GO! to the Epcot International Festival of the Arts

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 23, 2018 Issue #957 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Here we are, a few weeks into the second Epcot International Festival of the Arts, and I have been trying to think of a pithy way to sum up how I feel about this five-week long event that brings together the culinary, visual and performing arts in such a unique way. I think I finally have it.

GO!

Yes, I love this festival so much in so many ways, I really encourage everyone to plan a trip around it. Why? Well, in a very real sense, it has something for everyone.

Let's start with the food -- of course, where else would I start? There are a few more "food studios" this year (13 by my count, up from last year) scattered around World Showcase that feature 40-plus menu items, not to mention accompanying beverages. And if you love to eat, there are all sorts of foods for you to try, from the savory deconstructed Reuben (a heap of shredded corned beef on a bed of red cabbage with pickles on the side and a circular rye cracker as a garnish) to the whimsical multi-colored, layered Almond Frangipane Cake and the Pop't Art, a Pop-Tart shaped sugar cookie with an abstract frosting design. The festival also indulges those of us who not only love to eat food, but love to prepare food and, even more, watch other people prepare food, too. At each studio around World Showcase you can study the young chefs as they carefully compose the plates. Dishes like the Charcuterie Palette at the Masterpiece Kitchen and the House-made Pork Rilettes in L'Art de la Cuisine Francaise have a number of components that take several minutes to plate, but once they are arranged "just so" they are a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. But a word to the wise: be leery of the Deconstructed Breakfast beverage -- a Spiced Apple Chai Tea shake with cream bourbon, candied bacon and a waffle cookie. I don't think all the bourbon in the world could convince me to try that one again! But you might like it -- let us know if you try it and think it's the best thing ever.

But say that food isn't your thing. <gasp!> I suppose it's possible. Maybe you're a performing arts junkie. Say no more. Walk over to the Fountain Stage in Future World and plant yourself there for a while where you'll be treated to a variety of acts, from amateur to professional. If you love music, you may encounter a local choir, high school band or jazz ensemble. You might even luck out and see excellent ENCORE!, the vocal group composed of Disney cast members. Later on the that same stage, you'll find Art Defying Gravity, a troupe of performers who will dazzle you with graceful acrobatic movements, a balancing act, and phenomenal feats of strength.

Living Statues at Epcot

Then there are the Living Statues, each one representing one of Future World's pavilions: Land, Energy, Space, The Seas, Motion and Imagination. These characters hold a steady pose for long periods of time, only to surprise unsuspecting guests when they suddenly spring to life for that great photo op.

You might also see a unique combination of the visual and performing arts if you're lucky enough to catch one of the artists who takes a blank canvas and creates a work of art right before your eyes, set to music. It's truly something to behold. Then you have to stroll around World Showcase and catch some of the live performances there, some with limited-time engagements expressly for the festival. Bodh'aktan, the high-energy kilted Celtic-rock group in the Canada pavilion that almost (I said ALMOST) makes you forget Off Kilter, is performing just until January 28 so you better hurry if you want to see them. Also returning this year is Matboutkha Groove in the Morocco pavilion, although their stay is a bit longer, until July 1. Over in Germany, there's a new group, Groovin' Alps, a German percussion band that's playing Bavarian folk tunes on items found on a dairy farm. They'll be around until March 27, 2018.

If all those performers leave you craving even more, be sure to stop by later in the day on Fridays to Mondays when the America Gardens Theatre hosts the Disney on Broadway series. These thrice-nightly half-hour shows aren't just "Broadway-caliber," they are truly Broadway IN Epcot! The performers come direct from the Great White Way's stages, from Disney-produced shows like "Aladdin," "Newsies," "Tarzan" and "The Lion King." I was fortunate enough to catch two stars from the 2006 Broadway production of "Tarzan" -- Jenn Gambatese and Kevin Massey. In coming weeks, there will be performances from the likes of "The Lion King's" Alton Fitzgerald White and Broadway's original "Mary Poppins," Ashley Brown.

Epcot Festival of the Arts

What about that third piece of the arts puzzle, the visual arts? You can enjoy this aspect in multiple ways at this arts festival. First, stop by the Festival Showplace, located in the old Odyssey over by the Mexico pavilion. There you'll find a great exhibit of attraction posters from around the Disney universe, from Walt Disney World to Disneyland to Tokyo Disneyland and beyond. It was cool to see the sort of art-deco Disneyland Paris poster for Space Mountain ("de la Terre a la Lune") right next to the futuristic ones for Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland's attraction, along with other photos of Walt Disney and other memorabilia.

Once you've absorbed those posters, you can then take in one of the complimentary seminars on art basics or experience a paid workshop ($39 plus tax). Both of these take some planning, however -- you'll need to call and reserve a space at the workshops (407-WDW-TOUR) or stop by the Festival Showplace early in the day to obtain a (free) ticket for one of the seminars. Both are well worth the extra effort, though, if you ask me.

If you want to soak up some more art, take a walk around World Showcase, where numerous Disney artists have their works on display. Don't miss the booth in between Japan and Morocco with artist Greg McCullough, who created this year's Festival of the Arts poster. It's a beauty, with 35 Hidden Mickeys plus a number of recognizable park icons and other little gems, like the watering can and flower that symbolize Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival. McCullough also is debuting a number of works with a special technique that he calls "remnants." He takes chunks of old paint and layers them to create a new painting -- recycling at its finest. McCullough will be on hand every day of the festival. Other artists who will be making appearances during the festival run include such familiar names as Noah, Don "Ducky" Williams, Jasmine Becket-Griffith, Tim Rogerson and Will Gay. Don't miss the chance to have a chat and possibly get something signed by these fine craftspeople.

So by now I'd imagine that looking at all of this art has gotten your creative juices flowing and you're ready to try your hand at crafting a masterpiece. The Epcot Festival of the Arts has you covered! There are a number of hands-on and interactive experiences around Epcot that allow you to indulge the creative genius that lies within you.

If painting is your thing, stop by the Expression Section in Showcase Plaza. You can't miss this mural wall that stretches across that section of the plaza, and you'll see lots of other people standing there getting their paint-by-numbers on. Wait your turn in line and you will get a little paint, a brush and be assigned several squares to fill in on the mural. As the day progresses, you'll be able to see how the mural develops. The first week was an Andy Warhol-esque tribute to Figment -- this week the subject is the monorail.

Epcot Festival of the Arts

Nearby the mural, you'll find the Artistic Marbling booth. Here for either $89 or $59 you can try your hand at creating a unique design with paints that can be transferred to a silk scarf, bandanna or headband. The process is fairly simple, and fun to watch even if you don't want to get your hands dirty.

Another thing I like about this festival is that kids aren't forgotten. They, too, have a chance to express themselves in a variety of ways. Over by the now-closed Energy pavilion you'll find the Kids' Chalk Art area, where children of all ages can help the chalk artists create temporary, but incredible, works of art on the pavement. There's also a Figment-themed scavenger hunt, similar to that offered during the Food and Wine Festival, called "Figment's Brush with the Masters." The hunt map is $8.99 and after you find Figment's hiding spots around Epcot, you can turn it in for a cool collectible pin.

Kids can also flip to the back of the festival passport to participate in the new-this-year Art Walk. This activity leads you to World Showcase's art galleries and other cultural exhibits and borrows from the concept of brass rubbings that is so popular in old churches and other historic spots. Here's how it works: At each location, you'll find a stand with an Art Walk "palette" and a piece of (what I think is) graphite attached by a string. Take the page of the passport that corresponds to your location, position it over the image and run the utensil over the page to create your own "rubbing." I have to say that while I love this idea, and think that most kids will love it too, unfortunately it sounds better than it is in practice. There are limited instructions and in some cases it's not really clear what the finished image should look like. And in all cases, at least in my experience, the finished rubbing looks nothing like what it should. The problem seems to lie with the graphite holder -- the way it's designed you can't exert even pressure to create the rubbing properly. Oh well, it's the first year for this and hopefully we'll see it evolve and improve over time.

Epcot Festival of the Arts

One final way that you can interact with all the art around you is by posing with the "Artful Photo Ops" scattered around the park. These 3D works of art that allow you to step into the picture are a returning activity from last year and were an unexpected hit, so much so that they've added a few more. Honestly, it's so much fun to step into DaVinci's Mona Lisa or Botticelli's Birth of Venus and strike a corny pose for the PhotoPass photographer. I just wish they would have slipped in even more of these photo ops -- I think they bring out the inner ham in all of us.

So I hope you can see why I would enthusiastically urge you to get to the Epcot Festival of the Arts before it ends its run on February 19. It sounds cliche, but I truly believe it has something for everyone. Not only that, it makes everyone realize that even if they aren't an artist, and never will be, they CAN be a patron of the arts -- and that's something that the world needs desperately!

DISCLAIMER: I visited the Epcot Festival of the Arts as a member of the invited media on January 12, but returned later as an independent guest. My opinions are my own.

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RELATED LINKS
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Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Festival of the Arts Photo Gallery

Food Studios with Prices

Festival of the Arts Food Studio Photos

VIDEO: Art Defying Gravity Acrobatics #1

VIDEO: Art Defying Gravity Acrobatics #2

VIDEO: Artistic Marbling


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.