If the Epcot International Festival of the Arts were a sports team this year, its uniforms would be mostly purple and the nickname would be the dragons. That would be fitting because Figment, the beloved unofficial mascot of the park, is front and center at the event, which runs daily through Feb. 20.
A year ago, the arts festival was the epicenter of Figment popcorn bucket mania, with some Disney World visitors lining up there for seven or eight hours to purchase the dragon-shaped vessels.
“It definitely showed that people love our Figment,” said Dave Kesting, Epcot general manager for food and beverage and festivals.
So Figment pops up at the fest in some new places and in some expected ways, too (cough*spiritjersey*cough). Here’s a quick arts festival debriefing, including non-dragon endeavors.
Figment’s Imagination Station is in the Odyssey building and is part food stop, part souvenir shop, part festival center, part-time machine. The décor includes elements from the original 1982 Imagination attraction featuring the dragon, including wall coverings, rainbow motif and the pin tables that were on the third floor.
“It brings back so many memories,” Kesting said.
A new end-of-night Beacons of Light treatment has been added to Spaceship Earth for the festival. It will run in addition to last year’s “Rainbow Connection” rendition.
“People who love Figment will love that Beacons,” Kesting said. “It’s both familiar and original. It is spectacular.”
There are 50 new menu items included on this year’s menu, and two fresh locations. Folks snacking at Imagination Station can opt for fruit pizza (watermelon, compressed cantaloupe, berries, berry balsamic) or a grape smoothie featuring freeze-dried Skittles.
“They’re kind of puffed. They’re super crunchy. They taste exactly like the Skittles that you would expect,” said Kevin Downing, chef for Epcot festivals. “The texture is fun and unique. It was something I had never seen before, so we wanted to utilize them in some creative ways.” They also appear atop the festival’s rainbow sponge cake.
Another new food studio is called Moderne and is located near Test Track. On its menu: Compressed watermelon tataki and angry crab. Those items are inspired by avant-garde art, Downing said.
“We really wanted to create some dishes that were very uniquely presented. And then also focus on some of those modern cooking techniques,” he said. “You’ll see items with gels and foams and compression.”
For instance, the soft-shell crab item includes coconut-lime foam, mango-crush pearls and mango-sriracha fluid gel.
“All the flavors in that location are very light even though the presentations are very elaborate,” Downing said.
In the souvenir section, Figment is in the usual places, including a set of Disney pins, a tumbler and on the front and back of a spirit jersey, armed with a rainbow-spreading paintbrush and palette. It has “Create your own magic” across the shoulders.
One item with a twist is the Figment mug.
“On the back, the really cool thing is there’s a picture frame here, but inside is chalk art-able, so so you can use a chalk marker and draw something on it,” said Becky Bystrak, a guest experience manager at Epcot.
Also new: a Munchling plush designed to resemble a fruity fig bar. Fig as in Fig Newton or Figment, of course.
“He actually smells like fruit,” Bystrak said. “This is the first time they’ve made one exclusively for a festival.”
Yes, yes, there are arts in the arts festival, with many artisan booths scattered across Epcot, even near the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Reboot ride. Expect Disney theming but not exclusively so. The walk-in masterpiece/photo opportunities and chalk artists also are back.
The Disney on Broadway concert series, presented three times nightly, includes three new-to-event performers. Coming up are Steven Taylor, who is currently on Broadway as Mufasa in “The Lion King,” Mandy Gonzalez (“Aida”) and Patti Murren, who originated the role of Anna in “Frozen.”
The festival stage near the World Showcase Lagoon will have a number of acts, including some acrobats and musicians on harp, guitar and more.
“We have a didgeridoo player that plays a guitar and didgeridoo and all kinds of really fun instruments,” said Juan Cantu, show director.
It all comes back to popcorn. And Figment. Last year’s in-demand containers are back, but folks won’t need to queue up. They’ll be available via mobile order using the My Disney Experience app, where there will be instructions for pickup at the park. Buyers don’t have to be at Epcot to place an order, but there’s a limit of two orders per account per day. The price is $25.
There is candy-coated popcorn inside the dragon-shaped bucket.
One difference from last year: The container has a new strap noting the 40th anniversary of Epcot.
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