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Entries in Epcot (28)


A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now

The Progress City model was once a spectacular site. Housed on the second level of the Carousel Theater at Disneyland above The Carousel of Progress, it was often visited but not-so-often photographed or filmed.  It was a large model with many moving parts and electric lights.

What you see today while riding the Magic Kingdom’s TTA  is only a piece of the original model. Not only did a relatively small section of the model survive, a very small amount of movement and lighting remain today. There are fewer houses, far fewer cars and the landscaping is almost nonexistent compared to the original. The thing was literally sliced up in various places to fit it’s new space at Walt Disney World.

The blue lines below indicate the area of the model you see today.


A Chance to Restore the Model

A few years back I was asked if I’d like to help restore this old model city.  I wet my pants a little and said, “Sign me up!  I’ll come in early and stay late if I have to, just don’t change your mind”.  Life stinks sometimes, the lousy bums changed their minds.

– “It’s a matter of ownership.  We don’t actually know who ‘owns‘ the model”.

Yeah well I’d been up there a few times before to climb around and my old model train city I made as a kid with my mom’s hot glue gun and little hobby shop fake trees was in better shape.

The model as seen within the last several years. Viewed from catwalk above the TTA track.


– “Well we think it belongs to Decorating and they ain’t interested in doin’ notin’  wid it.”

 – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Give me their number.  You are saying that even if I volunteer my time to save this piece of history, you aren't gonna let me because no one wants to deal with the thing??  IT’S OLDER THAN ALL OF DISNEY WORLD!”

- “Yeah well, we isn’t interested in the best interest of stuff around here.  Go finish yurr work on that Small World doll.”

Good thing I like working on Small World dolls.  As it turns out, ‘Decorating’ had already been there. No need to clean the model or fix the broken buildings. Definitely no need to fix the double ferris wheel that once moved round and around.

Now that brings me to something that not everyone seems to quite understand.  Imagineering doesn’t maintain everything you see at the parks.  Hardly. There are loads of other departments who are assigned to various pieces of the attractions and parks in general (Engineering Services, Decorating, Artist Prep, Creative Costuming, Buildings, Custodial, even Buena Vista Construction Company, etc.).


The Fantasy of EPCOT-style Living 

I’d always loved the WEDWay PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom (now TTA) in large part due to the view of Progress City.  I liked to dream of the life I could have had in the low-density residential outer rings of a city patterned after EPCOT.

Concept art for Medallion City, 64-65 New York World Fair, meant to showcase (at full-scale) the residential life in Progress City

While riding past the model I’d spot nifty looking mid-century modern ranch-style houses with PeopleMover stations out the back door and with views of the towering cosmopolitan hotel and convention center.  A little amusement area and schools for the kids, pedestrian walkways separate from the motor ways, a Monorail traveling through the center of town... What could be better?

The wife and I could meet up for ethnic food while she shops in the retail district just below my office building. Once inside, weather conditions good and bad would be safely out of reach, yet visible though the domed glass skylights. Walt Disney would be walking around pointing at stuff and I’d say ‘hi’ to him. Herb Ryman would be at the next table sketching on a napkin.  Then he’d give me his sketches and we’d discuss the look of transportation systems of the future.


Why the Tiki Lounge in the City of the Future?

Tiki building as seen in the model's original state

The same tiki building on current model

Doesn’t seam to fit in, or does it? Remember, the peak of America’s fascination with all things ‘tiki’ was the 1950s and 60s.  The phenomenon began with returning WWII soldiers who had served time in the Pacific. Hawaii had not been opened to tourist travel by jet plane for all that long. The war ended in the mid 40s and i presume many of the W.E.D. staff had spent time in Polynesia. And remember that Progress City focussed on all areas of life, including leisure. What better way to relax than in some tike restaurant on the marina?  Maybe someone just liked tiki stuff and added it to the plans??  Either way, this piece is still on the model and boy is it cool to think about.


A Hacked Model

You can compare the model in its two locations and the pieces that still stand today.  You’ll notice the little PeopleMover tracks no longer have moving PeopleMover cars on them.  The tracks were hacked, therefore no longer operational. They appear to have been made of simple slot car technology.  Just like the slot car tracks you had as a kid.

Let's give give credit where credit's due.  Though the model is in a very dilapidated state after all these years, it's presented in a way that makes it look pretty good. I'd love to see moving parts and fewer broken pieces, but from a moving WEDWay car, in a dark tunnel, behing glass, the thing doesn't look half bad.  

Some of these photos were taken without show lighting and with the use of flash.  Some are with show lighting, no flash.


I'd Give My Right Eye

I’ve been looking for video or imagery of the upper level of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress forever now. After the final act of the show, guests would exit though the stage area and ascend to the second floor to see the Progress City model.  I’ve found very little.  I would love to see exactly what that experience was, including the viewing area of the model.  

So PLEASE send anything you have showing these things.


Photos by Fritz, Mitch and Hoot. A special thanks to Hoot who has done a heap of research and investigation involving the model. He was the one who showed me door to get to the model and the catwalk above. Photos were taken on assignment and with permission. Please don't attempt to access the model. 


Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
EPCOT City Model [Part 1]
Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover



EPCOT Construction from the Air

As I continue to dig through boxes of old Disney stuff to scan for our Gallery, I love finding things I’ve forgotten about.  These sweet photos were taken from a small plane or helicopter during the construction of EPCOT Center, given to me by a friend years ago.  (No, I was not in that plane but man I wish I had been!)  I’d like to know when they were taken and I’m trying to figure that out.  If any of you can decipher, let me know.

The first photo in the above side-by-side comparison was taken in an earlier flight.  Notice that a lot of Future World is well underway but Communicore East has barely been started?  And Communicore West is mostly dirt.  Notice the lagoon is quite underdeveloped compared to the following photos.

It’s interesting that the front entrance has plenty of grass and trees, as do the United Kingdom Pavilion and the lagoon islands yet there is very little pavement anywhere.  I like seeing the space for The Living Seas cleared away even though that pavilion wouldn’t open until years later.  Something is going on in the space that would later house Horizons. The front of the World of Motion building looks uncluttered (and would stay that way until 1998 when that hideous awning and the stupid test dummy stuff would ruin the view).  Of course the America Gardens Theater covered stage was non-existent.  No International Gateway.  Check out the U.K. and that path next to it.  I’d like to know more about that.

Dreamfinder and Figment are looking forward to moving in.  Both are oblivious that the company would murder Dreamfinder and attempt to murder Figment the following decade.  Singing fish are not even considered at this point, however singing food products are about to make their debut at The Land.  Communicore is about to show the world how cool the future would be.  Innoventions has not yet bullied Commuicore right out of the building in order to show the world how lame the present can be.

If you look really close to some of these photos you can see John Hench and Marty Sklar trying to convince themselves that the real EPCOT would never have worked.  Michael Eisner at this point has no clue what an “EPCOT” is or that he’d soon be granted power over such a thing.  He has no idea just how “boring” this park would be (his words, not mine).

It must have been great to walk around Disney’s first non-Magic Kingdom theme park while it was coming to life.  I love stories of everyone trying to acquire the little buttons, one for each pavilion with it's respective logo, in order to be granted access to that pavilion (photo to come).  Talking with people who spent considerable time constructions site, I get a sense of wonder and amazement and an optimism that must have been amazing to witness first-hand.




Daredevil Circus Spectacular at EPCOT Center

Listen to this...

How do you seamlessly fit a circus into futuristic setting of Future World? You do it with this explanation:

“The four-times-daily, eight ring spectacle transforms CommuniCore into a ‘spacearena’ for an interstellar cast of spine-tingling acts -- some of the world’s most famous acrobats and thrill performers plus troupe of elephant-like Martian Mastodons performing on Future World’s fountain stage."

“With Mickey Mouse as a guest ringmaster, the 25-minute cosmic thrill show features high-riders balancing their Space Cycles on thin wires zooming up to the 100-foot-high midpoint of Spaceship Earth, a fet-speed trapeze act, an ‘astrobat’ atop a swaying space needle, and an equally brave ‘interplanetary mechanic’ who ‘repairs’ a wildly orbiting space station by fearlessly climbing about it as it hurtles through the atmosphere.”

If you didn't catch their performances in Russia, hopefully you saw them at EPCOT Center.

“...stars include the Wynn Family Troupe, led by Space Cyclist Hans, son Jay, and Carl, the intrepid space-station repairman; the Flying Rodriquez Family whose double-trapeze performance is one of the few free-world acts ever featured in the Moscow State Circus; daring swaypole performer Gary Sladick, and the Cristiani Elephants, four amazing pachyderms which have performed their ‘bullheaded’ and ‘light footed’ balancing act in world-class circuses.”

The Spectacular was part of the Walt Disney World 15th Anniversary in 1986-1987.

One thing is certain. The views of the park from up there must have been striking. Hooray for 1980s EPCOT Center!