Today is Epcot's 25th birthday - as I was also born in 1982, I feel a real closeness to the magic of Epcot, but I'll explain more about that in a minute.
Although, there has been so much debate around the Disney blogs and forums as to what to call the 25 year old theme park... It was originally EPCOT Centre, and that is really how I remember it. My family and I first visited Walt Disney World when I was 8, in 1990, and it was EPCOT Centre then - I still have the memorabilia from then. So part of me wants to call it EPCOT Centre - capitals and all. But the most memorable 12 months of my life were spent working in the UK Pavilion in Epcot, 2004. So, for purposes of this article, I'm going to call it Epcot.
As I was saying earlier, I share some very magical moments with Epcot. After my first trip to Disney, I had a dream of working there. Whenever anyone asked me what I would do when I leave school, my answer would be 'Work at Walt Disney World', no hesitation or anything. Then, after finishing University, I was lucky enough to be selected for the International Program. So, September 2004 (just over 3 years ago) I made my way out to Florida to spend a glorious 12 months working for the mouse in the UK Pavilion. This was where I noticed how special Epcot was.
Unlike a lot of Disney Fans, Epcot was one of my least favourite parks growing up - it didn't have very many things for 'kids' and 'teens' to do, and I found it a little boring. I didn't want to walk around shops all day - I wanted to go and see characters, or go on roller coasters, or proper rides. But then I grew up, and - especially when I worked there - I appreciated the aesthetics of the park. The layout is beautiful, the details in the World Showcase a marvel, and the educational aspect interests me now (what left of that aspect there is, nowadays). It's sad that I didn't appreciate it more when I was younger, when there was Horizons and Wonders of Life (a pavilion I remember walking around but never actually doing anything in!) and World of Motion.
Now, I'm not a 'purist' in the way that I wish everything was how it was - how Walt envisioned it. I like Epcot as it is - I love Mission: Space and I really enjoy Test Track. But what truly excites me is, that now Epcot is a quarter of a century old, the changes that are happening in the park now. For a long time, and even while I worked there, I felt like they had forgotten about Epcot. They made such a big deal about bringing in Soarin', but I felt like that was it. The changes they did with The Living Seas was good, but I also felt they'd thrown it all together 'just because' Nemo was so popular...my perception was that changes were being made just so people would come to the park; so they could change the guidemap front cover.
Maybe it's because I'm older - and maybe it's because Epcot's older - but I am so happy that they are making such major changes with Spaceship Earth and the 'golf ball' (yes, I know we're never supposed to call it that, but I've called it that since I was 8...). Whilst I enjoyed the wand, it was time for it to come down. Get back to the Retro EPCOT, so to speak. And the changes that are being made inside the attraction - that I definitely can't wait to experience! I just hope that these are the first of changes that are being made...next on the agenda has to be Imagination - surely?!
Anyway, to cut a long 'waffle' short, Epcot is growing up. It took me 12 years to fully appreciate the wonder that is Epcot, I just hope it doesn't take that long for the Disney Company to fully realise the amazing potential of this wonderful park.
Happy Birthday Epcot - here's to another 25!