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Live Active Cultures

Sam Gennawey, scholar of Disney architecture, makes a rare Orlando-area appearance

Progress City was a direct progenitor of EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow that Walt pitched to Florida's legislators in his final film appearance. Far from the vaguely futuristic Six Flags fused with an international shopping mall that currently bears its name, EPCOT was intended to be an actual city where short-term residents (no permanent owners, to avoid pesky issues of democracy) would live in a showcase for American industrial innovation. There was never really supposed to be a dome over the whole resort (as old-timers may remember from early erroneous news reports) but an air-conditioned arcade would have covered the commercial center. Inhabitants would have enjoyed pollution-free PeopleMovers to take them from their front door to nearby work and school, with electric cars available for occasional longer trips; delivery trucks, debris and other unaesthetic necessaries would have been ingeniously hidden from view. Disney's ambition embraced ideas like sustainability and green-belt preservation decades before their time.

Gennawey's slide-assisted lecture touched on far too many topics to document here, so if you're interested in the subject, I highly suggest reading Sam's scholarly Walt and the Promise of Progress City (Ayefour Publishing), which dissects this doomed project in exacting detail. The insight into the original vision of EPCOT is invaluable. Today, you can see just a fragment of Walt's vision in the sliver of the Progress City model preserved along Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland Transit Authority track, and in the pseudo-city of Celebration, whose car-centric design violates most of EPCOT's ideals. I owe thanks to Gennawey for finally giving me a glimpse of what Walt's city of tomorrow might have been.

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