Epcot's Festival of the Arts ended this past February, after playing weekends during the first two months of 2017 to much acclaim. The new festival has already announced it will return in 2018, which is incredibly excited as I adored the inaugural year. I thought it would be best to put in writing some ideas and discuss what was great about the initial year in the hopes that someone of acclaim reads it and puts these ideas to good use.
- The Festival Center took place in the Odyssey building, which was nice, but it got very cramped, very quickly. This was, in part, due it holding the only room for special workshops, a food booth, merchandise store, and two galleries. It was tight quarters. I suggest moving it to somewhere where the size can still be intimate, but not cramped. Maybe the one side of Innoventions featuring Colortopia, as it would tie into the event itself.
- When considering the galleries, I absolutely loved being able to see Herb Ryman and Mary Blair concept art for Epcot and The Three Caballeros, respectively. As a huge Mary Blair and Saludos Amigos fan, that was huge for me. However, both of those deserved more space. It was cramped and tiny. I completely understand it was an inaugural event and I was over the moon these pieces were featured, but they needed more pomp and circumstance. I'm hoping for more prominent Disney-based galleries in the festival center next year. In the festival guide, they also pointed out other galleries in the park that are there year round in the various pavilions. (Morocco, China, etc.) I'm not sure how feasible it is, but special exhibits in each country just for the festival would be great. I'd be fine with concept art from Disney films from those regions, but I'd also really dig traditional 3D art from each country, i.e. pottery, tapestries, etc.
- The food booths were a total "duh" when the festival was first announced and I did try some great bites. While I did go the first day, those lines took forever. Not because people were in them, but because every plate was a piece of art itself. I counted 9 components for one dish I tried. I understand the need to go aesthetically pleasing and to be plated-to-order, but there's a line they've crossed when I have to wait ten minutes for plating. Again, it might have changed during the duration of the festival, but I'm not sure. Even so, they need to stick to a few things on the plate for the sake of efficiency.
- Chalk art EVERYWHERE, please! Specifically, I want to live out my Mary Poppins dreams with it prominently in the back of the UK pavilion. I'd also accept the bridge from UK to France, in front of the American Adventure pavilion, and where the butterfly garden usually is placed during Flower and Garden.
- The paint-by-numbers mural was a genius idea that had tons of guest interaction. I went to the festival by myself and still felt it necessary to paint my five squares. For some reason, after completed, they were never seen again. I know Imagineers and others involved with the event's creation received framed mementos, which included a small piece of a mural. However, I wish these received more play throughout the festival. They could hang them in the festival center or hang them over the Leave A Legacy statues as the Festival progresses to add another level of color and art. Super fun and super inventive.
- The photo ops were so fun and I wouldn't change a thing other than add more. I loved seeing so many people wait to be the Mona Lisa or Scream. Add some to Future World. Make it a full park festival, not just World Showcase.
- The fountain stage cycled through local school music departments and the Epcot based acapella group, which was delightful. I would love to see some other one-person stages throughout World Showcase performing different instruments. Germany has a new small stage that is the perfect size. Some pavilions already have music performers outside, but France could bring out a singer, Italy could have a band come out onto their circular stage, etc. I want music in the air at all times!
- Now, speaking of music, the Disney on Broadway concerts. I heard nothing but good things from others. I saw Ashley Brown (My Broadway idol, who I've seen in Mary Poppins on Broadway and in the touring company of Sound of Music. Also, her vocals on the cast album for On the Record are what I dream of at night, honestly.) and Josh Strickland, with them receiving standing ovations at both shows I saw immediately after finished their last song. I sat in the rain for Ashley Brown. Twice. In one day. She was THAT spectacular. She belted her face off at Epcot. She snatched all our wigs off. I'm not sure what my suggestion could be other than MORE. Longer sets, more varied music (I'm all for the On Broadway theme, but give me some lesser known shows. More Hunchback, Freaky Friday, On the Record.) Next year's festival will be months before Frozen hits the main stem, so a few preview tracks of the new stuff would be great. These were so successful and I hope to see them flourish even more next go around. Also, I need Heidi Blickenstaff and Sherie Rene Scott next year or I'll revolt.
Festival of the Arts had such an incredibly strong opening year that I completely expect for it to become my favorite Epcot festival after next year's event. Here's to the arts!