Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts debuted in 2017, and has grown into one of the park’s must-do experiences, not only for the opportunity to view interesting and creative works of art, but also to bring out your inner artist. Whether you become part of a famous work of art or you pick up a paint brush and learn the skills of a Disney Ink and Paint artist (we recommend doing both!), the Festival is the place to tap into your best creative self.
We had the chance to speak with the team that brings Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts together, sample some of the delicious food and beverage offerings, and turn our hands (and feet!) to a few Artful Exclusives. And, just like festival-goers, we were treated to the astonishing vocal skills of the performers from Disney on Broadway. Let’s hear from each of them in turn.
Culinary Arts: What could possibly pair better with great art than beautiful food and beverage selections? The answer is: nothing pairs better, and this year’s offerings are truly exquisite. We sampled several during our preview, and can highly recommend the Deconstructed Reuben, Seared Corvina, the fun Popcorn Pairing Flight (three beer samples paired with flavoured popcorn) and our must-have dessert, the absolutely scrummy Vanilla, Rose Water and Pistachio Panna Cotta, shaped like a delicate, pink rosebud.
Project Manager, Chelsea Florig, told us more: “We work with our culinary team and talk about what flavour profiles we want to have in what food studio, and we also want to make sure it’s telling the story of the Festival of the Arts. With one of the festival’s wines, The Meeker Vineyards Winemakers’ Handprint Merlot, the winemakers dip their hands in paint and then put them on the bottle. It’s really fun, really artistic, and we thought that was a great tie-in to the festival.”
Artful Exclusives: This is where the artist in you really shines! Children can create their own masterpiece in the Kid’s Chalk Art section; everyone can enjoy the stunning Chalk Art Galleries and the interactive, Animation Academy drawing class.
Chelsea Florig explained: “When we started Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts four years ago we knew festivals resonated with our guests, and as you’re walking around you’ll notice all the tents, the different vendors and the visiting artists. In addition to looking at paintings, we wanted to pull guests in and make it interactive and family oriented. We started with Chalk Art, and it was a small space. Now we have a whole gallery, we have a section where guests can make their own chalk art, we have the Mural Wall paint-by-numbers, and we’re really able to give guests an immersive experience. As we grow, we’re looking at what guests say they want to do. It’s been great for the first four years, and we want to make it even better as we continue.”
Artistic Finds: More than 30 Festival Masters participate in the festival, showcasing their works. Watch for them as they create new composition, and treat yourself to an objet d’art to take home with you. If the artist is on hand, ask to have a photo taken with your newly purchased piece, for a special remembrance of the day.
Disney on Broadway Concert Series: Among the undisputed festival highlights are the Disney on Broadway concerts, included in your park admission. They represent genuine Broadway quality, because they are performed by the stars of Disney’s Broadway productions. Show times are 5.30pm, 6.45pm and 8pm, and we highly recommend visiting several times during your holiday. Two actors take to the stage each evening, on a rotating basis, and you’ll want to take in a performance as often as possible.
Disney on Broadway’s The Lion King stars, Kissy Simmons (Nala) and Alton Fitzgerald White (Mufasa) shared their thoughts about performing at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts.
Kissy: “What’s special about it is, we get to come here and perform for all of you! The people are amazing. They come year after year after year. That’s really awesome!”
Alton: “We get to do this incredible Disney material out of context of the shows, and to bring our own personalities to the shows, and tell these beautiful story-telling songs our way. In the show we stick to the character, but we get to break that “fourth wall,” and we both love that first performance of the day. It’s still light out, and we can see the audience’s faces, we can see them smiling and singing along. We don’t get that when we’re doing a show. To have it received so well is really a blessing. We feed off the energy of the audience, so every performance is different.”
Workshops: Really want to delve deep? For an additional cost, guests can stop in at Guest Services and register to participate in an interactive workshop hosted by an expert. See how steady your hand is as you learn the techniques of Disney’s Ink & Paint animators. Try 3D Paper Crafting, Flip Book Fundamentals, Doodling and more.
Walt Disney World Ambassador, Marilyn West, shared more: “At our Ink & Paint workshop, you can learn from our incredibly talented Ink & Paint artists. You’ll sit down and bring to life one of our 2-D cels that was used in so many of our animated classics.”
Susan can attest to the fact this is a fantastic experience, and one that will give you a deep appreciation for how technical and intricate this work really is.
But wait…there’s more! Children (or children at heart) can join the fun by purchasing a Disney Figment’s Brush with the Masters map ($7.99) and discover artworks in each of the 11 World Showcase pavilions. The map comes with stickers that match the art “hidden” in each pavilion, and once you’ve placed the correct sticker on the correct pavilion you can pop by Disney Traders or World Traveler at International Gateway for a special surprise!
Don’t forget to pick up your free Festival Passport, complete with stickers representing each destination. It’s an informative guide for all the food and events, and it also makes a lovely keepsake at the end of your visit. And, of course, you should watch for event-specific merchandise, much of it featuring that beloved purple dragon, Figment.
Take artistic expression to the next level with the fun Spin Art, where guests board a bicycle and use “leg power” to spin the drum holding their canvas, while an assistant applies the four colours chosen by the guest, with dramatic results! Simon can attest to the fact that a little legwork results in a spectacular design.
New for 2020 is the Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine, where guests sample 5 select menu items, get a stamp on the artist’s palette in their Festival Passport, then redeem it for an exclusive, complimentary treat.
As part of the free Artful Exclusives, every guest can add their own touch to the Expression Section, A Paint-By-Number Mural, located in Future World. Pick up a little paint pot (your choice of colour) and a paint brush and help fill in the numbered squares on this larger-than-life mural. This year’s theme is the gorgeous pyramids of the Imagination pavilion in Future World.
Remember those paintings we mentioned, that allow guests to become part of the art? Artful Photo Ops puts you right in the middle of classic works, for the ultimate artistic photograph.
Other exciting entertainment abounds throughout the park, including Epcot Living Statues (fantastic photo ops!), Visual Art in Performance stage shows, the astonishing Art Defying Gravity acrobats, musical performances and, of course, beloved Disney Characters.
Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts runs until 24 February, and is included in your theme park admission. Click here to browse our attraction tickets now.