EPCOT – 40 Years of Innovation

Onthego In the Parks Epcot

What better way to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of EPCOT, my favorite park, than by looking back at the park’s milestones over the years!!!

On October 1, 1982, Walt Disney World Resort invited guests to imagine what life would be like in the 21st century with the opening of the EPCOT Center.

This first-of-its-kind theme park focused on showcasing ideas and technologies the world had never seen before. 

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” – Official Dedication, October 24, 1982 

With the sentiment above, Disney Chairman and CEO Card Walker carried on Walt Disney’s legacy at the park’s official dedication. A month-long celebration introduced the park’s five Future World pavilions and nine World Showcase pavilions to guests from around the world.

The formal grand opening was held over three days, with the theme park’s official dedication taking place on Oct. 24, 1982. 

On Oct. 1, 1982, EPCOT officially opened at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)

Now known as EPCOT, the park inspires curiosity, imagination, and wonder through its international festivals, innovative attractions, and cultural experiences. 

EPCOT Transformation Map with Neighborhoods

Home to four unified neighborhoods – World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Showcase – the park continues to evolve with the biggest transformation in its history underway.

As Walt Disney once said, EPCOT will “always be in a state of becoming,” and the park is set to enter its next 40 years with all-new ways for guests to experience the magic of possibility.  

Here’s a look at some of the milestones in the 40-year history of EPCOT: 

Walt and Roy announce EPCOT


  • November 15 – Walt Disney and his brother Roy publicly announce plans for Walt Disney World Resort in a press conference held in downtown Orlando, Fla. 
Walt Disney EPCOT Film


  • October 27 – Walt Disney records a film outlining plans for the Florida Project, including details for Walt Disney World Resort and the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). 
Card Walker EPCOT  International Chamber of Commerce


  • Card Walker, President, and CEO of Walt Disney Productions announces plans for EPCOT at the International Chamber of Commerce and presents concepts to President Jimmy Carter, the ICC’s keynote speaker. 
In 1981, construction on EPCOT continued at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The new theme park officially opened on Oct. 1, 1982. (Disney)


  • October 1 – After years of planning, construction begins on EPCOT. 
On Oct. 1, 1982, EPCOT officially opened at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)


  • September 24 – Walt Disney World Cast Members and their families and friends are among the first to experience the new theme park before it opens to the public. Special preview days give Cast Members a sense of pride and help ensure the park is ready for guests.  
  • October 1 – EPCOT opens with five Future World pavilions – Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, and The Land – and nine World Showcase pavilions representing Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, and the United States. 
  • “Carnival de Lumiere” debuts as the theme park’s first nightly fireworks show, replaced in 1983 with “A New World Fantasy” and in 1984 by “Laserphonic Fantasy.” 
  • October 24 – EPCOT is officially dedicated by Card Walker, Chairman, and CEO of Walt Disney Productions. 
  • A new four-mile extension of the Walt Disney World Monorail System opens, extending from the Ticket and Transportation Center to EPCOT. 
Horizons Opening


  • October 1 – On the park’s one-year anniversary, Horizons (now MISSION: Space) makes its debut in Future World. Featuring a first-of-its-kind ride system, the attraction gives guests a glimpse of what life might be like in the future. 
  • March 5 – The ride-through attraction Journey into Imagination (now Journey into Imagination with Figment) opens. 


  • September 7 – EPCOT World Showcase expands with the opening of the Morocco pavilion. 
  • June 3 – The France pavilion in World Showcase opens its second signature restaurant, Bistro de Paris. 
EPCOT Nine Dragons Restaurant


  • September 24 – Lotus Blossom Café opens, the first of two new restaurants in the China pavilion.
  • October 23 – The China pavilion’s table-service restaurant Nine Dragons Restaurant begins serving guests.  
Mickey Mouse scuba dives at The Living Seas in 1986 at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)


  • January 15 – The Living Seas (now The Seas with Nemo & Friends) opens. The pavilion’s centerpiece is a 5.7-million-gallon aquarium – the world’s largest at the time – home to more than 200 species of marine life.
EPCOT Daredevil Circus Spectacular


  • The EPCOT Daredevil Circus Spectacular opens in Future World. “The Greatest Show in Space” featured a variety of daredevil circus acts performed in and above the CommuniCore area of the park. 
Norway Pavilion Epcot Opens


  • January 30 – “IllumiNations,” a new nighttime spectacular, premieres. The new show incorporated the World Showcase pavilions with rim lighting and special projection effects for the first time. 
  • June 3 – World Showcase expands with the opening of theNorway pavilion that introduces Maelstrom, where guests board Viking boats to discover the country’s natural beauty, traditions, and modern cities. 
wonders of life


  • October 19 – Wonders of Life pavilion opens in Future World. Beneath a giant gold dome, three humorous attractions offer a fun look at health and fitness. The pavilion includes state-of-the-art, hands-on activities, live comedy shows, and a fast-casual restaurant. 
Yacht Club
Yacht Club Gazebo


  • November – The first phase of the EPCOT Resort Area opens with the debut of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (November 5) and Disney’s Beach Club Resort (November 19). The following year brings Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (January 13) and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (June 4). All within walking distance of the theme park, the collection of resorts significantly expands lodging and convention options. 
Topiaries celebrate the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival in 1997 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney)


  • April 29 – The inaugural EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival debuts. 
  • July 1 – Innoventions pavilion replaces Communicore, featuring interactive exhibits and demonstrations of emerging technologies. 
  • November 21 – “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” a lively interactive 3-D adventure, opens in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion.
  • November 25 – The Candlelight Processional moves to EPCOT from Magic Kingdom, where it had been presented since 1971. With the move to America Gardens Theater, the show was able to expand to multiple nightly performances throughout the holiday season. 
ellen's energy adventure epcot


  • January 21 – “Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable” debuts in The Land. The 20-minute, 70mm film features Simba, Timon, and Pumba in a story about the importance of respect for the natural environment. 
  • September 15 – Ellen’s Energy Adventure debuts, bringing a new storyline and humor to what was previously Universe of Energy.  
1996 EPCOT Food and Wine Festival


  • Sept. 28 – The first annual EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival makes its debut. 
Alain Boniec, Photographer


  • March 17 – Test Track opens in Future World. The park’s first thrill attraction takes guests on exhilarating twists and turns in a test vehicle. 
  • October 1 – TheMillennium Celebration begins at EPCOT. The 15-month event marks the debut of the popular nighttime spectacular, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” which will run for 20 years. Also new is Millennium Village – celebrating the cultural achievements of 25 countries – and the Tapestry of Nations parade. The celebration also brings pin trading to the forefront for Disney collectors everywhere. 
The Art of Disney Store Epcot


  • October 1 – The Art of Disney shop opens in Future World, selling Disney artwork, prints, and other collectibles. 
Mission Space Epcot


  • August 15 – Mission: SPACE opens in Future World. The attraction takes guests on a simulated training spaceflight to Mars. 
Turtle Talk with Crush Epcot


  • November 16 – Turtle Talk with Crush opens in The Living Seas. The first-of-its-kind attraction enables Crush from Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” to talk with guests as he learns about humans and shares his stories of life in the ocean. 
Soarin Over California Epcot


  • May 5 – Soarin’ opens in The Land pavilion, taking guests on a breathtaking aerial adventure over iconic California locations. 
The Seas with Nemo and Friends EPCOT


  • October 1 – “The Year of a Million Dreams” begins. Across EPCOT and the other Walt Disney World theme parks, Dream Squads surprise thousands of guests with an array of prizes, from special attraction access and merchandise to Disney vacations. 
  • November 26 – The Living Seas pavilion is transformed to become The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. Its official dedication will take place on January 24, 2007. 
gran fiesta tour epcot


  • April 6 – Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opens inside the Mexico pavilion. A reimagining of the pavilion’s opening-day boat ride, El Río del Tiempo (River of Time), the updated attraction features Donald Duck, José Carioca, and Pistoles Panchito from Walt Disney’s 1942 film “Saludos Amigos.” 
  • April 25 – The Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future exhibit opens at Spaceship Earth. The series of exhibits showcase advances in medicine, technology, and energy management. 
  • Oct. 1 – The 25th anniversary of EPCOT is marked by a rededication ceremony and a gallery showcasing memorabilia from the park’s history. 
Spaceship Earth 2008 EPCOT wand


  • February 15 – Spaceship Earth reopens with an expanded storyline after extensive renovations. The new narration follows the history of human innovation from prehistoric times to the 21st century. 
Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure epcot


  • January 28 – Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure interactive attraction opens. Guests transform into secret agents as part of Team Possible to save the world via the Disney Play! App on mobile devices. The scavenger hunt-style experience interacted with seven World Showcase pavilions. 
House of Good Fortune EPCOT


  • April 4 – House of Good Fortune merchandise location opens in the China pavilion. The new shop sells authentic Chinese merchandise. 
Test Track EPCOT


  • June 23 – Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure opens, replacing Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. The new quest takes guests on an adventure with Agent P to solve clues and thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s evil plots. 
  • December 6 – Test Track – Presented by Chevrolet, re-opens. The re-imagined attraction allows guests to design their own vehicles before setting off on a thrilling test drive. 
EPCOT L’Artisan des Glaces Ice Cream shop


  • May 30 – L’Artisan des Glaces Ice Cream shop opens in the France pavilion. The shop makes its own ice cream. 
Spice Road Table EPCOT


  • January 20 – Spice Road Table opens in the Morocco pavilion. Inspired by the outdoor cafés throughout the Mediterranean, the restaurant serves small plates, specialty wines, and aperitifs from the region. 
Frozen Ever After EPCOT 40
Frozen Ever After


  • June 17 – Soarin’ Around the World debuts in The Land pavilion. The reimagined attraction takes guests on a flight above many of the world’s natural and man-made wonders. 
  • June 21 – Frozen Ever After opens in the Norway pavilion, replacing Maelstrom. The attraction takes guests on a boat ride through the kingdom of Arendelle. Along with the ride-through attraction, Royal Sommerhus opens, allowing Queen Elsa and Princess Anna to meet with guests inside a charming cabin. 
  • New holiday experiences are found across the theme park as part of what’s now the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. 
November 2018 Theme Park Events - Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Christmas 2019 Walt Disney World Holidays 2019 Christmas in July


  • January 12 – The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts debuts, expanding the park’s festival offerings to all four seasons. 


  • August 25 – The historic multi-year transformation of EPCOT is announced at D23 Expo 2019. 
  • October 1 – “EPCOT Forever” nighttime spectacular debuts at World Showcase Lagoon, replacing “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.” 
  • October 1 – Walt Disney Imagineering presents the EPCOT Experience opens, offering a preview of attractions coming as part of the theme park’s multiyear transformation. 
  • July 5 – Takumi-Tei opens in the Japan pavilion. The signature dining table-service restaurant specializes in wagyu beef, sushi, and signature cocktails. 
2019 D23 Epcot Announcement New in 2020


  • January 17 – Three new films debut around World Showcase. “Awesome Planet” debuts in the Harvest Theater inside The Land pavilion. The new film showcases the beauty and diversity of our planet. “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” premieres in Palais du Cinema inside the France pavilion. The new film offers a new twist on the classic Disney movie. “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” debuts at the Canada pavilion, updating the O Canada! Circle-Vision 360 film. 
  • February 19 – Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue opens at The American Adventure pavilion. The fast-casual restaurant serves classic American backyard barbecue and home-style craft brews. 
  • December 22 – A transformation of the main entrance is completed with the unveiling of a new fountain, inspired by one that originally debuted with the theme park’s 1982 opening. 
Walt Disney World News Roundup September 2021


  • September 15 – Creations Shop opens in World Celebration. The new flagship store features unique merchandise dedicated to EPCOT and other Walt Disney World collectibles. 
  • September 20 – Space 220 opens in the Mission: SPACE pavilion. The new restaurant gives guests the chance to enjoy a meal among the stars after a simulated flight 220 miles above the Earth’s surface. 
  • October 1 – Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration begins with new experiences across all four theme parks. In honor of the celebration, Spaceship Earth transforms into a spectacular Beacon of Magic at night, illuminating the skies with brilliant colors. As part of the park transformation, three new neighborhoods – World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature – join World Showcase as the geographic areas that make up EPCOT. 
  • October 1 – The expanded France pavilion opens with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new ride-through 4D experience inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille.” A new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris, offers guests a delicious taste of French cuisine.  
  • October 1 – “Harmonious,” a new nighttime spectacular, debuts with the 50th Anniversary celebration. The show celebrates how Disney music inspires people worldwide and features a culturally diverse soundtrack coordinated with spectacular visuals and fireworks. 


  • April 27 – Connections Café and Eatery opens in World Celebration, offering guests a new selection of internationally-inspired cuisine. 
  • May 27 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens in the Wonders of Xandar pavilion. The family thrill coaster features myriad firsts, including the first-ever reverse launch on a Disney coaster and ride vehicles that rotate 360 degrees. It’s also one of the world’s largest fully enclosed coasters. 
  • October 1 – Walt Disney World Resort celebrates the 40th anniversary of EPCOT as the park continues its multi-year transformation. 
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