know Sotto’s work, it includes development on Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure, Tokyo’s Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Disneyland Paris’s Main Street, the unbuilt Sci-Fi City concept, and outside projects like ABC’s Times Square Studio and LAX’s Encounter restaurant. He left Imagineering in 1999 and, showing just how good his taste actually is, named his design studio “Progress City.”

Anyway, while the discussion of EPCOT on WDWMagic is fascinating, the most interesting (and somewhat infuriating) thing that I discovered was a link to ULTra. ULTra is a personal rapid transit system that will see its first use later this year at London’s Heathrow Airport. In all the talk about what Disney should be doing to re-invigorate EPCOT or solve the transportation solutions at Walt Disney World, this is happening on the other side of the world. Look at this!!

Why isn’t Disney doing this? How can they be falling behind this far? To me, this tech is fantastic. This is exactly what Walt was looking for, what he had planned for EPCOT, and what he was advocating for as early as 1958 in Magic Highway, U.S.A.:

The ULTra is straight out of a Ward Kimball animation, or Tomorrowland 1967, or Walt’s EPCOT film. It builds upon the work that Imagineering once started with the Houston WEDway, combines those ideals with styling from the age of Steve Jobs, and would be perfect to serve the needs of Disney’s guests. Someone slip it to Bob Iger, please?

For more on Imagineer Eddie Sotto, read interviews at Yesterland, Themed Attraction (an extensive, four-part piece), and with Disney and More on his new restaurant, Riviera.

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5 comments to Speaking of EPCOT…

  • Tony Baxter is quoted as saying that when you remove something you have to replace it with something better or people won’t be happy. He cited the Skyway as the perfect example. Welcome to the next generation of the Skyway. A PRT system has all of the same benefits (an overhead view, a sense of privacy in a public space, the ability to animate the land buy its motion) with the potential for a relatively high capacity attraction.

    I like it.

  • Dan

    Holy Smokeless! It’s an honest-to-goodness WEDWay. A couple years back when the now-named Bay Lake Tower images were “leaked” onto the internet and the discussion regarding it heated up the servers, I made a simple suggestion that I forwarded onto Orlando: use this new structure to expand the Tomorrowland Transit Authority out of the park and into the new building, giving its guests the opportunity to enter the park via Tomorrowland (much like Disneyland Hotel guests can with the West coast monorail). The fourth floor connector would make the perfect WEDWay station and truly make the addition to the Contemporary…well, contemporary (by the way, I also suggested calling it Tempo Bay Tower after the original building’s original name…anyone can look up my suggestions over at the DISBoards by doing an archive search for Barnum01, but I digress). At the time, I also commented that the structure seem to take visual cues from EPCOT’s original central hotel, abeit much shorter and less stylish, something I still stand by. The Contemporary was the Phase I resort hotel themed to Tomorrowland. Make the connection permanent with tomorrow-looking technology and a unique entrance. TTA riders would even be able to enjoy a quick tour of the new structure while entering the attraction via the normal TTA queue.

    Anyways, lo and behold, I had no idea something like this was being installed at Heathrow and we may end up taking our England trip sooner than planned just to experience it. THIS is what EPCOT was meant to showcase. At one point, WED itself was at the forefront of this type technology, but even if WDI isn’t, surely something like this has a logical home at the Florida Project. Walt, Ward, et al, would have thought so, and I can just imagine Walt storming through the offices asking why nobody at WED had come up with it as a successor to the WEDWay and how soon the technology could be adapted for use at Disney World.

    I have yet to read Eddie’s interview, but I will shortly following typing my reply. If you remember, I asked the other day who was in the chain that could be put in charge of Epcot. From the sounds of your comments, Eddie is the man (even if he isn’t in the chain anymore).

    Thanks again for keeping us challenged (even though I am deeply depressed having seen this technology and knowing it’s nowhere near central Florida).

    All the best,

  • Dan

    One more quick question: do you have any idea who scored those old Disneyland shorts? Although I am only a few years older than you, I love the retro-future orchestrations underneath the Marvin Miller narration.


  • I LOVE the idea of naming it the Tempo Bay Tower haha… I might call it that just out of general principle. I also like the idea of incorporating the WEDway in its design… even if just to link it to the main hotel. Of course, I like the idea of putting the WEDway anywhere!

    I also think you’re right in that Walt would have been hacked off that someone else beat them to this.

    I’m not sure who scored Magic Highway, but my guess would be George Bruns. Second guess would be Buddy Baker, but I’m not sure when he came to Disney. Sounds Brunsish, though. And great call on the Marvin Miller narration! In my memory it was Paul Frees, but I listened to it again and you’re absolutely right.

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