Future World was to be a circular area containing six large pavilions, each with a different theme “energy,” “communications,” “the seas” and all of them arranged around a spectacular center, a 165-foot diameter geodesic sphere of shiny aluminum known as Spaceship Earth. Visible from miles away, it was the symbol of the entire EPCOT complex. Wags referred to it as the Golf Ball.
Disney wanted to have each Future World pavilion sponsored by a major industrial firm. AT&T, Kodak, Exxon, Kraft Foods, and General Electric became involved, Exxon, for instance, in the pavilion devoted to energy. In that pavilion, visitors would view a show displayed on huge screens and dioramas while they were transported in moving sleds on a conveyor belt. AT&T was to provide the show that was inside the central geodesic dome, a multifaceted look at the progress of human communications from the caveman era to the present day.
A third pavilion, whose theme was the oceans, was to contain the world’s largest aquarium; its visitors could walk right alongside the aquarium and sometimes through the parts.
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I had the ideal candidate to underwrite that aquarium, United Technologies. Harry Gray was interested, and with his blessing and the permission of the Disney board, I presented the case for this $50 million project to the board of United Technologies. The UT board liked the idea and signed on. Some of their products, including Otis elevators, were to be used in this pavilion and in several others. The elevator in this big-aquarium pavilion was going to shake and shiver, to give visitors the impression that they were descending several hundred feet to the level of the sea bottom, although the elevator would travel only a few feet down.
The aquarium was a marvel. Huge, it was also compartmentalized so that it could be stocked with over 1,500 varieties of fish and marine life. Every space in the pavilion was to face the aquarium, so that, for
Construction of the aquarium was quite complicated. Water is very heavy, and large volumes of it exert substantial pressure, more and more of it as you go down toward the bottom. Because of the immense water pressure, near the bottom portion of the aquarium the viewing glass had to be nine inches thick, although the glass in each window was to become thinner as it went upward, to the point where at the top it would only be one inch thick. The thickest glass had to be imported from Japan, the only place of manufacture. It was a manufacturing challenge to maintain strength and transparency without distortion through this thickness of glass.
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