Podcast Episode 42: Communicore West

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Welcome to Episode 42 of the RetroWDW Podcast: “Communicore West” – We appreciate your support and hope you have been enjoying each and every episode. Be sure to check out some of our previous shows.

Corrections & Listener Mail

CorrectionsThe Contemporary Resort Through the 1990s

  1. The Chapeau Shop on Main Street has come up on the show multiple times, regarding the old time phone. We recently received word that the phone was broken…So sad. Hopefully it will be back up and working soon. BREAKING: As of 8/15/2018, we have received pictures and tweets of the phone back in working order. Check it out now!
  2. The Contemporary Resort 3rd floor has been investigated! How visited a few weeks ago and gives his take on what is going on with this floor. The catering offices, fitness center and a few other things are discussed.
  3. Another 3rd floor comes up, this time from the Canada Pavilion in Epcot. How gives us some information on what is going on here and where to locate this area.

Listener Mail

  1. Kylee writes in about the various products we have promoted. She has purchased so many of them and we thank you for your support!
  2. Diane wrote us about how she listens, keeps a running list and then refers to it during each trip. Such a neat idea to keep track of the things you want to see.
  3. Eric Jacobson brought up his neighbor restoring a small scale, sugar plantation railroad in his yard. This led to some discussion regarding regional railroads, terminology and other train facts. Very cool!
  4. Mike was our next email, discussing a WDW model in the post-show room of the Walt Disney story at the Magic Kingdom. How gets into this one, as he knows the model. This was for Disneyland and we get into what was included on this particular model.

Thank you for all the emails, tweets and comments you have sent our way. We try to respond to almost everything and do our best to pick unique questions for the show. 

Questions, Comments & Concerns

We love feedback and hearing your memories!

Drop us a line at podcast@retrowdw.com or call us and leave a voice mail at 978-71-RETRO. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Audio Rewind

Our audio rewind this month turned out to be The Adventureland Background Music! The winner is Rachel Dunlop, winning a copy of The EPCOT Explorers Encyclopedia. Great job and thanks for playing along to everybody!

If you think you know the answer to this month’s audio rewind, email us! podcast@retrowdw.com – This month the winner will receive a 1993 souvenir brochure from The World of Motion.

All entries due 9/17/2018 and a random winner will be selected. Even if you don’t win, you will gain an entry into the Second 2018 Prize Pot!

Prize Pot

Prize Pot #2 has begun! Each month, we add a vintage or classic item to the pot. The winner will be announced in December and they get it all. Follow along as we add items and remember, each entry/guess of the audio rewind gets you an entry for the prize pot. Thanks for playing along!

2018 Prize Pot #2 Contents

  • WDW Resort Pocket Sewing Kit (See It)
  • The Official Album of WDW/Disneyland on vinyl, sealed! 

Christopher Smith Contest
The winner of the Christoper Smith book is John Tierney! John guessed The Asian Resort, which was the correct answer. Let us know which book you would like to be sent.  Huge thanks to Chris for joining us and thank you for all the trivia guesses.

Main Topic

Communicore West

Memories of EPCOT Center

We are finally back with a full episode! After some interviews, mini-episodes and an event announcement, we felt we owed you a solid EPCOT Center attraction. A little while back, we dedicated some time to Communicore East on Episode 38. This month, we veer right (If you are going through the main entrance) and take you to Communicore West. Todd gets us started with some information on Earth Station and where it was originally planned for.

The Fountain of Information is discussed, which included road signs, neon, and anything connected to communication in a fountain type of sculpture. Touchscreens are brought up frequently, including the super advanced teleconferencing system, Face to Face. This setup allowed guests to look at a cast member who was standing in front of a green-screen; How & Todd lead us in some role playing to see how this all worked.

A special guest joins us, Lisa Bastoni, who is the granddaughter of Walter Einsel. We invited Lisa on because her grandfather worked on something very neat: The Age of Information. Lisa was there during the design phase and we get some major insight into how her grandfather was hired and lots of other great stuff. This was an often overlooked exhibit of Communicore, but when you look back at it now the detail and predictions are amazing. Check out Lisa and her music, at www.lisabastoni.com – We have lots more to scan and share from her, so a huge thank you goes to Lisa!Einsel Theater in Communicore West in EPCOT Center

>> See Lisa’s “Einsel Theater” video restored here <<

We also dive into EPCOT Outreach or Ask EPCOT, which was simply an educational section to ask questions. There were displays you could use, or an in person librarian to answer your questions. How actually has a question he asked, which was answered by mail! Incredible to think this was how the theme park worked back then.

We then head over to the South side of Communicore West and talk about the Robotics Expo and robots with swords!

Communicore East and West Home Movie

Lake & Lagoon Tour: Discovery Edition

Join us this November for the second round of our Lake & Lagoon Tour. We have some major upgrades in store and are excited to invite you. Please join us for a tour around the original WDW property lakes and a look at the “Vacation Kingdom of the World”.  For more information, please look here.

Project Florida Film Release

About a week ago, we dropped one of our most amazing film restorations to date. Project Florida was purchased, restored and released to an amazing reception. Take a look at this amazing piece that has been restored to the original condition it deserved. Project Florida film release page

RetroWDW Merchandise

Be sure to get your shirt, iPhone case, tote bag, pillow or coffee mug today: www.retrowdw.com/supportus

Some of Our Latest Designs

Next Month

  • Join us next month as we discuss The Disney-MGM Studios production studios in Episode 43!


Earth Station Description

In a park of the magnitude of Epcot Center, it can happen to anybody:

You’ve just come out of Spaceship Earth, and  where do you go from here? It’s all so vast, even a little intimidating.

Or maybe you’ve just wandered into Earth Station from another pavilion, and anyway, wasn’t this where you were supposed to meet the Johnsons? No, on second thought, that was at The American Adventure. But where is The American Adventure?

Or you’re hungry and you sure wouldn’t mind a taco. Somebody said they had them at the Mexico pavilion, but do they serve lunch there? And, more important, where are the restrooms?

For you, then, and for all of us who come unraveled from time to time, there is Earth Station.

Earth Station, also known as Epcot Center Information, is adjacent to Spaceship Earth. It functions in effect as Epcot’s city hall, with a little Times Square razzmatazz thrown in just for fun—a Times Square that has been cleaned up and moved into the twenty-first century at one stroke.

It is the city hall in the sense that this is where you come to find out what you need to know about the community of Epcot. Beyond that, the facility replaces the “Tickets and Information” booths that are spaced so strategically throughout Disneyland and Walt Disney World and which, incidentally, dispense far more information than tickets.

At Earth Station, however, all but one of those friendly people in the booths have been superseded by touch-sensitive video screens. It sounds forbidding, but even if you don’t understand the first thing about computers, through curiosity, fascination, or maybe even out of desperation, you are going to walk up to one of those infernal machines, you are going to touch it in the appropriate place, and you are going to find out exactly what you wanted to know. You’ll test out all its capabilities, and pretty soon you’re going to like it so much that you’ll wish you had a computer in your own home. And who knows? Someday you may. Welcome to the twenty-first century!

What Epcot Center has done, without much fanfare, is to introduce you, innocently, gently, and entertainingly, to the new world of information, while never for a minute neglecting the human factor.

If you look up, you will see screens showing a quick-changing series of images, using a variety of media—photographs, films, animation. The display is a seven-part panel of 6 x 14-foot screens, each screen consisting of hundreds of squares an inch and a half across, each of which picks up and averages out its tiny area’s colors from a rear-projected film. The overall effect is something like the masterwork of a Cubist painter gone Hollywood. While definitely utilitarian, at the same time the screens are a graphically striking means of setting the mood of the whole of Epcot Center itself. They fulfill the designers’ desire to do something a little futuristic, something that had a little magic to it, something to convey the feeling that this is really a different kind of place, a special kind of place.

The three screens on the left are mirror images of the three on the right. Together, they give fifteen-second previews of the various pavilions—stylized, sometimes abstract interpretations of the essence of the shows to be seen at Future World and World Showcase. The center screen carries information of daily or even of hourly interest.

From time to time, for emphasis on a special event, the pictures on the six peripheral screens fade down into the image on the center screen, where important and timely announcements are flashed: news of an astronaut’s visit at three o’clock, for example, or a reminder of special entertainment scheduled at World Showcase. What you have at Earth Station is an overview of Epcot Center and its attractions presented in a unique, arresting, and wildly colorful new medium.

But to get back to matters of more personal import, suppose you want to know just how much a meal at the France pavilion’s restaurant costs? Or how in the world do you locate a misplaced friend or a lost child? And while those large screens admittedly are mesmerizing, the bathroom  emergency has lost none of its urgency. No problem. A bank of those touch-sensitive video screens is right in front of you, ready and eager to answer your questions, to solve your problems, to provide you with information literally at your fingertips.

Still, in spite of the spectacle of all those people eagerly poking at the weird but wonderful computerized video screens, you’re not quite ready to put your intimate questions on view. You’re not so much afraid as just a little shy. In any event, you might feel more comfortable communicating with people rather than machines.

The Epcot Center staff, anticipating this problem, has provided two guest-relations booths. To them, for example, one would go for special assistance for the handicapped; information on particular tours; tape players and cassettes that help the blind appreciate and enjoy the attractions of the Center. Here, too, non-English-speaking visitors will eventually be able to pick up headsets enabling them to hear show presentations in their native language. In 1983, translations into Spanish, French, and German will be available. The goal is to have a four-language capability at all of Epcot Center’s theater shows and ride-through attractions.

What about those computer terminals and screens at Earth Station? Will they operate in multiple languages? As a matter of fact, they are already equipped with Spanish and English, while French and German are on the way. The one language they don’t use is computerese.

There aren’t even any keyboards. Your forefinger will turn on the touch-sensitive terminals, whose screens operate by means of an invisible grid of photo diodes and photo detectors. Each terminal has stored a great deal of information that, when released, will smooth your path through the park—once you can tear yourself away from this remarkable new plaything.

It really is fun, and it works something like this:
On the screen, often superimposed over a picture, is a list of general topics; for example: Future World Attractions/ World Showcase Pavilions/
Restaurants/ Information on Epcot Center/ Personal Assistance.

Hungry? You point to “Restaurants” printed on the screen. The screen then flashes another list: Location/ Food Type/ Prices/ Reservations. Once you have specified location and food type (in a matter of seconds), you touch the appropriate area of the screen, and a photograph or a video picture of the restaurant’s interior appears, accompanied by the music played there. Another touch and a menu is displayed, perhaps over a picture of actual dishes available.

In the relative privacy of your own dialogue with the computer, you may decide that the prices are a bit beyond what you’re prepared to spend. If that is the case, you can shop around (letting your fingers do the walking) for something more in your price range: the Farmers Market in the Land pavilion, perhaps, or a British pub lunch in the United Kingdom pavilion.

If, however, you’ve decided to treat yourself to haute cuisine, you touch the “Reservations” line of the French restaurant display. The terminal asks if you’d like to make a reservation. Yes? The terminal, equipped with an acoustic coupler, dials the central reservations office, from which a host or hostess, live on screen, welcomes you and takes your reservation: “Thank you, Mrs. Smith. You’re confirmed for this evening at 7:30. Enjoy your meal.”

It’s possible, of course, that the French restaurant is booked up. In that case, you’ve saved yourself a trip, and you turn to Italian food, or Canadian, or whatever your next choice may be. This system, the designers explain, takes the reservations office out of the business of saying “no” to people. There will be some places—shows as well as restaurants—that will be 100 percent booked, but if people know that X is booked but places at Y are available, they reserve at Y. It turns a negative experience into a positive one.

And by having a live host on screen the human element is incorporated into the computer system. Another such area is that of Personal Assistance, familiarly referred to among the Epcot people as the Help Button. There are moments in everyone’s life when even the beautiful simplicity of the video screen seems beyond one’s capabilities. At such times, a single touch brings immediate assistance, live and in color. Moreover, the person on the screen quickly asks, “May I help you, sir?” or “May I help you, ma’am?” —at which point you just have to ask yourself, “Now how the deuce does he/she know I’m a sir/ ma’am?”

Obviously, there is a two-way visual function here. The Help Button operates on the theory that in a time of emergency, great or small, there is no substitute for person-to-person contact. If  your problem is not too serious, try to remember to smile: you’re on Epcot camera!

This is only a brief account of a few of the functions of these remarkable terminals, which, in time, will be distributed conveniently throughout Epcot Center. At present, there are ten in Earth Station, two more in the Bell System’s exhibit in adjacent Communicore, another eight in Showcase Plaza, and four near the Germany pavilion. Plans are for three more in World Showcase, two in Future World, and others wherever needed.

Visitors to Walt Disney World may be already familiar with the screens installed there as a prototype in 1981, while future visitors may also find them in hotel rooms and lobbies. At Epcot Center, it is no coincidence that most of the terminals are located where guests disembark from Spaceship Earth, a pavilion devoted to communications past, present, and future. The designers had suggested to the Bell System (sponsor of Spaceship Earth) a post-show exhibit that, in addition to showing what the company was doing, actually provided a service that people could use on the spot—something really vital to visitors here and now.

So the Earth Station terminals were developed. They are so attractive and easy to operate that you realize right away you don’t have to take a course in computer programming to make computers work for you. In fact, once you become comfortable with the touch-sensitive screens and the other hands-on technology that is part of the Epcot Center experience, you won’t be thinking “computer” at all. That’s the real magic of it.

[Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center — Pages 52-55 — ISBN 0-8109-0819-0]

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