This October 6, 1978, special-edition issue of the Walt Disney World cast-member publication Eyes and Ears was released to coincide with the company’s announcement of the official opening date of the resort’s second theme park, EPCOT Center.
The front page features a color photograph of a scale model of the park-to-be, as well as a headline naming the opening date as October 1, 1982. The photo’s caption provides a brief overview of what to expect from the resort’s newest offering, which would eventually debut, as announced, exactly eleven years after the Magic Kingdom first opened its gates to the public:
Scale model shows EPCOT Center, a showcase for the concepts of tomorrow and the nations of today including Future World (foreground) and the World Showcase which surrounds the lagoon in the distance. In foreground is giant golden geodesic dome housing Spaceship Earth which introduces the concepts of Future World and its other major pavilions dealing with energy, transportation, the land, the seas, life and health and space.
Inside, the two-page cover story provides details of the public announcement made by President and Chief Executive Officer of Walt Disney Productions, Card Walker, to business leaders from around the world at the 26th World Congress of the International Chamber of Commerce, hosted by the on-site Contemporary Resort Hotel.
Esmond Cardon “Card” Walker (1916-2005) had served as president of the company since Roy O. Disney’s death in 1971. Card was first hired at the studio in 1938, and his career, which spanned more than six decades, truly represented a climb up the corporate ladder. Beginning in the mailroom in his early twenties, he worked his way into a position in the camera department, then into production as a unit manager for animated shorts. After a four-year hiatus, during which he served with the US Navy in World War II, he returned to a job in the story department, helping to poll audiences for potential film ideas. In the mid-50s, he was appointed Vice President of Advertising and Sales; a decade later, Vice President of Marketing; two years after that, Executive Vice President of Operations; and the next year, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, before finally taking over as president, a few months after the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort.
Excerpts from Walker’s initial announcement, which had taken place four days prior to the issue’s publication date on October 2, are included in the article, shedding light on the company’s plans for the park:
“EPCOT Center will consist of two major themed areas: Future World and the World Showcase. The first of these will dramatize the history and future challenges of the critical problems facing us today—providing a public window onto the worlds of energy, transportation, the seas, space, life and health and other subjects. Future World will also include a global marketplace of new ideas which we call Communicore. In this communications core of EPCOT Center industry and the public will participate in a ‘hands-on’ exchange of new and exciting systems, products and technology.
The World Showcase will be a community of nations, the only permanent international exposition of its kind anywhere, focusing on the culture, traditions, tourism and accomplishments of people around the world. A model for true people to people exchange, the World Showcase will offer participating nations an opportunity to send their outstanding young adults to operate the attractions, shops, restaurants and exhibits of their pavilions. And these young people who will work, play and learn together for a period of up to one year will help to generate greater international understanding.”
Walker goes on to mention the corporate and state sponsorship the project had received, most of which came to fruition in the finished product three years later:
“EPCOT Center has exciting response and considerable support from American as well as international interests. As of now, Walt Disney Productions has received letters of intent or contracts from four of the world’s largest corporations for participation in EPCOT Center’s Future World. General Motors will present Transportation. Exxon Company, USA will present Energy. Kraft, Inc. will present The Land. In addition, a major presentation is now being designed for American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
We have also received letters of intent from business or government interests in 10 nations for participation in the first phase of the World Showcase—including United Mexican States, Japan, Federal Republic of Germany, Kingdom of Morocco, Canada, State of Israel, United Kingdom, French Republic, United Arab Emirates and Italian Republic. And in the months to come we anticipate substantial additional support both for this and the planned second phase of EPCOT Center.”
Walker estimated the project, the largest ever undertaken by the company, at over $1 billion, and also predicted the new park to draw 8-10 million visitors in its initial year of operation.
The article is anchored by an invitation for cast members to visit the EPCOT Preview Center the following week, where it was on display at the Contemporary Resort Hotel for the 26th Congress of the International Chamber of Commerce. The official EPCOT Center Preview Center would eventually be housed in the Town Square Theater in Magic Kingdom in the year leading up to the park’s opening to help generate interest and excitement among resort guests.
The remaining five pages of the Eyes and Ears issue are filled with various bits of information related to cast news and activities, affording a fun glimpse at the life of a 1970s Disney World employee.
This limited-release publication documenting the official opening announcement of EPCOT Center represents a huge step forward for the company, in regard to expanding its “Vacation Kingdom,” but also the beginning of the end of Walt’s long-standing hope of building a living, breathing, working Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, as that dream was forever relegated to the realm of theme-park attractions.