The first annual Epcot International Festival of the Arts is running now, every Friday to Monday through February 20, 2017. We checked out the festival this past weekend to see all the new food, art and fun! While some of the food was more pretty than tasty, I’d say the new fest was a complete success, and I hope to see it return next year for sure.
We spent the day tasting a selection from (nearly) every food studio, catching some of the fun entertainment options, and checking out the featured art galleries. I definitely enjoyed seeing the incredible and iconic EPCOT Center concept art by Herb Ryman most of all. We even took home a piece of art from the Disney Fine Art collection and were lucky enough to meet the artist, James C. Mulligan. He was awesome and offered to autograph our print and even personalized it with our names and a sketch!
For kids (and kids at heart like ourselves) is the fun scavenger hunt called “Figment’s Brush with the Masters.” This little adventure had us looking through every inch of World Showcase to find a painting of Figment from each land. I love Figment, and some of his appearances are adorable in the paintings, but the best part of this scavenger hunt is that it got us to see more of World Showcase than we usually do. We explored every shop and exhibit like never before. Plus, we got to pick a fun magnet for our fridge at the end!
See the video and lots of photographs from our adventure through the festival below, along with our thoughts on the food and more! If you get the chance to check out the festival yourself, I highly suggest it. I hope this is the first of many years of another exceptional Epcot event.
There are six new “food studios” specifically for this event spread throughout World Showcase and the Odyssey Festival Showplace. In addition to those studios several existing food stands within each of the countries also offered items made for the festival. (See full menu here.)
For the most part the foods that we tried were pretty good, although there were some flops for us. Many of the items certainly look much better than they taste, but there were some real gems for sure. There’s a lot of dessert options, and a couple signature items you’ll find in multiple locations that will be a big hit for kids. The Jumbo Chocolate Cookie and White Chocolate Character Puzzles include edible paints and a paintbrush so you can decorate your treats yourselves! That was not only fun, but those simple treats probably tasted the best too.
Our favorite dish was hands down the Braised Beef Short Rib with Parsnip Puree from Cuisine Classique in Germany. The Margherita Flatbread at The painter’s Palate in the Odyssey Festival Showplace was a close second. Among the very many dessert dishes we tried it was nice to eat some more savory dishes. I also really enjoyed the Pan-Seared Scallop from The Artist’s Table in The American Adventure, (if only came with a second scallop!)
The most disappointing thing we had might have been the Sous Vide Venison with Butternut Squash Puree at Pop Eats in Showcase Plaza. Maybe we don’t like the taste of venison and just didn’t know it, but it had a weird taste to us. The Roasted Pork Roulade at The Artist’s Table was a little dry, but had a nice flavor with the red wine sauce, so just a minor complaint.
As for desserts, besides the cookies and puzzles, I really enjoyed the Almond Frangipane Cake from Pop Eats and Jenn liked the Crisp Caramel Chocolate Mousse Bar from Decadent Delights. From what we heard from others, no one seems to like the Deconstructed Purple Sweet Potato Pie, so I’m glad we skipped that one. There’s a lot more foods and drinks we would still like to try, but there’s only so much time in the day, room in our bellies, (and money in our wallets,) so maybe next time!
It wouldn’t be a festival of the arts without the art! As we walked around I was surprised by how much art there actually was throughout the park. In addition to the few featured galleries, there was also chalk art on the sidewalks being created as we walked by, wall murals coming to life over the weekend, and many many festival tents with Disney Fine Art prints for sale as well as local artists’ work for sale. Plus, every character meet & greet had their very own personalized portrait nearby “painted by” a character from their respective film. It all works together to create a fun and “artistic” atmosphere, making the festival stand out from the others at Epcot, as its very own thing.
At the Odyssey Festival Center there were two featured art galleries, one for Herbert Ryman featuring his incredible concept art for early EPCOT Center and one for Mary Blair featuring her work with Mexican culture and The Three Caballeros concept art. Also in the Festival Center are many original pieces of work that the Disney Fine Art prints were based on. You could buy a print for $40 outside, or you could buy the original painting for $4,000 inside. Not that we have that kind of money, but it was neat to actually see the originals in person.
Speaking of Disney Fine Art, we did end up purchasing a piece we really liked from one of the festival tents. The piece is entitled “The Place We Remember” by Disney artist James C. Mulligan. It’s loosely based on Nighthawks by American artist Edward hopper, featuring patrons in a diner at night, only our version features Disney characters. We liked that it looks like a regular piece of art, only Disney-fied. As I mentioned before, while we were in line to purchase our print the artist walked up and asked if we would like it personalized. He wasn’t scheduled to appear for another hour, so we are ever so grateful he showed early and that he offered to not only autograph, but also personalize our picture with our names and a quick sketch on the matte. This made for a wonderful Disney memory.
In addition to all the amazing art, fantastic food, and generally “artsy” vibe to the event, there’s also a multitude of entertainment options, seminars and hands-on workshops, and more fun stuff to do. The living statues in front of the Fountain of Nations were fun to just people watch and see hesitant guests attempt to get their picture taken with them only to inevitably be freaked out when they moved a little bit. Watching everyone pose for the photo backdrops was a lot of fun too. We didn’t have a chance to see a Disney on Broadway concert this time but I’ve heard it’s some of the best shows to ever happen at the America Gardens Theatre. We did happen to catch the tail end of a concert by a local high school band as part of the Community Arts Showcase in Future World.
The greatest and most fun thing for us though was the “Figment’s Brush with the Masters” scavenger hunt. Searching every single World Showcase pavilion inside and out looking for that mischievous little dragon in classic paintings was one heck of a good time! And it offered us the chance to experience all the little details of each nation that we often overlook. After finding all eleven Figment portraits you can redeem your prize: one of four styles of Figment painting magnets. We chose The Scream version, one of our favorites from the hunt.
All in all a pretty successful event. I must admit I was a bit cynical going into this new festival, expecting just the same old thing re-dressed as something new in an attempt to sell more food and beverages to passholders, but this event has its own identity. I was blown away by the sheer amount of art galleries, art for sale, street art, and the general artistic vision for the event. This is a festival that in a very short amount of time has earned its place among the others as a new yearly tradition.
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