In the final years of his life, Walt Disney turned his attention towards a project far more ambitious than his films or his theme parks. Before him he saw an American landscape dotted with cities that were dirty, crime-ridden, and strangled by urban sprawl – very different from the utopian vision of urban life the postwar era had promised.
Disney envisioned an American city oriented around the clean orderliness of his Disneyland theme park in Southern California – a perfectly calibrated urban form which could be endlessly repeated far into an uncertain future.
Delving into classic urbanist texts – including Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities of To-morrow – Disney interpreted many of the sociological ills of the modern world as simply products of poor urban design. The choked mess of the modern city form was a failure of first principles. The looming problems of sprawl were a disease left unchecked for too long. Slums existed because they were permitted to exist by prevailing design practices.
As a panacea, Disney came up with EPCOT: the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It would take the form of an entirely planned community, named Progress City, located between Orlando and Kissimmee in Florida, on a plot of land encompassing 27,400 acres.

Through a series of front organisations and dummy companies, Disney purchased large tracts of land in Central Florida. He petitioned the Florida state legislature to give him full municipal rights to the land – essentially investing the corporation with the powers of local government. The powers required to operate a city.