Entrance Plaza

Constructing... World Passports


Yes, you did read that correctly. It was $90.00 for a Two-Park Annual Pass in 1982! But, rather than making this about the not-so-wonderful world of inflation, it would probably be best to focus on some of the lesser known historical facts of theme park ticketing...

Firstly, there’s a lot of talk (especially on E82) surrounding the connections between theme parks and motion pictures, but you might be surprised to learn just how linked the two industries were. Disneyland was the first theme park to charge a gate admission, and as such a price had to be chosen. But how does one set a price for a “product” that has never existed? Believe It or Not, but for the majority of the 20th century the price of the park admission was directly based on movie ticket prices. The basic formula was the full price of a (non-matinee) adult ticket times five. The logic behind all of this was that the experience of going to a Disney park was akin to a full day at the movies. On average, the operating day was ten hours long, or five feature films, hence the Movie-x5 formula. Eventually, this pricing structure was eliminated for other models. Just in case you’re curious, if that model was still in effect the average price of a one-day park pass would be $39.45 a far cry from the $85.00 price of today’s reality. (1)

What is not discussed here is the way in which EPCOT Center changed ALL theme parks forever!

Note: For those of you over the age of 40 just skip the following paragraph.

Before EPCOT, Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom functioned on a two-tiered system of ticketing: the gate price and the famous Ticket Book system. The Ticket Books were a collection of Coupons for attractions with a very specific alphabetical ranking. An “A” ticket would be for the least of all attractions, Main Street Vehicles, King Arthur Carousel, etc. An “E” (not added until 1959) would be for the most spectacular of attractions, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates, etc. There were certain exceptions to the Ticket Books, heavily sponsored attractions like Adventure thru Inner Space, or its sister attraction If You Had Wings were free attractions allowing an unlimited number of rides. (2)

But how could one possibly “rank” the attractions of EPCOT Center?! Sure, it’s easy to say that the Astuter Computer Revue is less significant than the Universe of Energy, but how much so? In addition, ALL attractions of EPCOT Center had corporate sponsorships. And charging a little under $10 per ticket for a $1.2 billion investment isn’t exactly a sound financial practice. Subsequently, the guests were screaming for an all inclusive experience within the park, unhampered by coupons and ticket booths. As a result of all of these developments, 1982 also became the year that Ticket books were phased out in favor a single gate admission. Instead of budgeting D and E tickets or trading four A’s for one E, you could go on as many attractions, as many times as possible. And rationing how many rides you have left became endless countdowns of how many times you were able to ride Space Mountain in a single day.

All this thanks to that most unique of all theme parks - EPCOT Center!


  1. Based on the national average price of $7.49 in 2010 reported by NATO the National Association of Theater Owners.
  2. This is also the largest reason why these attractions still have such a large “cult following” many decades after their closure. The ability to have unlimited access to a great piece of entertainment will eventually embed itself into your subconscious. (Just think if you could only see Star Wars once or twice in your life? Would it really be that memorable [or successful]?... probably not)

© Disney All Rights Reserved

Photo Caption:
Although from several years later (in 1987), this would be the typical setup after opening. As one who has done ticket sales and been behind a few “desks” before, I’m both nostalgic and impressed by streamlined, uncomplicated, and unclutteredness of the setup. There’s really not much there ­- a far cry from the multi-tiered, tri-option, graphic intensive ticket pricing of today.
(Note the 15th Anniversary banner background on the pillar just outside the window.)    


Constructing... World Key


In 1982, Time Magazine declared it “The Year of the Computer” and by 1983 there were 10 million PC’s in the United States alone. These computers had very little in the way of power, they were not linked to together and graphically could only display limited characters and the full spectrum was one of green on black.
In stark contrast is the World Key Information system, the abilities of this system were increditable for 1982. Full Color and graphic intensive, the World Key is in many ways the distant ancestor to our modern smart phones. The system functioned like a CD-ROM long before any of those letters had acronyms. Even the touch screen aspect was one that only became practical for mass marketing just a few years ago. World Key is seldom mentioned largely because of its mundane appearance in modern times. But, when taken into historical context the system is in many ways an Antikythera Mechanism for the 21st Century.
One of the most understated experiences in the early days of EPCOT Center was the authentic international dining experiences of World Showcase, which many considered to be attractions in and of themselves. So popular was dining that within a few months of opening folding tables were set up in Guest Relations (Earth Station) to facilitate booking reservations for all Epcot dining without the mile long walk around World Showcase. In 1983, the non-futuristic card tables were removed and the already revolutionary World Key System took another giant leap forward by adding video conferencing with a call to a dining and information specialist. We don’t even do that in 2011! To be fair we do have the technology, just a lack of interest in what is now called a “post-human society”. Flash forward to today, when one can do many of these things on their iPhone, which is far faster and much more graphic intensive, and (although it’s not exactly safe) you can even walk while you’re doing it!
It’s just another example of the prophetic technologies of EPCOT Center.
The one thing World Key had that we don’t have today is detailed and official information about the pavilions and attractions of the park in a themed format. As recently as last year, there was chatter about and enhanced electronic experience for both smart phones and iPads were the user would access a plethora of “Bonus Feature-like” information about the park including an App where you could point to a structure and see the environment as it existed in different time periods. One can only hope that such a thing can bring back a World Key type of experience for a future (and past) Epcot.

© Disney All Rights Reserved

Photo Caption:
The first large scale equipment, to be installed in Epcot Computer Central, situated in CommuniCore East this was the first completed section of the two semicircular buildings. Photo dated May 1st 1982 just six months from opening day.  


Constructing... Spaceship Earth


Spaceship Earth is such an extremely complex entity that its mere existence alone could be called an engineering miracle. From its structural technique to is metaphoric message, it is so completely symbiotic that, like is triangular exterior, it is often hard separate its many and interconnected facets. Nevertheless, the intricate way in which the story of man-kind was compiled and presented serves as a testament to Art of Imagineering and its way of presenting history and factual information in an thoughtful, intelligent and surprisingly entertaining way. In the future, E82 will go in greater detail on all aspects of Spaceship Earth’s development, construction, thematic structure, and four generations of evolution. But for now, I’d like to examine just exactly why she is encased into such a specialized material. Alucobond is quite literally (and appropriately) a space-age composite that was first manufactured the year we landed on the moon in 1969. Interestingly, like the Lunar-Lander, the original concept for Spaceship Earth was to be covered in a metallic gold. After through research it was determined that gold would retain heat and reflect the already blinding Florida sun. As a result, silver (known for being able to reflect heat) was chosen as the primary color of Spaceship Earth’s Geosphere. The brushed Aluminum surface solved the reflected light problem, and also led to more thematically appropriate aesthetic.

To paraphrase from original the literature, Spaceship Earth surface reflects the world it stands in tribute too. During the day, it softly defuses and refracts the blue skies, white clouds, and the green Earth. At night, her more prismatic qualities are revealed by the way breaks-up the color of a relatively small number of lights into hundreds of variating hues. In past years, the lighting schemes of Spaceship Earth were changed and more subtle variations enabled the sphere to reflect the lights of Future World and more specifically those of World Showcase. It is this description that encapsulates the visual meaning and message of Spaceship Earth: the precious sphere reflects Who We Are (W.S.) and our Collective Dreams for Tomorrow (F.W.).

© Disney All Rights Reserved

Photo Caption:
This somewhat self-explanatory shot from September of 1981 depicts Spaceship Earth’s Alucobond Geodesics “staged” on the (then) Mobility Parking Lot awaiting installation. Interestingly, each one of these panels are unique. The geosphere is not evenly spherical/perfect therefore each of the 954 panels were drafted and constructed individually!


Constructing... CommuniCore


This flyer briefly (no pun intended) touches on one of the most impressive and underappreciated accomplishments of the EPCOT Center Project: the Concrete Pour. As was said in David Koenig’s Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World; the job was so massive that it was split between several contractors. All of them having to re-adapt to working around other disciplines simultaneous finishing their own works. So as not to be disturbed (or be disturbed by others) most of the work was done at night...

To accommodate around-the-clock construction in areas where electricity had yet to be installed, Disney bought in a hook-and-ladder fire truck to shine enough light to allow more than 100 concrete finishers to keep working. Disney chefs also showed up in the middle of the night to grill hamburgers for the graveyard shift laborers. To maximize every second, The Disney World weather station sent weather reports of the EPCOT jobsite every ten minutes. Construction workers then had advance notice to protect their freshly poured concrete from an approaching thunderstorm.
In order to accommodate the complex construction sites of Future World, World Showcase was completed first, and then zigzag out as other areas became available.

The Color of the pavement was one of many decisions made personally by John Hench. In his book, Designing Disney

John described Pink as a very optimistic color. This, in addition other qualities including its neutral reflectiveness and contemporary feel, lead to his decision to make pink the overriding color for the pathways of tomorrow.

Foot Note
As part of a Cast Celebration, these flyers were reprinted daily as a countdown to the October 1st Anniversary of Epcot’s 25th year in 2007. I was working at Epcot at the time and these flyers although simple, were one of the coolest aspects of the celebration. I was always excited to come to work and read what interesting things happened on that same day 25 years ago.

© Disney All Rights Reserved

Photo Caption:
This aerial shot (dated 09/01/80) appears rather boring on first glace but upon closer inspection one would notice the original Magic Kingdom Auto Plaza as well as an operational STOLport in pristine condition. What does this have to do with EPCOT Center!? Almost in the center of frame is EPCOT’s north-south access road allowing for (near) uninterrupted transport of construction materials from Central Shops to the construction site. Additionally, this temporary road also prevented job site and guest traffic from clogging World Drive. Finally, the road would also service the monorail construction soon to commence after this shot was taken. One Road – Three Purposes = Ingenious!

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