It’s not far off to say that Epcot has shed its “educational park” persona and is increasingly known as the “festival park,” but when a media invite arrives in our Inbox, we don’t care what the park is called, we’re just glad it’s calling us to give its new offerings a try. We’re even happier when it earns our big thumbs-up, and we can present it to you knowing it will earn your approval, too. If you're interested in seeing more of the event, watch the video at the bottom of this post.
Along with loads of first-time offerings, many of last year’s favourites have returned, and one of the big reasons we enjoyed 2017’s festival was the Artful Photo Ops, where visitors posed inside large sets that mimicked classic works of art, The Scream, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and, of course, the Mona Lisa. This year we hammed it up in a new photo op, The Birth of Venus but to be honest, none were quite as much fun as acting out a scene on a boat with good ole George.
Also new this year were Chalk Art locations—which are strangely addictive, as artists add detail after detail until their chalk drawings turn into sidewalk masterpieces—and the Art Walk galleries and cultural displays around World Showcase. Don’t miss the chance to pick up a one-of-a-kind piece of art to take home. During our preview, the artists included Enemy Ink’s design-your-own Festival tee-shirt and Artistic Marbling’s fabric designs, made as you watch (spot the hidden Mickey!).
Live music, Living Statues, and community bands returned this year, with the addition of performance artists Art Defying Gravity, featuring balancing acts, acrobatics, and astonishing feats of strength.
The hugely popular Disney on Broadway Concert Series returned as well, and media were treated to a special performance by actors Kevin Massey (lead role in Tarzan on Broadway) and Jenn Gambatese (Tarzan’s original Jane Porter on Broadway). Each of the Broadway performers will take to the American Gardens Theater stage for two consecutive weekends during the festival.
Expression Section also returned this year, giving guests the chance to put their artistic skills to work painting a small section of a gigantic wall mural. We tried this early in the festival last year, and couldn’t wait to return to the park to see the finished product (meaning, plan an extra day or evening at Epcot during your stay to see how it’s progressing).
Workshops are given in the Odyssey Festival Showplace, located between Future World and World Showcase, and if you’re an International Food & Wine Festival devotee, you’ll know it as the Craft Beer centre with queues out the door. During Festival of the Arts it offers workshops such as the paid-for Floral Arranging and the Sculpting a Mixed-media Action Figure classes. Odyssey Festival Showplace also features free seminars, including ways to incorporate your park map into art projects; wood carving; the power of storytelling; and a fantastic seminar entitled Trailblazing Ladies of Disney Animation, given by Mindy Johnson, author of the fab Ink & Paint book. You can even join a drawing class led by a Disney artist! Visitors will find something new each week, making a return visit especially appealing.
But it isn’t just the “art” art that makes the festival special; it’s also the artistic way the speciality food items are presented. Thirteen “food studios” serve up dishes you would never expect from a theme park, from the time World Showcase opens at 11am until park closing at 9pm.
We sampled the Cuisine Classique studio’s Seared Corvina with braised Ratatouille and Lemon-Thyme Beurre Blanc, with its light, summery flavours; The Artist’s Table studio’s succulent Roasted Pork Roulade with Butternut Squash Purée, Marble Potatoes and Baby Carrots with a Red Wine Sauce (Susan strongly considered doing the unthinkable, for her: going back for seconds!); Pop Eats! studios’ Sous Vide Poulet Rouge Chicken Roulade with Apples and Sage served with Warm Brie Fondue, Blueberry and Beet Gel and garnished with Apple and Beet Chips, and Smoked Salmon Tartare, Caviar, Crisp Lavash and Traditional Accompaniments from The Masterpiece Kitchen studio.
As if that wasn’t enough, we then dug into the Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts (Whipped Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese with Fresh Herbs; Chicken Salad with Shaved Fennel and Fresh Herbs; and Spicy Tuna with Wasabi and Seaweed Salad), and Gallery Bites: A Trio of Hors d’Oeuvres (Chilled Shrimp with Cucumber Cream Cheese on a Crostini; Traditional Deviled Egg with Candied Bacon; and Crispy Truffled Risotto Ball with Truffle Aioli) from The Painter’s Palette studio. Being the cheeky monkeys we are, we then tucked away a Pop’t Art (get it? Pop Tart?) sugar cookie for later.
Now, we’ve been to these media previews often enough to know we’ll be less whale-like if we share one of each dish, especially when there is dessert on the menu. With our savoury dishes happily consumed, we moved on to Decadent Delights studio’s S’mores Tart: House-smoked Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse, Toasted Marshmallow Meringue, Graham Cracker Dust and Malted Milk Chocolate Sauce, which was almost (almost!) too pretty to eat.
We finished with a surprise hit from The Deconstructed Dish studio, and while there is a fair argument that “deconstructed” is simply a fancy way to say “messy”—and often it is!—we’re not going there with the offerings at the food and beverage stations. The Deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake we sampled was beautifully arranged, with little sugar-cookie triangles, slices of fresh strawberries, and a soft, pillow-y cheesecake quenelle with some pretty decorative touches.
What else is new this year? Possibly the biggest change is how often guests can attend the festival. Last year it was only offered on weekends. This year it runs every day, from January 12-February 19. If that doesn’t tally with your holiday plans in 2018, we’re going out on a limb and wondering very strongly if it might have an extra week or two added on next year. After all, there’s a whole 9 days before Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival starts (28 Feb), and, with the way things are going, the International Food & Wine Festival will probably only run through mid-December.
Although the weather isn’t as hot in January and February (a plus or a minus, depending on your tolerance), the crowds in the parks are as low as they get, and with the added bonus of this fabulous festival, mid-winter is a great time to visit Walt Disney World!
Watch the video:
Experience this or many other festivals at Epcot this year when you buy your Walt Disney World tickets. Click here to buy tickets.
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