Review: 2020 Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Epcot International Festival of the Arts is my favorite festival of the year, even though it has only been running four years now. It’s at Walt Disney World Resort and offers visual, culinary and performing arts for 39 days through Feb. 24, 2020. The event features visiting artists, an array of foodie delights and opportunities for guests to embrace their own inner artists.
Here are some of the offerings:
- Figment’s Brush with the Masters, a scavenger hunt where the friendly dragon has painted himself into famous pieces of art in each World Showcase pavilion.
- The Green Landing Family Play Zone themed to include Wall-E and Eve.
- Photo-ops located throughout Epcot, such as the Peter Pan Storybook installation by the United Kingdom pavilion where guests can flap their fins in Mermaid Lagoon or get their pirate on at Skull Rock.
- A Paint-by-Number wall mural in Future World.
- Kidcot Fun Stops reimagined just for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts.
- The Epcot Living Statues
- Art Defying Gravity shows
Let me “paint a picture” of the great stuff I saw that I think you should check out:
Much of what makes the Festival so enjoyable are that there are hands-on and interactive activities. For instance, even though the former Future World is so boarded up, they’ve utilized the construction walls to do massive paint-by-numbers:
Along the path are wonderful chalk drawings.
They’re so good you’ll be inspired to try it out yourself. Good news! There are places for you to try your hand at it as well. Whether you do it or you snap pictures of artists at work, you’ll find it Instagrammable.
Also Instagrammable are Artful Photo Ops. Most years they’ve had more classic titles. This year they added a few Disney choices, and they’re very cool.
I think Disney does a terrible job with the Easter egg hunt compared to what you find at Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. But this little Figment’s Brush with the Masters invites you to find Disney characters around World Showcase. It’s really cute.
Here are just a few of the characters. Recognize this little guy from Tangled?
This clever image of Mushu and Cricket is perfect for China.
I can never get enough Robin Hood. Oodelally, Oodelally, golly what a day!
I really haven’t paid too much attention to the booths in the past. Yes…I’ve always stopped a moment to admire the art, but I’ve never really explored it. This year, I was drawn much more to the diversity and fun that was available through the offerings found around Epcot. Here are some highlights:
How cool are Beauty and the Beast paintings. How much cooler to have the artist be Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle? Now what would be really cool is to have artists Mark Henn or James Baxter lay down some music tracks!
This caught my attention, a ticket book on a wood plaque incorporating your name. Very clever, very cool. Very expensive. Still, I’m very tempted.
Also expensive–but awfully impressive are these great paintings made greater with the frames they are in. Check out this steam-punk style Mickey:
Here’s one with the ever insane Mr. Toad:
I had a spinner art device growing up, so we did this. What I didn’t have was a bicycle to do it on. The Festival of Arts allows you that opportunity.
Arribas Brothers are offering an interactive glass art experience. You select a basic piece of glass, and then choose from small glass pieces to create a design. Once chosen, they are all melted down into the base piece of glass. It’s very hands-on.
No Epcot is complete without its festival food offerings. Some of my favorites are in this Festival, to include my favorite of all time:
I took the shot for this from the app, partly because I’m on something of a diet, and I’m putting off my favorite dessert until the end of the festival. But I’m also placing it here because one of the great things is that that the app showcases all of the foods for the Festival on it. So check it out!
You really get unique foods at this Festival. Unfortunately, it can be hit and miss. Near Germany was Cuisine Classique, which offered a seared corvina fish with braised ratatouille and a lemon-thyme buerre blanc sauce. It was a solidly prepared dish.
At L’ Art de la Cuisine Francaise I tried the Creme de Brie en Petit Pain. Basically it’s a warm creamy brie in a house-made bread bowl. I also had the Moelleux Aux Chcolats Valrhona, which is a molten chocolate cake with liquid chocolate center. I’m a big fan of a similar dish given in the Ireland kiosk during Food & Wine. But both of these dishes were lukewarm–practically cold when I got it. It became disappointing.
The Painted Panda in China offered a Char Siu Pork Bun. I really looked forward to it, since I had a recent dining experience in China at Nine Dragons. But this wasn’t easy to eat, and really wasn’t that tasty.
More interesting was this candy art done by Wenbo Zhang. He creates sugar paintings, a traditional Chinese candy art made by using sugar syrup to pain intricate pictures of animals. Not easy to carry around, but maybe a great choice as you complete your day.
One item I didn’t get a picture of was the Chebbakia in Morocco. this is hand-twisted strips of fried dough with honey, rosewater, and sesame seeds on top. I paid for one to try with my daughter only to get to the counter and find that they not only didn’t have any prepared, they didn’t have any in stock. Five people working inside the booth, and no one thought they should go and get some more Chebbakia. So then someone left to go get it while I stood around for five very awkard minutes waiting for it. By the time I finally got it, I was so befuddled by the poor service I hurried on. Only after I ate the dish–which was fairly decent–did I realize I didn’t get a photo. So no photo.
I’ll end the culinary piece on a positive note. I don’t consider Refreshment Port to offer anything really connected to the Festival. But they do this year, and they’re listed in the Festival Passport as well. I had a chance to do the Lobster Chips with house-made chips, lobster, lobster bisque cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños (I had them remove that) and citrus creme. It was filling even splitting it between the two of us. It also ruined my diet that weekend even splitting it between the two of us.
There were several pieces of entertainment I wanted to take in, but time ran out. The one thing I did do however was return to the popular Disney on Broadway Concert Series at the America Gardens Theatre. There are three daily performances headlined by Broadway stars who reprise favorite songs from past performances in award-winning shows. This year’s talent-rich lineup includes:
- 17, 20, 21 and 24 – Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White (“The Lion King”)
- 18, 19, 22 and 23 – Heidi Blickenstaff (“The Little Mermaid”) and Gavin Lee (“Mary Poppins”)
- 25 – Special performance featuring Simmons, White, Blickenstaff and Lee
- 26, 28, 29; Feb. 1, 2, 5 and 6 – Kara Lindsay (“Newsies”) and Kevin Massey (“Tarzan”)
- 27, 30, 31, Feb. 3, 4, 7 and 8 – Liana Hunt (“Newsies”) and Adam Jacobs (“Aladdin”)
- 9 – Special performance featuring Lindsay, Massey, Hunt and Jacobs
- 10, 12, 13, 18, 19, 22 and 23 – Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins”) and Josh Strickland (“Tarzan”)
- 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20 and 21 – Syndee Winters (“The Lion King”) and Michael James Scott (“Aladdin”)
- 24 – Special performance featuring Brown, Strickland, Winters and Scott
All shows are included with theme park admission. Frankly, seeing a few of these would be worth the price of your annual pass. They are solidly built shows. January 25th was a special performance involving Kissy Simmons, Alton Fitgerald White, Heidi Blickenstaff and Gavin Lee. While I saw Heidi and Gavin two nights before, I didn’t catch this performance, but Disney posted it. Be sure to see Heidi’s performance of Ursula and Kissy’s song from Aida. They are “wow” performances.
Still Time to Enjoy
The festival continues until February 24th, so there’s still a few more weeks to get out and check out everything. Add to it your favorite attractions and the three new films, and you’ve got quite a day laid out for you. Here are links to posts and videos we’ve done on all three films. Check it out!