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Building Epcot
1982
 

Linda joined WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering) as a wirelister in 1979. By October 1, 1982 she was the show control engineer for nearly half the pavilions at Epcot Center: World of Motion, China, Italy, Germany, France, UK, Canada, Denmark, and Communicore East and West. I began consulting for WED in early 1982, and worked for Glenn Birket on the American Adventure pavilion. In 1983 I was made the Ride Systems Engineer for the Imagination pavilion. These pictures are mostly from the construction and opening of Epcot Center in 1982. A number of them were taken by Martin Chaney. Artwork (c) Disney.

There's also some Epcot Memorabilia on another page.

 

Read more about the building of Epcot here:

 
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The picture above is a 180 degree panorama of Epcot under construction, shot from the roof of American Adventure in August 1982. It is a composite of 15 separate hand-held shots. The frenetic pace of activity is apparent from the many tiny construction workers scattered around the pictures. Epcot opened to construction worker's families for a preview on Labor Day, less than a month after this picture was shot.
 

Around the Site

Pictures taken during the summer of 1982.

   
Linda in front of a partly covered Spaceship Earth. She was among the first engineers to make it to the site, and was ultimately responsible for the control systems in ten of the pavilions. And yes, it does look like Pacman.
Steve atop American Adventure at Epcot, July 1982. The unfinished theme park is in the background. Pretty scary. Not the height -- the fact that it's only three month 'til opening!
Top of American Adventure under construction, July 1982.
The electronic engineering field offices --  in the women's locker room of the Shop Services building!
My fourth floor office in the Sun Bank building overlooking Lake Buena Vista and the Empress Lilly. We were given these luxurious offices, just one floor away from Dick Nunis' office, because the space had never been finished: bare stud walls and concrete floors seemed fitting for engineers wearing construction garb. Still, we were an incongruous site strolling across the lobby of the bank. I retired to this desk to spend the weeks before opening frantically programming the monitor cabinet to cycle American Adventure. Each afternoon I'd watch the thunderstorms roll in, saving my code to floppy disk after every line.
After opening we moved to an office off of this tunnel under Communicore -- opposite the garbage dumpster! See what happens when they don't need you anymore? Kicked out of the women's locker room!
Linda on site, March  1982.
Linda, mid-summer, 1982.
The VIP area upstairs in World of Motion, June, 1982.
Steve clowning in World of Motion, June, 1982.
Epcot Central takes shape. A single tape binloop, and several cabinets were the first to arrive.
Spaceship Earth and Communicore, June, 1982. It was difficult to get around the site in those days. At any moment we might find a giant earthmover  bearing down on us.
The Spaceship Earth downramp. John Ruck was continually frustrated by vehicles tearing audio equipment out of the track.
Italy under construction, June 1982.
France under construction, June 1982.
Fake trees in front of Canada under construction, June 1982.
View from the monorail station during the last month of construction on Spaceship Earth. Note that the covering has not yet been installed around the base of the supports.
Several times I got from California to Florida on Walt's old company plane, "The Mouse". It was slow (they had to stop in Texas to refuel) but the red wine was BV Georges de LaTour Private Reserve!
...and Ron Beumer and I could play bridge at the table, which sat four. The plane is now at the Disney-MGM Studios backlot.
Epcot Central opened with a very non-informational behind-the-scenes show, The Astuter Computer Review. Look at that sea of tape binloops in the background, now replaced by offices. The Digital Binloops are in the individual pavilions, because they don't require nightly applications of Turtle Wax!
Spaceship Earth as monorail testing began, June 1982.
When the Porta-Potties got too dirty, the construction workers' solution was to set them on fire. This one they simply put up for sale. I don't think there were any takers.
Leading up to opening on October 1, 1982, WED issued calendars each month with construction or conceptual pictures on them. Click this link to go to a page showing all of the calendars.
Here's Linda, almost twenty years later, in the equipment room of Imagination. Why the strange garb? She was there following her 20th anniversary service awards dinner (note the shiny new ring).
And doesn't his make me feel old? The end of Horizons, after 17 years.
   
 

American Adventure

This pavilion was the focus of my efforts from January 1982 through opening day. The most complicated attraction Disney had ever attempted, being controlled by a bunch of twenty-something engineers. They must've been crazy. We were.

   
Glenn Birket, electronic project engineer for American Adventure, silhouetted against Spaceship Earth.
This is a small portion of the 400,000 pound "lift carriage" which carries ten of the hydraulic lifts that elevate sets and animated figures into place on the stage. The lifts are 14 feet high, and extend that same distance out of the top of the carriage. The entire carriage rolls silently underneath the audience, to allow many different lifts to be raised in the same small space between the proscenium and the rear-projection screen.

Three 10x10 foot lifts are in the center, with a 10x30 foot lift on either side. The lighting fixtures at the base of the screen appear along the right side of the photo, with some of the control equipment on the far side of the carriage. Direction of travel is left to right.

The rear-most portion of the carriage, which houses the first two lifts used in the show.
A lift being lowered into place with a construction crane.
More crane work, showing the plastic sheeting that kept the construction dirt out of the theater. The screen was not hung at this point.
Control equipment next to the carriage. A ride control system was used to assure safety.
A small portion of the 2200 psi hydraulic equipment used to power the stationary (non-carriage-mounted) lifts.
The proscenium arch and lighting fixtures prior to installation of the rear-projection screen.
Glenn next to one of the small lifts.
Steve next to the 70mm projector in the annex at the extreme rear of the building.
Walt Narkowitz in the equipment pit, showing one of the three Valley Forge lifts in the theater arch, prior to installation of the projection screen.
Walt and Frank Coffey going over design prints.
Assembly of the carriage. Theater visible through the proscenium arch.
Lighting installer standing on the top of the carriage straddling the screen backlights.
Melanie Simon doing lighting test and adjust. The screen is still not in.
Now there's something you don't see everyday: a submarine at Valley Forge!
Lighting the WWII sub.
A multiple exposure done in the darkened theater. Francie Owen, Bob Frye, Sonya Bookman, Chuck Castiglione, Derek Dotson, Walt Narkowitz, Conrad Blankenzee and Steve are in this picture at least once.
   
 

Epcot from the Air

Glenn Birket is a private pilot. Several times during the summer of 1982 we flew over the Epcot construction site and photographed the progress.

   
Glenn holds up the Cessna.
Glenn and Linda: it must say how to fly this thing somewhere in here!
Gary Peterson, Glenn, Von Wolff and Brian Cox get ready to go up.
An aerial shot from the company newsletter, taken in February, 1982. This park is going to open in seven months?!!
The tuna can, World of Motion, June 1982.
World Showcase, June 1982.
ditto.
ditto.
An aerial view of American Adventure in mid summer, 1982.
Another perspective of American Adventure and the south side of World Showcase, mid-summer 1982.
The Shop Services and Cast Center buildings, and World of Motion, mid-summer, 1982. Department 510 (Electronic Engineering) set up field offices in the women's restroom of the Shop Services building.
Future World, June 1982. Oh my gosh! They forgot to build Communicore West!!! No problem -- we've got twelve weeks.
   
 

Epcot People

These are the friends we worked with, and the things we did to stay sane while working 110 hour weeks.

   
Electronic Engineering (Department 510) and the rest of the staff of the 1048 Grand Central building in Glendale California, 1982.
Our first, and best, accommodations at Walt Disney Work. We lived in these trailers at Fort Wilderness for six months. It took the longest time to convince the travel department at Disney that Linda and I didn't need TWO trailers!
Free rental cars for two years, too.
Jamie Robertson, Glenn Birket and Francie Owen assembling computers in my apartment at Lake Vista Village.
Derek Dotson, part of the American Adventure crew.
Glenn Birket, Von Wolff, Brian Cox
Our apartment a Lake Vista Village. There's a hotel on top of that lake, now.
Our first wine tasting ever, at Lake Vista Village. Dave Green, Andrew Dombek, Jamie Robertson (who tried to walk through the screen door -- twice!), Andrea, Derek Dotson and Glenn Birket.
Linda get the tasting organized.
Jim Carstensen tests the wine opener.
Everybody who was awake one morning in October 1982. (Linda and I weren't.)
Ira and Linda were laid of the same day in 1984. They catered their own farewell party, with Champagne and hors d'oevres. Linda was back at Disney at the studio a few months later, with Ira to follow after a few years working for me at Cambrian and then Linn.
   
Glenn Birket and Linda's office in the Grand Central building

Photo by Glenn Birket.

Department 510 in 1979.
Front: Bob Struble, Glenn Birket, June DiRienzo, Lee Frisius, Cliff Present, Linda Alcorn.
Rear: Kevin Kirio, Randy Hill. John Noonan, Marty Kindle

Photo by Glenn Birket.

Department 510 on the loading dock of the 1048 Grand Central building, 1980.

Photo by Chris Senchack

Department 510, 1980. Carl Bonjiorno, president of WED, addresses the crowd.

Photo by Chris Senchack

Department 510, 1980.

SEATED (left to right):
Stacey ?
Annette Tedrow
Romona (Quinn)
Adrianne ?
Lee Frisius
Von Wolff
Ira Frank
STANDING (left to right):
Jim Barnhouse
Conrad Blankenzee
Bob Baumbach
Carl Bongirno
Kevin Kurio
Cindy Lee
Randy Hill
John Ruck
Ralph Rosenthal
John Noonan
Chris Senchack
Linda Alcorn
Ed Martinez
Chuck Castiglione
John Sullivan

Photo by Chris Senchack

Linda's office, 1980.

Photo by Chris Senchack

Wirelisting before the age of PCs, 1980.

Photo by Chris Senchack

Movie night at our home on Manhattan Place, 1980. When you had to check out a 16mm projector to see a film, because there were no VCRs.

Randy Hill,
Bob Struble,
?,
Andy Heller,
John Noonan (behind projector),
Glenn Birket,
June DiRienzo,
Cliff Present

Photo by Chris Senchack

Movie Night, 1980. Nice orange chairs and carpet. The house was also MicroDaSys' office.

Photo by Chris Senchack

AA

Photo by Glenn Birket.

Steve and Walt Narciewicz in American Adventure. Look how small that flashlight looks in Walt's hand.

Photo by Glenn Birket.

Multiple exposure in the American Adventure theater

Photo by Glenn Birket.

A look at that beautiful girl in the beautiful dress, Epcot Grand Opening Spaceship Earth Gala, October, 1982.

The Spaceship Earth Gala was the grandest party I have ever attended. Tables were piled with thousands of pounds of fresh seafood, and we all got cleaned up for one night of festivities. Nearly every famous big band in the country was in attendance, set up on different bandstands throughout Future World. The party marked the end of an exciting period in all our lives. Who could have guessed it would be just the beginning?

Photo by Chris Senchack

Department 510 expires. Linda and Ira are laid off. They dressed for their going away party, shown here with Phil Beamish, 1984.

Photo by Chris Senchack

The sign on the office says RIP. 1984.

Photo by Chris Senchack

 

Read more about the building of Epcot here:

 

This online class is taught by Steve Alcorn:
Learn what it takes to be an Imagineer

 

 
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