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The Lost Forests Of EPCOT Center

In his recent Imaginerding review of Steve Alcorn’s excellent Building A Better Mouse: The Story Of The Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot, George Taylor linked a number of fantastic snapshots on Alcorn’s site that depict the creation of EPCOT Center.

You should head over to Alcorn’s site posthaste to investigate, but I’m going to reprint a couple of the photos here because one of them depicts something that I never, ever thought I’d see.

EPCOT’s construction is full of intriguing details, as the inner workings of the park are so massive and elaborate and hidden from the public. Everyone knows about the Magic Kingdom’s Utilidors, but few have seen EPCOT’s Utilidor that runs beneath Communicore:

EPCOT's sole Utilidor, under construction...

Also hidden is the massive carriage that contains all the show scenes and animatronics for the American Adventure; this picture just shows a small part of the machine – it’s a wonder they ever got it to work!

I see Chief Joseph!

Of course back in the day the commands that ran that show came streaming from EPCOT Computer Central in Communicore. Here’s a picture of the very first equipment being installed in Computer Central; the large box you see on the left is one of the binloop machines that used to stream audio in an endless loop to the far corners of the park.

Not depicted: Dancing Cockney guy

But what really caught my eye was this picture. See what you think:

Circle Pines.

What do you see? Well, it’s obviously large trees under construction, and if you read Alcorn’s caption you’ll realize it’s at the Canada pavilion. So what? “But wait,” you might say in a moment of quiet reflection, “where are the giant fake trees in the Canada pavilion?” That’s the thing – there aren’t any. But there were supposed to be. Look at this early concept art for the pavilion, which I appropriated from the fantastic Imagineering Disney:

How Not to Be Seen starring Martin Short

I always thought those towering pines were just artistic license, but there were actually plans to partially conceal the pavilion in a grove of lofty, artificial timber. As you can see in Alcorn’s photo, the trees were even built. But the issue of scale – as you can tell, they were designed to use forced perspective to fit in with their scaled-down surroundings – proved a problem, and they never looked quite right in the eyes of the project’s managers. Eventually Dick Nunis called for the metaphorical and literal axe, and the fake trees of Canada were removed before the park even opened. This makes them an even more ephemeral relic of EPCOTology than the fabled Danish bathrooms.

Looking for some real trees? Well check out this picture, which shows what a cabin at Fort Wilderness looked like circa 1982. Fleetwood!

Country living the Disney way

Be sure to drop in and check out the rest.

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11 comments to The Lost Forests Of EPCOT Center

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Plu, Michael Crawford. Michael Crawford said: The lost forest of EPCOT: #TheOwlsAreNotWhatTheySeem […]

  • Groovy. I remember reading some article in a kid’s magazine back when Epcot first opened. They spent a lot of time talking about all the artificial trees in the park. I guess there really were a lot, when you consider all that they had to build for Energy, World of Motion, and the Land.

  • That’s such a funny thing for them to talk about, but I guess you’re right! WED did indeed have some “tree people” onsite to do just that.

  • […] Progress City USA has a look at a lost concept for EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion – giant trees which were actually in production and half constructed before being scrapped! Also – […]

  • OnWithTheShow

    Certainly American Adventure is still a leading example of theatrical automation. It makes you wonder why $45 million cant make the Spiderman musical work. It is something to see if you ever have a chance for a tour backstage.

  • Great update, these are some amazing sights! As OnWithTheShow mentioned, seeing the American Adventure carriage is easily one of the highlights of the Backstage Magic tour, especially when it is *silently* rolled into place. It’s just stunning that a piece of machinery so large and so complex can move into position beneath the audience without even a whisper.

    Unfortunately the tour didn’t take us into the Epcot utilidor, and while we did stroll through MK’s, a stop at DACS was not on the itinerary.

  • I have never been backstage at AA, sadly, which means my brief time as an EPCOT CM during the college program was not well spent!

  • Mike

    As a seasonal CM at Epcot, I have walked the length of Epcot’s Utilidor several times, even ridden through on a Segway! Inside it looks just like MK’s, although it’s basically one hallway with a small branch off under Electric Umbrella. The general shape of the whole thing most cloesly resembles the meteorological symbol for a hurricane, with a long curving arm, then a short straight section at a 90 degree angle, followed by another curving arm that’s a mirror reflection in shape of the first curved section. The easiest and most obvious access is from the ground level backstage between Guest Relations and the backside of Universe of Energy where the tunnel slopes up to a wide opening at ground level. (check this out on Google Earth, very easy to see) Just like MK, there are various stairwells that go up to the main park level for kitchens and shops, etc…

  • eraga

    >>Circle Pines.
    I see what you did there.

  • :)

    (And thanks for the info, Mike!)

  • […] Crawford at Progress City, USA linked to me (and some great Alcorn […]

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