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Reflections on Creating The Epcot Legacy and Other Fixations of Designer, Futurist & Historian
Joshua L Harris


Creating E82 Films

This Entry is Graphic-Intensive.
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It has often been said that the hardest thing you will ever do as a graphic designer is to create your own logo. That might sound counter-intuitive but your personal logo should be the best thing you ever design as it literally defines who you are and what you’re capable of doing.

When you’re designing a new logo for a pre-existing project known for its commitment to quality it carries an additional set of challenges. Furthermore, when the project you’re designing for is one that encompasses a massively complex 40+ year history those challenges are compounded by a factor of 10.

For years, I’ve had visions of title sequences, simulations, and recreations in the fourth dimension (time) and when I was introduced to After Effects in college last year that was “it”. I was hooked. With this program, a whole new world of possibilities opened up, and E82 could now expand into the world of video. But, anything with the JLH Omnimedia seal (and the E82 brand) has to be done the right way and that means creating Intro/Outro Bumpers for all projects.

The Concept

The E82 Films Logo was conceived as an abstract journey through the universe culminating in Epcot Legacy’s signature image of a sunset/sunrise over Spaceship Earth. MANY concepts were tried, but I could never come up with an effective or logical way to bridge the scenes I wanted to depict and the banner/final image. So it was decided to make the Spaceship Earth attraction poster the main title and develop the banner into the end bumper at a later date.

Research & Inspiration

For the past several years, I’ve been following the efforts of several effects companies that focus on title (or graphic centric) sequences, including Prologue Films, Andrew Kramer, and in particular to this project Deva Studios’ recent work on the 2013 Lionsgate Films logo, that provided a lot of the inspiration for this project. Additionally, I wanted to capture the essence of classic sci-fi films, drawing inspiration from 2001’s “Stargate sequence”, Superman’s text treatments, PBS’ NOVA logo and (of course) TRON’s neon glow.


The bulk of pre-production centered on a recreation of Progress City’s radial transportation grid. Multiple resources were used (most notably Marvin Davis’ massive 40” x 66” schematic) to accurately depict the city that would feature a non-stop traffic system. And as if the project wasn’t complex enough, the vector lines had to be created using a particular method where the lines would later be used to control traffic flow of hundreds of “vehicles” traveling through the city.
Unfortunately, I did not have the time, computing power, or software for true 3D, therefore two Spaceship Earth’s were rendered with different light schemes/directions; one with backlit rim lighting and the other a left overhead lighting scheme mimicking Norm Inouye’s attraction poster. Because of their initial close-up proximity to the “camera” each one had to be sized at extremely high resolution ( 6K pixels in diameter) resulting in render times of over an hour a piece!


Once again, Progress City was the most intensive element. For simplicity (and my own sanity) the cars and WEDways were reduce to abstract points of light (or in the case of the monorail: beams of light), and follow the same paths that create the road system. A technique was developed of creating shape paths composed of circular dashes and then animating the offset. Lastly, each section of the city was made more realistic with variable speeds for the highways, ramps and residential streets.  A variation of this technique was also used in the buildup of the E82 logo and the monorail beams at the end.

Point of Interest:
During Production, I discovered that Progress City’s WEDway system was to feature a live switch track system allowing each cul-de-sac to directly access to the central transportation lobby from a partially shared track. I had to incorporate this into the final design and as a result each track was precisely timed to avoid collisions of the individual trains.

The Epcot Logo itself provided one of the biggest challenges. Again, I don’t yet have the ability to create true 3D, nevertheless the five rings must interlock to form the pattern. My solution was to duplicate the rings through and intricate system of masks creating upper and lower rings that blend seamlessly together creating the interlocking effect required.
Finally, the “Epcot Supernova” running throughout the logo was achieved using multiple Particle World layers with different effects, colors and dimensional parameters. 

(Or My Weekend in Rendering Hell!)  

After weeks of work, careful construction and finely-tuned timing of all the elements, the project was ready for the tediously time-consuming process of rendering for which I was fully prepare to wait for several hours while After Effects worked its “magic” rendering the final footage….

A combined 25 HOURS later I was given a pixelated piece of garbage. I had triple checked my settings and still came up with the same result. Ultimately, the lousy quality of this version as due to multiple factors including…

  1. My original desire to render at above current HD standards at 1440p
  2. After Effects was having to render all comps as animation simultaneously  
  3. Finally, my “powerful” MacBook Pro simply does not have enough RAM to render all at once.

All of these elements conspired to make rendering nearly impossible with existing technology and computing power.

The solution to this problem was to render the individual elements as lossless .mov files (with Alpha Channels) and recombined them for the final film. The only complication with this method surfaced with the Stargate/Supernova background which runs continuously throughout the composition. This element would always deplete the memory halfway through the render. This situation was resolved by rendering the 24-second comp in seven-second sections then precisely overlapping the four completed sections and fading them into each other creating a seamless sequence. 

Rendering Totals

25:00 Hours     = Full Composition (Unusable)                        

Animation Tests

01:10 Hours     = Full Composition Timing Test (1/3rd Quality)

Isolated Elements

00:53 Minutes  = Pavilion Logos Fly-in
00:14 Minutes  = EPCOT Center Logo Spiral-in
06:44 Hours     = Progress City (Unusable) but you can view it here:)
00:40 Minutes  = Progress City Reveal Explosion with Traffic
00:16 Minutes  = Spaceship Earth Inouye Poster
16:09 Hours     = Epcot Stargate & Supernova background

Combined Elements

00:18 Minutes = Full Composition Final (without sound)

Total Render Time

50 Hours & 40 Minutes
For 24 Seconds of Footage

Lessons Learned

As one of only a handful of completed projects, The E82 Films Logo was a tremendously educational experience. During all phases of production I was able to learn a lot about workflow, technique and especially system capability. Although MacBooks are miraculous machines, they cannot perform miracles. Future Projects with be ether be broken down into easily digestible (render-able?) elements and/or handed-off the project to a render farm for processing. 

The Future of E82 Films?

Several projects are in the planning stages including a deeper look into The Living Seas, Graphical simulations from the Universe of Energy, The Rainbow Corridor, a massive cue-for-cue recreation of the Lights of Winter and ultimately a visual companion to The E82 Overture. The possibilities are endless!



Building Better Logos

I am simultaneously proud of and annoyed by the fact the seemingly everything produced for The E82 Project has been either made or remade from scratch. From UI elements to Christmas Light Arch armatures, I’ve never met a pixel I didn’t like… To Change. Even my pavilion Line-art series, which was inspired by the original 1983 Horizons Line-Art, has out grown its inception and wouldn’t suffice when it came time for its presentation a year later.

I guess what I should do its stand/sit in a circle somewhere and say “My Name is Joshua and I’m a Perfectionist”. And even though that word might be somewhat of a turn-off to some, it’s a descriptive term that is not without justification.      

Projects Bring Forth Projects

Many of the things you see at E82, have been purposefully designed for multiple uses and applications beyond their initial presentation on the site. A case in point in the MET Logo, that was originally created for use in the Inside Cover Artwork of the Wonders of Life FWSS, and later became its own Desktop Background. (And Yes, I do plan on creating one for all you Cranium Commandos out there:)

Somewhere down the line, I have always thought of taking my designs into “the fourth dimension” (time) with short films and animations of various scales to expand The Project beyond that of static art, music, and history. And thanks to After Effects its looks like “E82 Films” is fastly becoming a reality.

One such animation project will bring the Vista Series to life as part of a much larger piece in the future. As such, each of the existing editions will have to be synced together to cross-dissolved seamlessly from one composition to the next. In this case the pavilion logos themselves will be only linking element of the sequence. If I use existing resources (both freeware and commercial) nether of them will produce the desired effect. As a result, I had no choice to but re-create the set for myself (from scratch).

The 6400 Philosophy

It is often noted that of the many wonders of vector art is its resolution independence. A logo, line-art or hyper-detailed “painting” can exist as a postage stamp or a 50-story billboard without any loss of quality (aka pixilation). HOWEVER, just because this can happen does not mean that it will happen. It’s very common that when used for their maximum potential many fine details breakdown at larger sizes including misalignment, sloppy curves, excessive anchor points, open paths, and unexpanded stroking.

In all humility, the process of vectorization has become one of my sharpest skills and in the past few years, I’ve taken the process and developed it into an art form all its own. Beyond the simple act of tracing, I go much deeper to analyze relationship between shapes and lines, and often reinterpret them with mathematical precision. I call it “The 6400 Philosophy”, so named for the maximum zoom percentage one can attain in Adobe Illustrator. Put simply, it combines Resolution Independence with Consistent Continuity. And it provides for the intersection of massive scale at infinite quality.

About Vectors

In the world of computer graphics, Vector Art is defined as a “series of mathematical equations”. Therefore, the creation of a highly robust vector shape can best be achieved by inhering to a small set of guidelines:

  • Keep the number of anchor points to a minimum.
    The less of number calculations a program has to make, the better your design will be displayed.
  • Utilize Continuous Bézier Curves as much as possible
    This technique will ensure fluid lines, and causes less errors.
  • Expand All Strokes
    Strokes (or outlines) are two equations inside each other, and often don’t render correctly in the final design.
  • When Dealing with Geometric Forms: Use Integers.
    If a square, circle, or any other mathematical shape is required do so with easily defined numbers (Ex. An oval measuring 40pt x 56pt Not 39.76pt x 56.03pt) Again, it’s easier to calculate and will look better across platforms and media.
  • Always Align & Intersect
    If two paths are supposed to meet, make sure that they do. (Always keep your snapping, and guides, preferences On).     

Before & After

Enough Theory, Now for Practice. I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s work, but if you examine the two available assets certain inconsistencies will begin to pop-up

Imagination, Horizons & Wonders: Unsymmetrical, The Land: Path Error, Energy: Over-complicated, Epcot: X-axis too narrow ALL: Outer Rings Inconsistent with each other.

Furthermore, all of the symbols/logos have entirely way too many anchor points, which make the designs unstable for my current and future needs. But now that I’ve cruelly, picked-apart others hard work let’s see what I’ve been able to do…

As you can see, I’ve done a considerable amount in streamlining the set, without a loss of quality, but this far from the only contribution. In adhering to the Integer Concept I’ve also taken several of them and simplified their dimensions and in many cases I needed a calculator to get there…

The Future World of Color

The final element of this new set is correctly documenting each pavilions signature color, which was obtained by color-corrected scans of the 1986 WDW/EPCOT Center Pictorial Souvenir, and each color was then “modernized” by determining the closest equivalent values for both RGB and CMYK reproduction.

What's The Point?

In the end, this “Brand New” set of EPCOT Center Logos can be used for a wide variety of applications and the relationships between them can be explored in many fresh and exciting ways. And without these I wouldn’t be able to create things like this! . . .

EPCOT Center Logo Animation Test from Joshua L Harris on Vimeo

Although crude, this animation test is one of many such elements that will soon combine to form E82’s first “Motion Picture Style” logo and although short (at this time 38 seconds) will set the benchmark (and tone) for all future E82 Films coming in the not too distant future! 



24 Hour Results

In any creative profession where a project in completed by a single individual, one of the most impactful techniques one can employ is something called the “Morning After Test”. Whenever you work on a project for a long stretch of time, two things will inevitably happen. First, while painting you’ll be so focused on individual trees that it becomes very difficult to even notice the incoherent forest you’ve created. Secondly, fatigue over painting all those trees will cause you to lose perspective and objectivity. You might like your brush strokes, but your overall composition might be less than ideal.

In my personal experience, I’m always surprised by my own reaction to the Morning After Test. Usually; I find that whatever it is I’m feeling the night before the opposite is true the next day. For example, the standard edition of Horizons for the Vista Series, here’s what can happen in 24 hours…

As you can see a lot can happen in day.  The original version was way too on-the-noise with the incorporation of blue horizontal lines. Additionally, there was no distinguishing from those lines and the light beams. The sky was still too dark from the memorial edition. And the there were some really weird effects with the pink horizon and the white starburst emanating from the pavilion. Hopefully, you can tell the difference with the final image.

Still, even after the improvements I was still very apprehensive about the final image. But the next morning I couldn’t have been happier about the results.

In sharp contrast is my current project.  Just last weekend I completed Disc One for The Land FWSS release. After completion I was very impressed by the work. However, after listening to the full album the next day there was a lot I liked but a lot more that I didn’t like too. The Kitchen Kabaret sounds great (including some special surprises), as does the new music-centric Symbiosis and great concepts are at work in BGMs and Listen to the Land. The big problem is stitching it all together in the time allotted. In general I’ve discovered that musically, The Land is massive collection of contradictions. New Age versions of folk songs, Traditional Country, and Jazz, what a weird combination of musical forms and one that I have to create a musical flow for. No easy task!

Nevertheless, I have some pretty unconventional ideas I’m trying for and I hope you’ll like the results when it’s released later this season.

Now Back to the Mixing Board!


I am John Galt 

Jesus Christ – Walt Disney – Ayn Rand

Three VERY different people who all share(d) a common bond; the rights of the individual. Whether it is the concept of free will, liberty or independence, these passions were self-evident in the lives of each. These people are also the three greatest influences in my life.

Much Much has been written and is celebrated about the creative minds and philosophies of Walt Disney and Jesus, considered by many as “the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress on Earth,” but Ayn Rand, the screen writer turned novelist and ultimately philosopher, is the least known.

Recently, I found myself watching The Fountainhead on TCM for the first time in many years. It’s a motion picture that so thoroughly ingrained itself into my memory that it reached the level of subconscious thought. While watching it I found myself watching my life in rewind. Most of my adult life has been a consistent struggle against “the collective”, a struggle that has seen enormous setbacks and persecution on nearly every conceivable front. Toward the end of the film, I rediscovered a large portion of my personal philosophy thinking: “This movie is the reason why I am this way!” Its not-so-underlying message of Rational Self-Interest as both freeing the spirit and releasing one’s full potential is a particularly transfixing vision of self-actualization and the world as it could be.    

In between mountains of personal and professional responsibility, Rand has been present in my mind, but never more so than a few weeks ago when I finally decided to watch the Part 1 film of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.The ideals and prophesies of this book/film are so compelling and so applicable to the world in which we live that it has become the most important message of our time. Today, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (the book) is once again skyrocketing in sales and, after 55 years in print, has become one of the top selling books of all time. Additionally, it’s considered by many to be the second most important book of the last two-thousand years. 

More than her book sales, Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism IS a living blueprint of a way in which to govern this or any complex society. In the case of Atlas it’s a warning against the corrupting power and detrimental effects of excessive/unlimited legislation. As one who is thoroughly committed to the ”ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise”, I cannot understate the importance of Atlas’ message.

Rand’s prophetic vision has also become a tremendous source of controversy as her detractors have become akin to the antagonists found in her work and, although I will not attempt to address them… at this time; what I will say is that if you believe in the ideals of self-reliance, independence, and individualism please support the Atlas Shrugged Trilogy – Watch It, Buy It, and Spread It!

Click on the Image Above to Purchase the Film

(After Viewing) ) I hope you can see through the limited production value to the higher-principles at work in this first Part. (Remember, this a film all major studios will not touch.) Ultimately, I look forward to seeing the trial of Hank Rearden, and John Galt’s speech in Part 3 which similarly echoes the warning and challenge of Klaatu's address directed toward the problems of his time.

For more information on Ayn Rand, and Objectivism please visit our new links in People & Places.

DISCLAIMER: My support of the Atlas Society, is limited to those philosophies relating to government, business, and social contracts exclusively.


Developing New Horizons



It may sound somewhat sacrilegious, but in order to begin any redesign project one must first acknowledge the past AND then dissect its shortcomings. Even though there is an enormous amount of admiration associated with all things EPCOT Center, there are several aesthetics of 30 years ago that just would not work as-is in today’s world. In the case of Horizons’ Line Art, the icon below served as the inspiration behind the architectural icons (originally used for the Vista Series of desktops). However, (and as discussed earlier) the style of the pavilion icons evolved beyond the original inspiration.  The original Horizons icon (from 1983), is too simplistic and bulky for the E82 set. The following image features several reasons why it wouldn’t fit-in…


At this point it’s important to note that the Original 1983 Icon is a beautifully designed icon and it works wonderfully for multiple uses and a variety of applications. Additionally, the icon for this attraction was designed before the building was completed and the original graphic designer worked off of limited resources to complete the final image. These notes work as a starting point for my process and do not seek to demean the look of the design or critique the work of a master designer who did their work without the precision and tools found in Adobe Illustrator.

Lets be completely honest, whenever you create representational art, you’re only as good as your sources. I’ve done a few of these pavilions using photo reference, which is challenging (at best). Not so surprisingly, the best way to create an architectural icon, is to use architectural elevation schematics, or in laymen’s terms – blueprints. (When working with photos, the simplest act of finding the right placement of a corner can be very difficult.) In short, blueprints take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. 

Graphical Design, of this type, is basically figuring out what details you want and omitting those that you don’t.  (In order for the design to work one should be omitting a lot more than he/she keeps.) For this Pavilion, I wanted the main features like the GRFC Bents, the Overhangs, and the VIP Windows but not much else. Based on these requirements I came up with this…


Well? ... That was simple enough, perhaps a little too simple.  In order to “ground” the structure (and also to avoid making it look like a futuristic tent), I tried an extremely minimalistic first pass of adding the “storefront windows”…  

To quote Lynda.com instructor Deke McClelland, “Now, … at this point … this looks like Garbage!”
This addition, made the line-art way too grounded. As a solution, I decided to try the reverse – focusing on the frames of the windows rather than the windows themselves. Up until now, I’ve purposely stayed away from practical details like doorways, stairs and other non-spectacular items. However, Horizons, was looking entirely too simple, thus some concessions have to be made. (It’s at points like this that I have to remind myself that even thought all of Future World’s pavilions have/had a uniform style they were all still different from each other and therefore should be treated differently.) Furthermore, considering I was now going to incorporate ALL the windows, I could now include the awnings that served as a wonderful juxtaposition of angles with the overhangs above…

OK, that looks good, (and thanks to having the proper materials) it only took a several hours over a couple of nights to make it happen. As our British friends say, “let’s knock off early!” – Not so fast Mr. Harris! My version of Horizons does appear to be an “improvement” of the original, but is not as unique as it could be. Most importantly it’s Not as unique as it should be.

Originally, I conceived the E82 Pavilions as rigidly displayed on a single line and very analogous to a typeface. By the time I got to my third pavilion I was already breaking that rule. Now, the series was (to continue the type parlance) to include Descenders. As such, I thought it would be best to mirror The Land, by incorporating Horizons’ hillside. The blueprints I had did not include the planters and hillside, but it was ultimately for the best as a literal translation just wasn’t going to work out. Because the hill was a pedestal for the pavilion it was necessary to keep any amount of detail at an absolute minimum. Originally, I wanted the hill to follow the same through-line as the building profile. Although dramatic, this design choice was not wise in relationship to the other pavilions. If executed, it would create an enormous gap between Horizons and its neighboring pavilions. In short, Horizons would not play well with others! Unlike the rest of the building itself these simple eleven lines took another week to develop!


The biggest difference between the blueprint and the Line-Art is the spacing of the Bents, which was exaggerated to portray a more rounded/dimensional form. Furthermore, you’ll also notice that the negative space around the bents is used to enhance the overall effect as well as the angles of the window awnings.

Many of the pavilions of Future World feature sometimes not-so-subtle symbolism. Whether it is the futuristic greenhouse of The Land, the ocean waves of The Living Seas, or the wheel-shaped World of Motion, the architecture itself revealed the subject matter of the attractions themselves.
In the case of Horizons, many guide books and ephemera referred to the building as a “gem-like spaceship.” The original GE advertisements portray the structure as nothing short of a Close Encounters-style alien spaceship from the 21st Century - A “Futureprobe” permanently moored at EPCOT.
The original line-art of the pavilion looked very much like its symbolic intensions. The E82 version had the dual objectives of both representing the original structure and continuing the spaceship motif. The lower storefront windows are intended to represent the gravity cancelling under-mechanisms of ships like those found in Forbidden Planet. (This reference will be a lot more apparent in future applications.)
Furthermore, the planters and walkways of the hillside were designed to resemble scorched-earth marks of so many rocket ships of the last century. Consequently, this is also one of the biggest reasons why it took so much longer to create/visualize this aspect of the design. 


The E82 version of Horizons is by no means perfect, but simply an attempt to bring Horizons into the century it stool in praise of. If you’ve stayed with me this long, I’m impressed! Thank You! And I hope you’ll look forward this icon’s first use – in not One but Two editions to the Epcot Vista Series!