Disney’s Social Ideals Profiled in Book

While EPCOT Center in Florida may mean little more than a fun outing for today’s families, a recently published book looks at how it represented much more for its visionary creator. Analyzing and reviving the ideals of EPCOT, Dr. Steve Mannheim’s Walt Disney and the Quest for Community (2003) concentrates on Disney’s dreams of improving life for all.

Toward the end of his life, Disney declared that the problems of inner cities and sprawl were the most important issues confronting society. With profits from his company’s other ventures, he hoped to begin to solve social ills with his "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT), which was to have been a fully operational city of 20,000 residents living and working as an example from which others could learn. Also known as "Progress City," this was to be a showcase of modern living, materials and modes of transport. Disney believed that a sense of community could be achieved by concentrating on centralizing activity, ensuring ample green space and limiting the use of automobiles.

Mannheim, who practices and teaches in the area of real-estate development, argues that the constant experimentation and change in Disney’s conception of EPCOT raises him above the level of utopians with their packaged solutions.

Walt Disney and the Quest for Community is published by Ashgate Publishing Company of Burlington, Vermont. Dr. Steve Mannheim can be reached at [email protected]