16 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: You Can Build It

As we look to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, there is a focus, and rightfully so, on the Magic Kingdom and first resorts that are celebrating their 50 years of recreation. With that, however, is also everything that came after that opening. Some brand new pieces will be added to the Disney history books this year, to go along those pieces that are 10, 15, 20, 30, or 45 years old and everything in between. Looking back at the entirety of the resort's history wouldn't be complete without talking about EPCOT Center. The park which will be celebrating its 39th anniversary as Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th.

For my part, the construction of EPCOT Center has always fascinated me, and sent me in search of construction photos continuously. Whether from publications, professional shots, or those photos taken by construction workers inconspicuously. Presented today are two sets, one one the more professional side and the other with a more personal camera lens, of EPCOT Center construction photos for us to look back on and enjoy.

The gate to the China pavilion and the replica of the Temple of Heaven in their early stages.

The exterior to Chefs de France.

The Hotel du Canada, based upon Ontario’s Chateau Laurier, is beginning to take shape with rockwork beginning to be framed.

Canada's trees, with branches to be added in later.

Moving on the the personal collection of photos I acquired a few years back. There are hints at a lot of projects, The Land and Spaceship Earth chief amongst them, but the majority continue with World Showcase, particularly Canada and the United Kingdom.

Listed as Roof U.K., you can spot the well-known dome of The Land’s greenhouses in the background behind the temporary power lines and framing of the United Kingdom pavilion.

Here we stand at the crossroads of the United Kingdom pavilion. To the right we see the construction of the Rose and Crown, and the shops across the road. Down the lane is the chateau in Canada with Spaceship Earth further off in the distance.

While the framing is taking place for the United Kingdom pavilion here, the real draw is obviously the chateau and Spaceship Earth once again.

Freshly installed chimneys. These would gain paint and a fresh coat of soot, or textured paint that appears to be soot, to give life to the pavilion.

The construction of gabled 1800s structure by the garden square.

An almost finished version of the shop exterior seen above. The pedimented gable is much more prevalent here.

The small cottage modeled after Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

The backside of the cottage area, much of the theme of this corner was inspired by set drawings for Mary Poppins.

A close up, if somewhat blurry, look at the exterior of The Land’s greenhouse dome.

Another view of The Land’s domed greenhouse, this time we can also catch a glimpse of the red aquaculture facility.

A shot of World of Motion off in the distance, notice how it is already glimmering even at this stage in the construction process. Also, the lagoon sits empty during this period.

The lagoon begins to take on water, and is met by a sea wall. World of Motion in the distance, and even beams of the monorail have begun being installed.

A set of rockwork closest to the ground, with another structure taking place beneath a tarp. Also the stairway through the mountain can be seen along the bottom right of the photograph.

For a look at the scale of this mountain section, there is a set of crew members looking over plans.

A look back at the same section, but with fabrication happening throughout the landscape.

While forced perspective may have been utilized to make the mountain appear larger than it actually was, this photo makes sure that we understand it is still a massive and impressive structure.

The Hotel du Canada, with scaffolding and the beginnings of rockwork formations.

Details meant to be perceived as limestone brickwork on the Hotel du Canada start to appear.

Here we step backstage to see Friendship I and Friendship II docked.

Friendship I makes its way out to World Showcase Lagoon, passing by China along the way.

Friendship II makes its way by the raised bridge near China.

Here we see one of the double decker buses from World Showcase Transportation parked backstage.

A row of projection, fountain, and firework barges for World Showcase Lagoon's first nighttime show, Carnival de Lumiere.

A close up view of one of the barge’s inner workings.

Getting up close and personal with a pair of barges and their set-ups.

You can make out the sea walls that were constructed to create the islands of World Showcase Lagoon. Also, the irony of what was considered a dry lagoon was not lost on our photographer.

The girders for Japan are being hoisted into place.

China is further along in its assembly than some of the other pavilions.

While the two pavilions are clear to those of us who have seen the finished product, it is easy to see how St. Mark’s Campanile in Italy could have been confused with England’s Big Ben. The silhouette of The American Adventure, however, is unmistakable.

There are sites around Walt Disney World that tug at our heartstrings, make us wonder how they were created, and move us to capture them for all eternity in a photograph. Yet, the argument can be made that Spaceship Earth is the most awe-inspiring vista in all of the resort.

The idea for a geodesic dome came from R. Buckminster Fuller, but his influence goes even beyond the structure itself as the EPCOT Center icon was given named after a phrase Fuller coined, Spaceship Earth. I don’t think you’ll need my guided tour today, just enjoy these construction photos of Spaceship Earth in your own time.

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