By Grant Duvall
Every year Epcot dazzles crowds with their newest festival, the Festival of the Arts. This, much like prior years, is a celebration of Broadway acts, art, and creative food. I have been every year since it started, and this one was just as great as the other ones!
The unusual thing with this particular festival is that Epcot is currently under a giant transformation, causing many walkways to be closed to the public. This year's event seemed a little more crammed in spots, just because there wasn't anywhere to put the booths. Hopefully next year this will be a little easier to navigate.
The art this year was incredible, but then again, it always is. It seemed as though this year there were more artists signing, which was a nice touch, to be able to buy your art and get it signed in person by the artist.
The food this year was everything I was hoping it would be. The sushi donut from last year returned, and it was just as delicious as I had remembered. The deconstructed BLT was excellent, but out of all of the food I tried, the beef wellington in the United States pavilion was the clear winner. Food offerings are reasonably priced, but with such small sample portions, it is shockingly easy to spend $100 very quickly... which I may or may not have done.
The Broadway shows all feature Disney Broadway stars singing their biggest hits. While it wasn't my thing, there were tons of people waiting in line, so it was clearly very popular.
New this year was a show featuring Disney Artist Trevor Carlton, where he live-paints a Disney character while dancing to techno music. This was very entertaining, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. He completed an excellent Stitch painting in only 15 minutes, and you could buy it afterwards (if you had $1700 sitting around).
Of course, I had to check out the latest offerings at Epcot. First was Awesome Planet. This is in the old theater that had the Lion King cartoon in The Land pavilion. This new show features lighting and water effects, as well as some nice wind. The video features Ty Burrell from Modern Family, who is playing his Phil Dunphy character while trying to sell the planet Earth to us. It features a stunning tour of the world and then shows destruction. Of course, it then shows how to fix it. The 15-minute movie is powerful, but it felt like a one-time thing for me.
The next new offering is Canada Far and Wide. This is the replacement for O Canada in the Canada pavilion. This is still a CircleVision show, so if you get dizzy, hold on to the bench. The new one is narrated by an unseen Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy. This show was more informational than O Canada, but it felt less funny even though it was hosted by two great comedians. The views are stunning, and this was a welcome offering.
In the "things no one asked for" category comes the Beauty and the Beast sing-a-long. This rotates with Impressions de France in the France pavilion. This encourages singing along to the songs from Beauty and the Beast (the animated version), which seemed to be popular with guests. The problem that I had with it was that it seemed like a rush job, and it felt a little out of place in the World Showcase.
The twist with that is that LeFou is edited into the scenes to make him look like the hero. This changes a lot about the original movie, making him seem more like Cupid than Gaston's buddy (and ultimately he becomes responsible for Gaston's death thanks to this version). I guess, since this is done by Disney, it's canonical, though it seemed to ruin the original movie. Lots of people liked it though, so maybe this just wasn't for me.
I checked out the Epcot preview center, which was a projection-mapped version of what Epcot is becoming. This was useful to see what the master plan for all of the construction was - and it was fun to watch! This likely won't be there next year.
Last, I had to check out Epcot Forever After. This is the new night show temporarily replacing Illuminations until the new show comes online in a few months. This is a celebration/funeral dirge for old Epcot as they play songs from old Epcot attractions (many of which I had never seen as my first visit wasn't until 2001). It was a nice show, but it really didn't resonate with me just because I had never ridden Horizons and only saw Kitchen Kabaret once.
The best part though were kites that lit up and sparkled under the fireworks. It is a nice temporary show, although the inclusion of "A Whole New World" at the end was a strange choice with all of the classic Epcot tunes.
Overall, this was a great visit and Epcot is very much working on improving for the future. The art festival is always amazing, and I highly suggest all should visit it, if in the area.
And now for some of our favorite art: