Celebrating Disney’s Milestones in the 40-Year History of Epcot

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

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

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.  

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Related: Epcot 40th Anniversary Merchandise and Food Details

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


  • Oct. 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. 


  • Sept. 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. 


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


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


  • April 29 – The inaugural EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival debuts. 
  • Nov. 25 – The Candlelight Processional moves to EPCOT from Magic Kindgom, 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. 


  • Sept. 28 – The first annual EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival makes its debut. 
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  • March 17 – Test Track opens in Future World. The park’s first thrill attraction, it takes guests on exhilarating twists and turns in a test vehicle. 
  • Oct. 1 – The Millennium Celebration begins at EPCOT. The 15-month event marks the debut of the popular nighttime spectacular, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”, that 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. 

Related: Featurette: 10 Reasons to Watch Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney+!


  • April 6 – Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opens inside the Mexico pavilion. A re-imagining 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 showcases 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. 


  • Dec. 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. 


  • June 17 – Soarin’ Around the World debuts in The Land pavilion. The reimagined attraction takes guests on a flight high 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. 


  • Jan. 12 – The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts debuts, expanding the park’s festival offerings to all four seasons. 
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  • Sept. 15 – Creations Shop opens in World Celebration. The new flagship store features unique merchandise dedicated to EPCOT, as well as other Walt Disney World collectibles. 
  • Sept. 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. 
  • Oct. 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. 
  • Oct. 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.  
  • Oct. 1 – “Harmonious,” a new nighttime spectacular, debuts with the 50th Anniversary celebration. The show celebrates the way Disney music inspires people across the world 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. 
  • Oct. 1 – Walt Disney World Resort celebrates the 40th anniversary of EPCOT, as the park continues its multi-year transformation. 

We look forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary at Epcot!

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Kevin Koszola