Progress City Model – Orlando, Florida - Atlas Obscura

Progress City Model

Walt Disney World

A glimpse at Walt Disney's vision for a "community of tomorrow," in miniature. 

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Epcot, one of the four parks of Walt Disney World Resort, is named after Walt Disney’s ahead-of-its-time concept of a massive planned community in Florida, a utopian American dream that never came to fruition due to his untimely passing as well as the project’s impracticality. But as his company grew into the global empire it is today, it at least founded Celebration, a suburb of Orlando that was developed and once wholly owned by Disney.

The original E.P.C.O.T. was not really planned as part of the theme park resort, but as an autocratic cosmopolis twice the size of Manhattan, housed in a gigantic climate-controlled dome. A monorail system would connect each of its sectors and them with Walt Disney World, and about 20,000 people were to be selected to live in the residential areas planned across the city.

While it may sound like a premise for a dystopian science fiction story, Walt Disney firmly believed that this would be the blueprint for the future of city planning, lighting the way for a better tomorrow for the world. He introduced the concept to the public in a 24-minute preview film just one month before his death, outlining his plans for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

The project was not one born out of a whim, but only an extension of Walt Disney’s longtime dream of technological innovations, which have contributed to many inventions during and after his lifetime. Another of his creations themed after technological advancement is the Carousel of Progress attraction, which originally debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and later re-opened in Disneyland.

The General Electric-sponsored stage show follows a “typical” American family set in four different periods, from the early 1900s to the then-futuristic 21st century, exploring the progress of electricity and technology. During its time in the original Disneyland in California, there used to be a post-show on the upper level, with an enormous model of Progress City, a city planning diorama based on Walt Disney’s concept for the original E.P.C.O.T. The spectacular 115-foot display included many moving parts such as miniature automobiles and amusement rides, as well as electric lights that turned on and off.

Although the Carousel was a hit, the number of visiting guests dropped in the 1970s and the company decided to relocate it to Florida, where it was welcomed and remains a popular attraction to this day. The Progress City model, however, was disassembled and only portions of the central part was taken to Walt Disney World. Sized down and reassembled, the diorama was placed in a window display by the track of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, telling the near-forgotten history of Walt Disney’s technological innovations.

Know Before You Go

The diorama can be viewed on the left-hand side on the PeopleMover. There is a narration when the ride comes to that part so it's not hard to spot it.

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