Debuting in 2017, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has quickly become a guest favorite. Included with admission to Epcot, this festival has so much to do and see; it’s very impressive. It is virtually impossible to see it all in one day. I have gone twice so far this year and still not had a chance to see it all. But I have time; it began on January 17 and will wrap up on February 24. I plan to go at least twice more before the festival ends, it’s so wonderful.
The majority of the Festival of the Arts takes place in the World Showcase section of Epcot. One exception is in Future World, where you will find Living Statues. These are amazing, as they completely look like real statues, but if you watch, you will see them move, as they are actually talented live performers who stand completely still—until they don’t! Guests can pose with the statues; it’s an excellent photo op.
Between Future World and World Showcase, be sure to check out the beautiful and very colorful Disney-related chalk work drawn onto the ground. These can change daily, and are done by talented professionals; I always make a point to see them.
When you reach the World Showcase, there is plenty to do. If you plan to attend, be sure to check the Epcot Times Guide and pick up a festival passport when you enter the park. This way, you can be sure you will do all the things that interest you the most. (As a bonus there are stickers in the book you can use to remind yourself of the various places you visited at the Festival). The food booths are open until the park closes, so there is no need to schedule specific times for that aspect. But many of the other events have very specific times, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for those things.
Let’s discuss the food, which can be found at various “Food Studios” (as Disney calls them) around World Showcase. Since this is an Art Festival, the food is beautifully presented. Each dish is a work of art, and all of the food I tried I enjoyed.
The portions are a little bigger than those at Food and Wine, so the cost can be a bit higher, but not markedly so, and the food and presentation are so good it is worth it in this writer’s opinion. TIP: If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, most of the offerings are one snack credit. This is a GREAT way to use your snack credits, as some of the dishes would cost $10!
My personal food favorites include the Lava Cake in France; the Sushi Donut in Japan (it is sushi on a round bed of rice, it is not really a donut except for the shape); the deconstructed BLT at the Deconstructed Dish located on World Showcase Plaza; and the Chicken Roulade at Pop Eats (also located on World Showcase Plaza). But honestly, I don’t think there is one dish I tried that I didn’t like, the chefs who work during this festival are terrific. There are plenty of food studios to choose from, and most all have main dishes, desserts and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. If you plan to attend, I strongly suggest you study the food options ahead of time so you don’t miss any favorites.
Let’s discuss some of the fun (and no cost!) options at the Festival of the Arts. Animation Academy, located at the America Gardens Theater across from the American Pavilion, is a lot of fun. Some of you may have experienced this in the past at the former Animation Building at Disney Hollywood Studios, or currently at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Conservation Station. Guests get a clipboard, a sheet of paper and a pencil. A Disney artist will guide you, both verbally and visually, in drawing a well-known Disney character. By instructing guests one line at a time, even the least artistic folks (like me!) can end up with a really nice drawing. The experience takes about 15 minutes in total, and your finished drawing will make a great souvenir.
Another super fun opportunity can be found at Expression Section, located on World Showcase Plaza. This is a huge white mural that starts out unpainted.
Guests are given a paintbrush and a small container of paint, which has a number on it. Then you proceed to fill in four boxes of the mural that have the number of paint you have. When you exit, you get a very cute colorful postcard from the Festival. The finished murals look great, so big and so colorful. The mural is not always the same; I have seen a few, including one of Figment and one of the monorails.
There are a few opportunities geared specifically towards kids. Green Landing Family Play Zone can be found in Future World East. Themed from the movie Wall E, it’s fun and a great place for the littlest Mouseketeers to blow off some extra energy. Additionally, near the International Gateway section, there is an area for kids to create their own chalk art. Kids (and many adults) can enjoy Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt by purchasing a map at select merchandise locations and hunting for Figment paintings throughout World Showcase. This has a $6.99 fee, but when you bring the map back, you will get a souvenir (even if you did not complete the entire map).
Fun for kids and the whole family, “Visual Art in Performance” show, which features a visiting visual artist painting Disney characters within minutes on stage. Last, while this is for all ages, kids will especially enjoy a new experience for this year, Chalk Full of Character. These are drawings hidden around the countries in World Showcase, they are beautiful and a lot of fun to hunt for.
For all ages, but possibly a bit geared towards adults is the Disney on Broadway Concert Series. Shows are at 5:30, 6:45 and 8:00 PM, at the America Gardens Theater. Famous singers, many of whom originated the roles on Broadway, (they all have been on the Broadway stage), perform Disney songs for guests. The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Newsies, Aladdin, and Tarzan are just some of the musicals represented. Each show is about 30 minutes long. Unlike the Candlelight Processional, I have never had a problem getting a seat at this series. Disney does offer a dinner package that guarantees seating, but it is not necessary to buy the package to get a good seat. The times’ guide will show you who’s playing the day you are there, but if you want to plan ahead of time, click here for the full schedule: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/epcot/broadway-concert-series/.
As you walk around the World Showcase, you will also see a number of “Artful Photo” opportunities.
These are facades of famous paintings, which you can go behind and YOU will be the subject of the painting. For example, instead of George Washington Crossing the Delaware, you will be in the boat leading the troops. When you get behind the façade, there is a sticker showing you how to pose so you resemble the figure from the actual painting. Often there are Photopass photographers here, but not always. Of course, you can take your own pictures as well. I find this is a lot of fun, especially if you are with friends or family who pose with you.
Naturally, not everything is free. There is plenty of Festival-related merchandise and artwork available for purchase around World Showcase, including items for Annual Passholders only. There are also many kiosks with artwork to enjoy, and if you are so inclined, to purchase. You will find artwork featuring Disney characters, Muppets, Star Wars, Rock and Roll (from the House of Blues kiosk), and more. The temporary location for Mouse Gear (former site of Innoventions East), also has Festival merchandise for sale.
For those who want to learn more about how to draw or paint, there are a number of professionally-led workshops available for $45 dollars per guest. The workshops take place in a building between Canada and the United Kingdom. These should be booked in advance, as most sell out. Options include floral design, mixed media art, and ink and paint. When you are finished, you can take your completed artwork home with you. For more details click here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-international-festival-of-the-arts-workshops/
Well, that about covers it! About the only thing I have to add is, if you are attending, try to go on a weekday. The crowds are noticeably thinner, and wait times for the food lines will be shorter.
If Disney continues to do this festival yearly (and I sure hope they do!), if you have never attended the Festival of the Arts, I strongly recommend that you give it a try someday. It is truly inspirational and fun all at once. My only “complaint” is that I wish it was longer!