This year was the inaugural Festival of the Arts in Epcot, featuring not only your typical painters seen within the many Art of Disney locations, but also the unknown chalk artists, the performers from Disney’s Broadway shows, and food artists (because it’s a festival in Epcot of course). But all joking aside, the fact that Epcot has become synonymous with food and drink throughout the year was at first a disappointment when this festival was announced and noted to include more food and beverages. However, I believe this festival has shown that food doesn’t have to be center stage in order to make Epcot a place where fun and learning can continue to take place. So, here are my thoughts and experiences with the Festival of the Arts.
Even before entering World Showcase, you get some live art in the living statues that hang out around the Fountain of Nations. These are really cool places where different performers come out periodically and guests can take pictures of them or with them. They don't shy away from fun interactions with guests but the attention to detail on their stands is truly above and beyond anything you would see in, say, a city park. I absolutely love these!
Also, if you head to the Odyssey Center, not only can you nab some food in there, but there's also a great exhibit for Mary Blair's concept art for Three Amigos and Saludos Amigos, as well as Herb Ryman's sketches for EPCOT. Truly great little exhibits that I would love if they took over Innoventions type space one day.
The first thing you notice when you enter the World Showcase is the food booths and the lines at them. Yet, not very far off are more booths/tents featuring artwork from Disney artists. The artwork ranges from your typical paintings and prints to things such as fairy bird houses, wind spinners, and even Tom’s shoes with special decorations. Strolling throughout the countries, certain booths feature artists currently working on pieces, who will also personalize and/or sign a piece a guest purchases. This is a great feature not only for the guest who gets a little bit extra from the artist, but also gives the artist a chance to make an impact on their patrons. Also, watching an artist in action is amazing and allows everyone, from the youngest guest to the oldest, to see how the work comes together. As a fan of artists who lacks an ability to paint/draw, watching someone make a canvas come to life with an image is truly awe-inspiring. This is one of my favorite features of the festival- allowing access to the artists and being able to watch their process.
Another great part of the festival, besides watching the artist, is also learning about some of the art being made. During a stroll through Germany, we stopped by an artist who was recreating a portion of an image of a royal woman. The artist, who was replicating a portion of the original work in chalk, explained why she was located in Germany and detailed the history of how this woman in the painting was in the possibilities for a suitor for Napoleon; however, due to politics as they were, this woman eventually married into the German royal family.. It’s those types of stories that I find interesting and enjoy that the artist was able to engage with us and share that little bit of history. And forgive me that I forgot the name of the original work and my retelling of the story was so vague.
I also enjoyed how the festival got the guests involved with making the art. Beyond the seminars that allowed you to learn how to paint and/or draw from a real artist, there was the simple paint by number murals set up along World Showcase and presented by Glidden. I really thought this was an innovative way to get people involved and allow even adults to journey back to their childhood and leave their own mark on the festival.
There’s also music and performances to enjoy while at the festival, including highlights performed by Broadway performers from the multiple Disney Broadway musicals (including Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Newsies, Frozen and Aida). I really enjoyed that these performances were also highlighted as part of the arts, showing that you don’t need to be able to draw a circle to be considered an artist. These performances took place on the outside stage in the American pavilion and allowed guests who were even just walking by to experience the talent from Broadway. I would have enjoyed if some of the stage design could have been brought in, or more of the puppetry from plays such as Lion King to display those artistic talents as well, but it was the first year so we can see what next year brings.
Of course the festival wouldn’t be complete without the food. I loved going to the many booths and seeing what they were interpreting as “new” offerings for this festival. The creativity of the booth names and their offerings showed the outside the box thinking that most artists do. The Pop’tArt booth featured some creative ways to have a toasted pastry and the deconstructed offerings of the E=AT2 booth were ingenious. The best though was the giant chocolate cookie “palette” with the colored frosting. I feel these artful offerings allow even children to get caught up in the theme and bring something a little more than just the feeling of Food & Wine Fest Lite.
Probably the most fun portion of the festival was the interactivity, from the photo spots where you can place yourself in the artwork, to the paint by numbers mural, the festival really brought more to the table with the ability for guests to interact without having to worry about paying a premium. I really encourage people to continue to enjoy the last couple of weeks of this festival and, if you didn’t get to come this year, consider doing this next year. The weather was certainly the coolest it’s been, which makes walking around Epcot enjoyable. I feel this festival should be celebrated as it truly demonstrates the importance of the arts and encouraging the artistic side in everyone.
Did you get to enjoy the festival this year? What did you think or enjoy the most? Didn’t get to go- what would you love to experience if this comes around next year?