Disney could go nuclear, if they wanted too

An unfinished city turned tourist attraction.

Photo provided by www.disneyfanatic.com

An unfinished city turned tourist attraction.

Ricardo Golac, Staff Writer

A look into the history of one of Florida’s greatest parks.

Epcot is one of the most well-known places for true Floridians. It’s where people can come to experience other cultures and have unique experiences, such as entering a simulated spaceship launch to Mars. Epcot is also the 3rd most visited theme park in North America, only behind Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. Millions of people come through Epcot every year but few truly know about the unique history of how Epcot came to be.

The city of Epcot was originally built to house twenty thousand people and be used as a testing environment for city planning. The city was to have been built in the shape of a circle with businesses and commercial areas at its center with community buildings, recreational complexes, and schools around it; residential neighborhoods would be on the perimeter of the city. Monorails and People Movers, small train carts, were to be the main source of transit for the city; automobile traffic would be kept underground to keep pedestrians safe above ground. However, Disney could not make his vision come true unless he had permission from the Florida government.

During the 1960s, while land was being bought to make space for what would eventually be known as Epcot, Walt Disney lobbied the state of Florida for Disney to gain the ability to create and govern their own cities within their land; the state of Florida complied with Disney’s request. Under the legislation that allowed Disney to create cities, all of the land that Disney owned would become Disney’s own private municipality. The rights granted to Disney by Florida also allow them to be immune to laws from surrounding areas, including some city and county specific laws. Disney also has eminent domain authority, which allows them to seize small amounts of land around the borders of their own municipality, if they need it for the public good; this explains why the vast amount of forested land that surrounds most Disney theme parks has mostly gone unused by entities besides Disney. Epcot city also had a city council with a planning committee that still exists to this day, meaning if Disney wants to build anything new in Epcot, they must get permission from themselves.

Perhaps the most interesting quirk of Disney’s rights is the fact that they still have planning permission from themselves to build their own nuclear power station; this authority comes from the original legislation from the 1960s. The reason for this addition to the legislature dates back to the original purpose behind the creation of Epcot. Disney wanted the city of Epcot to be truly futuristic, and to ensure that, he wanted it to be completely self-sufficient. The city was to make its own energy and food sources. Disney was optimistic about his plan since he lived in a time where technology was growing at a rapid pace; people thought that flying cars were just around the corner. However, he never lived to see his vision become a reality.

When Disney died in 1966, the Walt Disney company did not want to try to complete the city without him in charge; instead of just abandoning the project, they decided to make a park out of it. What remains is the experimental prototype community of tomorrow, or Epcot. Disney’s future lies unfinished; in the place of the nuclear reactor lies an oil-fired plant off property; there was even an airstrip at Epcot for a while but it was demolished to make space for maintenance buildings.

The nuclear plans were scrapped during the process of turning the unfinished city of Epcot into a theme park, but Disney still has the rights to build one on their land to this day. It is unlikely that the Walt Disney company will ever build a nuclear reactor on their land due to the numerous dangers and safety issues, or that Disney’s vision of the city of tomorrow will ever be truly be fulfilled. What is certain is that Epcot will continue to attract people from all over the world to experience what remains of Disney’s vision.