Book Jeff


When it first opened, Epcot was the future. “The 21st Century Begins October 1, 1982,” was more than an opening day marketing slogan. It was a vision. This vision for tomorrow was first found in the front section of Epcot, Future World. Yet, oddly enough, the most futuristic attraction found in Epcot on opening day was in the rear of World Showcase by way of its centerpiece attraction, the American Adventure.

Initially, Imagineers planned to place the American Adventure at the entrance of World Showcase, but then they realized it would be too close to Future World, and worse, block the stunning views of the reflecting lagoon. Instead, they placed the ginormous but stately Georgian colonial-style structure in the center of the other pavilions so it could act as “host” for the other countries. Like America, its size serves to draw people in. It is the castle of World Showcase, and it beckons people to the back portion of the park.

Unlike Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland or the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom, the American Adventure is hosted by iconic Americans who, like Walt Disney, never needed a political position as a platform for leadership. According to Jeff Kurti, Benjamin Franklin was picked “for his cheery gifts of insight and invention,” while Mark Twain was tapped “for his circumspect outlook and wry humor.”

Franklin and Twain come to life as Audio-Animatronics figures; at the time, they were the most sophisticated Disney had ever designed. The “play,” the first ever put on by a Disney park, begins with the landing of the Mayflower, and like the pilgrims and their own American adventure, the show had a rough start. The complex Audio-Animatronics figures rarely functioned properly. Unlike the opening of Magic Kingdom, where attractions matched and mirrored the time-tested rides and shows from Disneyland, everything in Epcot was brand new. In his history of Walt Disney World, Realityland, David Koenig writes regarding Epcot that “there weren’t any duplications; they were all prototypical. The shows’ actions, especially for American Adventure, you didn’t know if they were going to work until you put them together.”

America remains the world’s greatest experiment. Can it work? Is it working? Will it work? These were the questions in 1776, and we are still asking these questions today. The answers rest not in the government but in each individual’s daily decisions. Your success is far more dependent on you than whoever may or may not be in Washington. Thus, the American Adventure closes with these words from Thomas Wolfe: “To all people, regardless of their birth, the right to live, to work, to be themselves, and to become whatever their visions can combine to make them. This is the promise of America.”

As we sit in this patriotic season between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, what do you think? Is America working? What are your concerns? How can we individually do better so we all do better?

Let me know your thoughts!

“To be thrown upon one’s own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune, for our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Audio-Animatronics Co-Host of the American Adventure

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