World's fairs had long been a site for advanced childhood technology, as children's welfare was seen as integral to mankind's future. Froebel blocks and the kindergarten debuted, for many Americans, at the 1876 fair in Philadelphia, while the Children's Building at the 1893 Chicago fair had wood carving workshops, an international display of toys, and an indoor gymnasium with rings, bars, and trapezes. The 1933 Chicago World's Fair included a neighborhood of Houses of Tomorrow, with glass walls and individual airplanes hangars, and the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 showed the domestic tomorrow of dance-style houses, including one by Kem Weber (who worked for Disney) with the latest in linoleum laminates, and an Isamu Noguchi sculpture in the living room. Fairs criticized the status quo by showing us how good we could have it, and Disneyland was no different.
After opening Disneyland, Disney carried around books on city planning, talking about traffic noise and neon signs, and studied planner Victor Gruen's The Heart of Our Cities (1964). Gruen was the father of American shopping mall, a European emigre who attempted, with some success, to make modernist Main Streets in places, like Edina, Minnesota, and Southfield, Michigan, that had none.
Buoyed by the success of Disneyland, and perhaps by Rouse's words, Disney would go on to try to imagineer a real city: EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, code-named "Project X". It was to be build near Orlando, neighbor to a new, larger theme park, and home to twenty thousand people, with multimodal public transportation, a fifty-acre domed civic center with retail and entertainment streets copied from cities around the world, and easy commutes from suburban subdivisions organized much like Radburn. Cars on the outside, houses, kids, and lawns on the inside. As Marling describes the plans: "Factoris looked properly industrial, with their towers and stacks aglow in the darkness. But they were clean and eerily deserted, as if to suggest their unobtrusive silence. Houses were showpieces, grouped in amiable kaffeeklatsches around fortuitous lakes. Sealed away in its fifty-acre dome, the inner city had been sanitized for the protection of a generation of skittish suburbanites who never went downtown anymore." The dome was obviously inspired by Buckminster Fuller's sphere at Expo 67 in Montreal, itself a fragment of Fuller's earlier proposal to erect a great claimant-controlled dome over Manhattan. The oval plan, with its wheel-shaped transportation corridors, recalled the turn-of-the-century garden cities of planner Ebenezer Howard, with a commercial center, a greenbelt, and pie wedges of residential development nested within each other in concentric circles.