Disney Celebrates Epcot’s 25th
Anniversary — One Big Day


October 1, 2007
WW GOES TO WDW at Yesterland.com
Photo of special October 1, 2007, Guidemaps
A Cast Member at Epcot’s Norway offers special October 1, 2007, Guidemaps.

It almost didn’t happen at all.

If you had asked me a year and a half ago, I would have predicted a big 15-month celebration for Epcot. Refresh IllumiNations... Reopen the former Millennium Village with new exhibits (instead of using it only for occasional special events)... Redo Spaceship Earth, as promised by the November 2005 deal between Disney and Siemens... Perhaps replace the movies in World Showcase... Promote everything that has changed over the past couple of years... Put a big show in the America Gardens Theatre... Spruce up all of Epcot... And draw people to Epcot!

EPCOT Center (now Epcot) opened October 1, 1982. Surely Disney would do something big for the 25th anniversary in 2007. After all, in our culture, the big milestone anniversaries are 25, 50, and 100 years—and that’s the case for marriages, historic events, and even theme park openings (although I’m not aware of any 100-year marriages).

Photo of ddddd
The Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery is in Innoventions West.

Disneyland Park celebrated 50 years on July 17, 2005. Magic Kingdom Park—all of Walt Disney World, for that matter—celebrated 25 years on October 1, 1996. In both cases, The Walt Disney Company used these anniversaries as the basis for big marketing “celebrations” that lasted more than a year.

There have been other Disney park “celebrations” such as “100 Years of Magic” that felt like nothing more than advertising campaigns. Although “100 Years” referred to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney in 1901, there wasn’t any compelling reason given why guests should want to visit Walt Disney World to celebrate. In fact, the promotion played down Walt Disney and played up the “Magic,” so it seemed as meaningful as the latest slogan from a hamburger chain.

In contrast, there was something genuine about the theme park anniversaries. The promotions appealed to anyone who had enjoyed these parks over the years. They were invitations for parents to take their children to places that they had been to as children. And the public responded at the turnstiles in a big way.

Photo of ddddd
The Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery lets guests relive the park’s early years.

About a year ago, the Disney Company announced that “Disney Parks” are “Where Dreams Come True” and that it would be “The Year of a Million Dreams.” from October 1, 2006, through the end of 2007.

So much for the idea of 15-month Epcot celebration!

But it got worse when Epcot’s loyal following on the Internet read the following:

“Brad said that although 2007 marks Epcot’s 25th anniversary, there was no big celebration planned, although there would be private observances behind-the-scenes for cast members.”

— Deb Wills, editor of AllEarsNet
in a January 27, 2007, article about
Brad Rex, Vice President of Epcot, at the
Year of a Million Dreams Press Event

Nothing? Nothing at all?

Photo of ddddd
Adam Roth and Jenn Waitt posing in the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery.

Fans on various Internet forums discussed their disappointment. On February 2, 2007, Jenn Waitt started a thread at WDWMagic, which included the question, “Why can’t we just celebrate ourselves?”

The first reply came from teenager Adam Roth of Dreamfinder Forever, who wrote, “Sounds fun! I’ll see what I if I can work it into my schedule this far in advance!”

Thus was born Celebration 25. Adam and Jenn became the nucleus of a small staff that grew to include author and WDWNews podcaster Lou Mongello, MouseTimes podcaster John Corigliano, Jason Diffendal (who organized an IllumiNations desert buffet), and blogger Jeff Pepper (2719 Hyperion).

As the members of the Celebration 25 team worked out plans for fan events, they learned that Disney was planning something after all.

Photo of ddddd
EPCOT = Experimental Polyester Costume Of Torture.

Former Epcot Vice President Brad Rex is now Executive Vice President at Hilton Grand Vacations Company, the timeshare division of the lodging giant. Jim McPhee is now Vice President of Epcot. That seems to have made a big difference. The 25th anniversary of Epcot would not be ignored. MacPhee graciously supported the Celebration 25 team. And he also made sure there would be official public events on October 1.

Photo of ddddd
The Epcot Rededication attracted a large crowd.

Guests arriving at Epcot on the morning of October 1 received 25th anniversary buttons and 25th anniversary Guidemaps. When fully opened, the Guidemap revealed the opening day Guidemap, complete with Communicore, the World of Motion presented by General Motors, and the Le Cellier “buffeteria.” What about Horizons? It was still under construction on opening day, so the map says “Opening Fall 1993.” It was an unexpected and very nice souvenir.

The map listed six “Special October 1, 2007 Events.”

  • 9:00 am: Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery
  • 10:01 am: Epcot Rededication
  • A Conversation with Marty Sklar
  • 9:00 pm: IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth Finale
  • 25th Anniversary Dining
  • 25th Anniversary Merchandise
Photo of ddddd
Jim McPhee, Vice President of Epcot, speaks at the rededication.

Somebody put a lot of effort into the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery, and it will clearly be around for more than one day. But it’s still temporary, so be sure to go if get a chance because it’s worth seeing. The location is hidden in the back of the Innoventions West building that also houses the Epcot Character Spot and the Coca Cola exhibit.

Photo of ddddd
Marty Sklar, International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, at the rededication.

The Epcot rededication was well-paced and enjoyable. The weather cooperated with sun (not too hot) and blue sky. With the wand-less Spaceship Earth in the background, representatives from the Future World pavilions and the World Showcase pavilions and daytime fireworks provided a degree of “show biz” fun. The main speakers were Erin Wallace (WDW Senior Vice President of Operations), Jim McPhee, and Disney Legend Marty Sklar. Their remarks were excellent, especially those of McPhee and Sklar.

Photo of ddddd
A sign announces presentations by Marty Sklar.

If anyone wanted to hear more from Marty Sklar, they had an opportunity—actually three opportunities. Timon and Pumba took time off so that Sklar could use the Circle of Life theater in The land.

Photo of ddddd
Marty Sklar showed historic images on a large screen behind his podium.

I went to the 2:00 p.m. presentation. Photography, videotaping, and audio recording were forbidden during Sklar’s presentation. Sklar was greeted with a standing ovation. The audience was aware of Sklar’s leadership role in the creation of EPCOT Center as the head of WED Enterprises, which became Walt Disney Imagineering. Sklar showed pictures from the Disney Archives, including Imagineers at work, construction photos, and concept art for Epcot pavilions that were never built. He also had some well-chosen video clips. There were laughs as he told anecdotes. Sklar was Walt Disney’s personal writer. The presentation ended with another well-deserved standing ovation.

That leaves three more Special Events from the Guidemap.

The Guidemap described 25th anniversary dining like this: “In honor of 25 years of delightful dining, our Epcot chefs have brought back a selection of opening day specialties and created new culinary delights. Inquire with your server for details.” I inquired at Chefs de France. The special item there was Boeuf Burguignon—beef braised in burgundy wine with pearl onions, mushrooms and potatoes. Alas, the price wasn’t from 1982. It was a 2007 price of $24.95.

Photo of ddddd
Yes, there was commemorative merchandise. But it didn’t last long.

The 25th Anniversary merchandise consisted of a small selection of limited edition items. When I asked at Mouse Gear in the afternoon, I was told that everything except for small tee-shirts was sold out. There was a long line at the pin booth all day. I didn’t see any 25th anniversary merchandise that will be available this fall and winter season. There are several styles of retro EPCOT Center shirts now available, but they don’t mention the 25th anniversary.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was the usual show with another five minutes or so added to the end—a spectacular Finale. It consisted entirely of pyrotechnics in the sky, accompanied by music primarily from Tapestry of Nations. Great fireworks!

I’m glad I gave the airline $100 to change my ticket so that I could be at Epcot on October 1, 2007.

Epcot management certainly did more on October 1 than I expected—and it was done well. I expected the rededication and I expected Marty Sklar to say a few words at the rededication. I didn’t expect his excellent one-hour presentation (presented three times) in the theater at The Land. I didn’t expect the extra fireworks or the retro music or the button or the retro Guidemap or the opening day menu items.

I think Disney left money on the table by not having more merchandise (not just limited editions) for Epcot’s 25th and by not selling it at least through Christmas. Why is there so much Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise at Epcot, but essentially nothing (after yesterday) for those who would like to acknowledge this milestone in Epcot’s history?

I wasn’t disappointed by October 1, 2007.

My disappointment came a year ago when it became evident that Disney would not use Epcot’s 25th anniversary as an opportunity to invest in Epcot and to focus attention on the park. Instead, the focus is on the sappy “Where Dreams Come True” campaign.


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© 2007-2008 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 19, 2008.

All photos of the Epcot’s 25th Anniversary on this page: Werner Weiss, 2007.