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Epcot Arts Festival at Disney World: A Guide

The Epcot International Arts Festival returns to Walt Disney World from January 17th to February 24th, 2020. This guide previews the case looks back at last year’s and provides facts, ideas, food suggestions, and our winter special event’s must-see highlights.

Last year, during the festival, we spent a ton of time at Epcot, taking part in several lectures, eating our way around the 13 stands, and experiencing some of the art on display. We love to try the new food, see artists showcase their research and engage in the event’s immersive offers.

General introduction

The 2020 Epcot International Arts Festival will be the fourth occurrence of this annual event. Epcot’s Arts Festival is this year’s annual #1 event at Epcot. In this article, we’re going to cover some of the reasons we enjoy it, and why we suggest that you try it in January or February 2020!

Until we dive into the highlights of the Festival of the Arts, it is worth noting that Epcot will launch a trio of new films to align with the gathering. In addition to Impressions de France, the latest “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” will start in the French pavilion in January 2020.

In contrast to these new films, the current exciting Epcot Forever nighttime will run until early 2020 before being replaced later in 2020 by Harmonious. Epcot Forever will be an all-new experience with explosions, art, scenery, lasers, and special effect choreographed kites on a ride through Epcot’s history, current, and future.

Epcot Arts Festival

Background

Let’s give a bit of background with that out of the way. The Epcot International Arts Festival is a special event that recognizes the world’s artistic, culinary and performing arts. Food Studios and a variety of entertainment options will be included in the case.

The first thing you need to know is that at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts there’s a variety to see and do, but the vast majority of the programming isn’t going on all the time. In reality, quite the contrary.

While there is almost always something going on the stage behind the Fountain of Nations between the opening of the park and 5 p.m., many of the live performers are just a couple hours a day, and some of their sets are quite brief.

Because of this, it is essential that you consult a time guide or entertainment schedule for the day of your visit, and plan for the most “rare” entertainment. Alternatively, if you have an excess of time, you may want to take a slow approach, just wander around the World Showcase and stumble over art as you walk. We quite like the “discovery” feeling.

Epcot Arts Festival at Disney World

Attractions

The Food Studios, shows, and interactive art experiences can be slotted at any time, so work them into your routine when you have downtime, but prepare around the intermittent live entertainment and the Disney productions on Broadway.

Food Studios

How Much Time To Spend At The Festival?

Our first suggestion would be to invest two days at Epcot to experience the Arts Festival: all days of the week. During the Arts Festival, Epcot’s weekends are busy, primarily due to strong word of mouth about the event among local people who work during the week. Weekdays are much less busy, as with every other Epcot festival.

We used to suggest a weekend with an additional weekend day, but that’s not the case anymore. This is due to the expansion of the Disney on the Broadway Concert Series during the Epcot Festival of the Arts for seven days a week.

In a single day, you won’t be able to see all of the Epcot and Arts Festival. Heck, for each of the last three years, we’ve spent 3days in Epcot focusing solely on the Festival of the Arts, and we still can’t see it all during that period. You’ll scratch the surface barely if you’re trying to do rides and festival activities.

Food Studios

Turning to the Food Studios. This will be the focus of the festival for many visitors, providing retail food offerings in locations similar to those found at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Generally speaking, we thought the food was exceptionally well presented and tasted very good at last year’s event.

At the Epcot International Arts Festival, we sampled most of the menus and were surprised that most portions were relatively heartfelt and the value for money was fairly solid. Better than the Food & Wine Festival in both cases, but not as valuable as a regular counter service meal.

The food is the event’s least significant element. Although the food is very fine and some servings are large, it is also on the expensive side, more than the Food & Wine Festival. This makes it difficult to sell unless you pay out of the wallet – particularly since this activity is not about food.

By contrast, if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use your snack credits to clean up at the Festival of the Arts. These snacks are instantly some of the best uses of Disney Dining Plan credits across Walt Disney World, with several items at around $10 each.

At the end of the day, you can miss the food and still have a great time in the case. This is a feeling you may not read elsewhere, but bear in mind that there is a lot of interest in food around Epcot’s festivals; this is also how Disney monetizes the events. So it makes sense to pump up the food for Disney and other sites, of course.

Apart from snacking, the Epcot International Arts Festival offers the ability of Disney Legends to peruse artwork to guests of Walt Disney World.

Epcot Arts Festival Food Studio

Visual Arts

Mary Blair and Herb Ryman were featured artists for the first year, with the shows in the Odyssey. Last year, there was poster art from the parks on the show. Both were good, but it was better for the first year.

Watching them and others perform is interesting; we were so intrigued last year by one of the artists (whose name eludes me) that we saw him total a complete Mickey Mouse drawing, which he did in ‘ unison ‘ with music.

Throughout the World Showcase, other photographers will be drawing nature scenes. Besides, chalk artists will recreate classic works on park pathways, Epcot Moving Statues will conduct traveling music, and the movement of a paintbrush can generate live art through guest performance artists.

Another of our favorite aspects of the Arts Festival is immersive guest music. We could aid in creating many various murals, including the one shown below.

At the time it’s also a really fun experience, and rewarding when you see the finished product a couple of days later, realizing that I helped make it!

It’s not just fun to watch and do, but it enhances the ‘ lived in ‘ energy of the World Showcase. The artistry is one element of travel that we often think is overlooked.

Whether it’s Seattle’s street performers, Paris ‘ singers, or Kyoto’s painters, it’s always enjoyable to stop for a moment and pause and admire talented people who contribute to these scenes ‘ elegance. Walt Disney World is doing a great job of integrating these entertainers and performers into the resort. Some of Disney’s performers on Broadway’s award-winning shows will be singing songs from different shows in concert, live on stage, over the festival’s six weeks.

There are also corresponding dining packages with these displays, that visitors may book for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The dinner plan includes a full buffet and three-course meal at 8:00 p.m. with priority seats. Concert at Epcot restaurants participated.

Epcot Arts Festival Visual Arts

Broadway Shows

Last year, we’ve never reserved a Disney dining package on Broadway nor visited at least half a dozen occasions. The seating area was about half-full on several occasions, and this includes this year when crowds “off-season” was much larger than normal. We would not recommend buying a dining kit if you frequent a busier Saturday or you want the best seats.

The Disney performances on Broadway are unlike Candlelight Processional in our opinion. Over years, the latter has developed a follow-up with returning guests and first-time visitors, and also occurs during a busy year.

Conversely, this is still recent, stars artists who don’t have the brand cachet as the narrators of Candlelight and are largely held during the January and February doldrums. We suspect that standby seating will be a concern for most days.

Finally, there’s Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt, which offers guests the chance to sleuth in search of Figment through World Showcase art. Last year we thought this was clever and look forward to seeing how Figment is hidden in this year’s World Showcase art

While there are free seminars and other deals, most of Epcot’s International Arts Festival promotions are included with Epcot’s theme park entry. Disney has released scant details about the complete slate of the 2020 lineup of the festival, so we’re probably glossing over other experiences.

The Epcot International Arts Festival’s original announcement was greeted with groans from several Disney fans. There has been a feeling of dismay about this for some, with comments suggesting Epcot was trying to make the park “festival” all year round.

Although I understand the basis for opposing such attempts, particularly since the expansion of the Epcot Food & Wine and Flower & Garden Festivals seem to be meant purely to sell more snacks and alcohol. The booths on the marketplace at both are incredibly lucrative, offering Disney high margins.

But the Epcot International Arts Festival has proved to be something else. The lowest focus here is food and drinks, and there’s so much “other things” that it’s difficult to see this as a thinly-veiled way to sell high-margin products. The cynicism melts away when you consider how much all the artists and entertainers are likely to cost.

Broadway shows

Final Viewpoints

The Epcot Festival of the Arts, on the other, is a real improvement for Epcot. This cherrypicks the things they enjoy most and strengthens the park in a natural way that feels like it incorporates some of the EPCOT Center’s original spirit. The atmosphere of the event makes walking around Epcot even more enjoyable, and there are strong entertainment components.

With a few years under the belt of the event, we are certain that the foundation of Epcot’s International Arts Festival has been found. Although we hope it keeps evolving and growing every year, the first three years are mostly the same. The big difference for 2020, however, is that Epcot is going to be in the midst of a massive Future World construction project. This could lead to fewer artists and entertainment acts in the area, or simply to relocate them to the World Showcase.

Our goals for 2020, however, remain high. For the last two years, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has been our dream festival, and we are now very secure in announcing it at Epcot as the greatest seasonal event of the year.

That may be hard to believe given the barrage of coverage Food & Wine receives and given that this is the shortest and most recent event, but if we could only choose one to attend, it would be. Following last year’s surprising surge in attendance, we will highly recommend this experience–and this year’s timing–to anyone contemplating visiting Walt Disney World in 2020.

 

References:

Walt Disney World for Lovers, Rick Perlmutter, Gayle Perlmutter, Prima Pub., 1996

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016, Bob Sehlinger

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