Ink & Paint: In-Betweener #11: EPCOT with Andrew Gott | SWITCH.
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Ink & Paint
Ink & Paint is a podcast journey through the Disney animated classics! Each week, host Daniel Lammin and a special guest will look at each film in the official Disney animated canon, and talk about their artistic, historical and social context. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss an episode! Have comments or questions for Ink & Paint? Record a message for Daniel right from your phone, and we'll try to use it in our next episode!

In-Betweener #11: EPCOT with Andrew Gott
Daniel is joined by Andrew Gott, co-host of the terrific LGBTIQ+ music podcast ‘Aural Fixation’, to talk about his experiences working at one of the most unusual and remarkable of the Disney theme parks, the ambitious futuristic world of EPCOT.

Daniel Lammin
Andrew Gott - Co-Presenter of Aural Fixation Podcast (and beginner beekeeper)

Producer/Editor ∷ Alex Amster
Music ∷ Sam Porter
Show Artwork ∷ Nikolaos Pirounakis

Show Notes
In the mid-1950s, Walt Disney had conquered two major fields of popular entertainment - the theme park, with his revolutionary Disneyland, and television, with its companion series. Despite financial issues with the animated feature films and lacklustre critical reception for the live-action films, these two achievements solidified Walt Disney Productions and its subsidiaries as amongst the most powerful forces in the entertainment industry and Walt Disney as a pioneering American icon.

In the early days of Disneyland, Walt would visit the park often, assessing every detail to make sure his magical kingdom retained his high standard. Very quickly though, his interest in the park began to wane. The same had happened with animation after the gargantuan success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For Walt, the joy was in the challenge, working day and night to achieve an impossible goal. His fire and energy came from creation, ideas, imagining, perfecting, reaching beyond what had been done before. When the impossible was achieved, as had been done with Snow White and Disneyland, there was very little left in these enterprises for him to be excited about.

With the success of Disneyland, the question was raised whether Disney would open a second theme park. The company supported the idea, especially when Disneyland’s major geographical issue was taken into account. It was easily accessible to those on the west coast of the United States, but in this early period in the development of the “family vacation”, an expensive option for those on the east coast. Perhaps a new park on the opposite end of the continent might work in their favour.

Walt wasn’t interested in repeating himself. He had other ideas in mind, something even more radical. He had revolutionised how people would be entertained. He now wanted to revolutionise how people lived.

In the late-1950s, a number of Los Angeles’ cultural institutions were facing financial crisis. Both the Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music were on the edge of bankruptcy, and Chouinard’s founder, Nelbert Chouinard, was now too frail to fight for the school. She turned to Walt Disney for assistance, the Chouinard Institute having worked closely with Walt Disney Productions since the 1930s. Along with Lulu May Von Hagen, the chair of the Los Angeles Conservatory, Walt proposed merging the two institutions into a single entity, a major institute for the arts.

Original designs for the CalArts campus © Disney

The new facility, dubbed the California Institute of the Arts, was formed in 1961, with Walt spearheading the merger and development. His vision for the school was to build an artistic community where artists of all different fields could study, work and collaborate. While music and art were the first areas to be covered, the plan was to eventually build them with studies in dance, performance and other areas of the arts.

Walt’s dreams even went a few steps beyond. The arts had never been a financially viable pursuit, putting enormous strain on the artists themselves to pay for food and accommodation. He envisioned CalArts becoming a kind of city of the arts, where students and staff would not only study and work but live as an artistic community.

At the premiere of Mary Poppins in 1964, Walt used the event to further publicise CalArts. Before the film, he and Lulu Van Hagen introduced a short film on the institute, its history and its plans called The CalArts Story, narrated by Sebastian Cabot.

The new CalArts campus would not break ground until 1969, three years after Walt’s death, but the idea of an artists city may have been the first stirrings of an even more ambitious idea, where his concerns around urban planning would collide with his fascination with future technology and the all-consuming perfectionism of Disneyland.

With many cities in the United States growing beyond their initial scale, a solution to urban planning challenges was in dire need. More people meant a greater need for public transportation, waste management and municipal resources. For the more conservative-minded (and predominantly white) American citizens, there was also concerns around the presence of non-white communities moving into the affluent suburbs, destabalising a deeply-racist urban and cultural divide that white Americans had grown accustomed to.

In the development of Disneyland, the movement of visitors and accessibility to amenities had been a primary concern, with even the rubbish bins designed to Walt’s exacting standards. It makes sense then that he would start to develop these ideas further, applying the same level of scrutiny to the idea of what a full-fledged city might look like in the future.

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