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Celebrate! Celebrate! October 18th, 1982

While any good Disney fan knows that EPCOT Center opened in October of 1982, it’s easy to forget just how busy that first month was. While the opening date of October 1st is well-known, the park itself wasn’t dedicated until the 24th. Throughout the rest of the month, on different days, each individual pavilion and showcase had its own grand opening ceremony. On October 18th, it was EPCOT Computer Central’s turn.

EPCOT Computer Central, sponsored by Sperry Univac, was an attraction that could only have existed at EPCOT in its prime. It was, essentially, the computerized nerve center of the entire park. Guests could look down upon the mainframes from above, while a brief show (using the same Pepper’s Ghost effect as the Haunted Mansion’s ballroom) explained how the operation worked. “Earlie the Pearlie,” played by Broadway actor Ken Jennings, was the Cockney song-and-dance man who hosted the show and performed the Sherman Brothers’ cult classic, The Computer Song.

The Astuter Computer Revue, though, was less than a hit. In fact, it was more like EPCOT’s version of California Adventure’s Superstar Limousine; its short life ended in January of 1984. In a weird twist that is hard to conceive of today, the show was retooled to make it less silly and more informative. It re-opened as Backstage Magic, which remained open until 1993.

I found this video on YouTube quite by accident, and was immediately mes-mo-rized. It is such pure early 80s futurism – jumpsuits, bland colors but the occasional use of sequins, and barely-contained man batch. And interpretive dance. I love those standard-bearers holding the Communicore logo; what’s really funny is that at the EPCOT 25th anniversary presentation they used pretty much the same idea. This is hard-core vintage 1980s at its finest:

The Sperry Univac executive continues in part two, but despite the fact that I doubt he or Card Walker ever set the Toastmasters on fire, I encourage you to watch because what happens after the speeches are finished is simply… indescribable. Oh wait, it’s totally describable – it’s sparkly.

Love it. I especially love all the people in suits watching intently. Oh, 1982.

Despite the obvious camp value and the rather stodgy speeches, there’s a nugget of brilliance here. Those speeches do invoke what EPCOT is meant to embody, and which has unfortunately been forgotten. While they’re not delivered with much zing, they do get across what EPCOT was trying to celebrate – the latest and greatest innovations in technology, and the excitement about the potential they held for improving our lives. Almost thirty years later, it’s still forward looking; I’ll also remind you that all this pomp and circumstance was celebrating the opening of what was essentially a giant bank of computers. No ride, or interactivity, or “thrill” – the cool tech was the draw. While EPCOT Computer Central was never an E-ticket, obviously, it was unique and something that could only be seen at EPCOT. That’s a goal as worthy today as it was then.

I’ll pass on the glittery yellow derby hat, though.

One last thing – out there, somewhere, is a better quality video of this ceremony. There’s also lots of other video from those early days of EPCOT. I want to see that video. You hear me world??

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8 comments to Celebrate! Celebrate! October 18th, 1982

  • Michael, what an amazing find!!! That song and dance routine is bad enough to make even me cringe and you know how I love the Disney cheesiness of the 70s and 80s!!! :) Still, I absolutely cherish these old clips that feature a clean, fresh and exciting EPCOT Center. Really drills in just what a big event it was for it to even open in the first place. Back in the day even a new ride would have a big TV special and tons of fanfare. Ahh, good times.

    I can’t recall ever having the fortune to experience the original show there, but definitely enjoyed Backstage Magic for many years. I actually think it’s one of those things that blew my mind early on in regards to how incredible the Disney operation was. It was a great way to get a glimpse behind the curtain without having to pay for a fancy shmancy expensive tour.

  • Brian

    Oh. My. God. I can’t imagine why the Astuter Review bombed so quickly…

    Purple & Yellow even!

  • Oh yes. Purple and yellow. And unapologetically so. When he jumped up on stage for that I completely lost it. I’m so angry the video cuts off before he finishes.

    I don’t remember Astuter but I know I saw it as a young child.

    What was way more exciting was when I did the College Program at WDW, and as part of my orientation we got to go *into* EPCOT Computer Central. This was after Communicore became Innoventions, so the balcony overlook was boarded up, but the machines and everything were all still there. For an EPCOT nerd-for-life it was like entering the Dome of the Rock or the Parthenon or something. To stand by the binloop table watching the operating tape for Horizons stream past… that *was* Horizons! Right there in front of me! So cool. And so many vestigial remnants of the great EPCOT-that-was.

    As to this video, you’re right about seeing the sleek and clean EPCOT of 1982. It just shows how much unsightly junk and clutter has been slathered on over the years, and how the landscaping has gotten out of hand too. EPCOT needs a full-bore and complete aesthetic makeover. Strip off the grime.

  • Love the post, I miss this Epcot dearly, although all I can remember of that Epcot is Horizons. As this video took place almost 8 years before I was born. What we need is an extended Walt Disney Treasures for Walt Disney World, Epcot and all the Themepark stuff afterward. I guess it would be Disney Park Treasures or something. Love the great work thanks!

    Matt

  • Hehe thanks… and yes, we most definitely need a WDW DVD set!!

  • Oh my, that’s a great find. Absolutely hilarious, and yep, it’s a great reminder of what has been lost. What’s especially striking is the complete absence of characters — if that had taken place even ten years later there would have been a gaggle of characters in their space suits dancing with the “Up With People” crowd.

    Although it does crack me up that while times have changed, the music hasn’t. Sounds like it’s a direct ancestor of the Cinderellabration/Dream Along With Mickey pap that plays out at the MK most days.

    Damn. I wanna go ride Horizons right now.

  • Andrew Horberry

    So now I have to search through my collection of cassette tap…er, pre-CD music playback systems for my original, beloved “Official Album of EPCOT Center”, the one I used to learn all of the lyrics for all of the pavilions including “The Astuter Computer Revue”.

    People, I saw that original in-pavilion presentation and, whilst it was no E-ride, it was a terrific underscore of EPCOT’s objectives and relentlessly optimistic view of the future. Just like the theater with interactive armrests where “your vote counted”.

    Where can I join the angry mob agitating to get EpCoT returned to a coherent, invigorating, innovative park? The one that really supports the noble sentiments of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth?

  • The mob is here! JOIN US!

    You’re right about the tone of those presentations. And I LOVED the EPCOT Poll!

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