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Celebrating 40 Years of EPCOT: Leading the Magic of Possibilities

Kartika Rodriguez

by , Vice President, EPCOT

There are only a few days to go before the 40th anniversary of EPCOT, and I hope you’ve been enjoying all the stories from this blog series counting down to Oct. 1 – I certainly have! Reflecting on our past, looking to the future with hope and excitement, all while focusing on people and the stories we get to tell … it’s a very EPCOT way to commemorate the moment.

I’ve had the honor to lead EPCOT as its vice president since 2021, and one of my first and favorite memories at the park goes back nearly 23 years ago, when I first launched my career at Walt Disney World Resort. I took my parents to EPCOT to give them a little taste of what my new job as an industrial engineer was all about. For my father, it was his first visit to Walt Disney World; I will never forget watching his face as he saw all that EPCOT had to offer. From riding Soarin’ (which remains a favorite among the family!) to walking around World Showcase, my parents kept saying “You work here?” with such amazement and wonder. I had never been so proud in my entire life!

Still to this day, watching our guests’ faces as they enjoy EPCOT continues to be one of my favorite things about leading this park. Especially now as we’ve debuted new experiences like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – I like to see guests coming off the attraction with windswept hair and huge smiles, sometimes still singing and dancing along to the songs that became their save-the-galaxy soundtrack. Or, if I take a trip around the promenade now during the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival presented by CORKCICLE ®, I see families and friends taking time to explore good food and drinks … all while enjoying one another’s company.

Celebrating with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind cast members at the grand opening of the attraction in May 2022
Celebrating with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind cast members at the grand opening of the attraction in May 2022

You’ve heard it many times during this blog series: EPCOT is about the people. And it’s the people who work here that make our park unique: from our heritage cast members who were here in 1982, to brand-new Cast “earning their ears” and everyone in between. Here at EPCOT, I love that you can take a walk around the globe and actually meet people from different cultures and hear their stories, traditions and perspectives. For some of our guests, they may never have the opportunity to travel to all of the countries represented around World Showcase – and our Cultural Representative Program cast members can give them an authentic taste of that globe-trotting experience. EPCOT Cast literally come from all around the world to work and play here together, and I think our guests can feel how special that is.

Speaking of special, being here during our historic transformation is something I will remember for the rest of my career. So much has already debuted for our guests to enjoy today – but there’s also so much excitement on the horizon, like Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana in World Nature, and the final elements of World Celebration opening next year. 

It’s true that here at EPCOT, we believe teamwork and world exploration makes our world a better place – so I’m delighted to share that Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure is coming to EPCOT later this year. This experience will be the perfect way for the young and young-at-heart to play their way around World Showcase – because life is better when we explore the world around us together! I’m excited to share it with you soon. 

One of my favorite EPCOT transformation stories came from when we opened Space 220, a new restaurant in World Discovery that gives diners an out-of-this-world meal. I asked one of our young guests what he thought of his dinner in space and he said “It was amazing, and I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be an astronaut or an engineer!” I was high-fiving him left and right! That’s how World Discovery was designed – to spark a lifetime of curiosity and passion about worlds outside of our world.

Looking forward to the future of EPCOT with leaders from around the park at a cast member event
Looking forward to the future of EPCOT with leaders from around the park at a cast member event

As we enter our 40th year, there’s so much to look forward to and so much to enjoy right now. For all the guests who choose to celebrate with us, including birthdays, birth announcements, anniversaries, engagements and more: thank you for sharing these intimate moments in your life with EPCOT. For the future astronauts, world travelers, chefs, deep-sea divers, artists and storytellers who find the magic of possibility inside our park: you’re always welcome. And to my fellow cast members: it’s my greatest honor to lead and work alongside you as we transform and grow. 

Here’s to another 40 years!

Comments

  • Wow! I’m amazed as well didn’t know Soarin was open 23 years ago! That’s older than Disney California Adventure!!!

  • I had no idea Soarin has been open for 23 years at EPCOT! Such a great ride!

  • Welcome to the blog Ms. Kartika!