Actually, so early that the park was still just barely on the drawing boards. Don’t miss the Progress City, USA post on the origins of EPCOT.
EPCOT Center’s path from concept to execution was, in so many ways, far more tortured than most Disney fans know. Far from a merely difficult transition from Walt’s concept for a futuristic city to a permanent World’s Fair (or, as modern revisionists would have it, a straight shot from Walt’s mind to the park that opened in 1982), EPCOT’s development occupied the full span of the 1970s and in that time took a number of different forms. EPCOT, in one form or another, was announced on several different occasions – often with great fanfare. But as disjointed as this development process might seem, in retrospect it follows a clear evolution, with concepts changing and merging but core themes remaining throughout.
Make sure to read the rest. Michael assembles some early concept art and models that I’ve never seen before. And he takes on the famous myth of Marty Sklar and John Hench pushing together the two separate models of the World Showcase and Future World to make one park. Really, not to be missed.