Attraction of the week: Disney's Animation Academy
Written by Robert Niles
The Animation Academy at The Magic of Disney Animation pavilion at Disney's Hollywood Studios shows that a theme park doesn't need to spend millions of dollars on advanced technology to create an engaging, interactive family attraction.
If you've overlooked Animation Academy on your recent visits to Walt Disney World, take a few moments to look for it the next time you're in Hollywood Studios. Many Disney fans wrote off the animation pavilion after Disney shut down its Florida animation studio, which occupied the pavilion and provided the main attraction for a guest tour through the facility. Today, you'll find in the pavilion a short show describing the animation process, a collection of exhibits, and a character meet n' greet.
Plus the Animation Academy, which, to me, provides the highlight of the entire pavilion.
What is the Animation Academy? Basically, it's a drawing class. About 40 visitors can attend each class, where a Disney instructor sits at the front of the room, talking them through the steps of drawing a popular Disney character.
One of the animation instructors, showing us how to draw Goofy, at the Animation Academy.
The instructor polls the audience at the start of each 20-minute class, asking how many people have drawn various characters in previous classes. From those results, the instructor picks two of the characters that people in the class have drawn least often before. From those two, the class votes on which one they should tackle in this class.
TPI Kid Brian, watching the instructor's work at the Animation Academy.
Each visitor works at his or her backlit "desk," using a pencil to follow the steps that the instructor illustrates on the screen at the front of the room. You've got no eraser, so you're encouraged to work fast and light, using free-flowing hand movement to create a "natural" shape for each step of the process.
Following the steps to draw Goofy.
The Animation Academy reminded me a bit of the Fun Town Fire Academy at Legoland, in that it's an interactive attraction that a family can experience together. You're not sitting passively, just watching some show. You're working on something, creating a free souvenir that you can keep as a reminder of your time together.
My finished product!
With a hourly capacity of only a little more than 100 people, Animation Academy's out-of-the-way location and low profile help keep the wait time reasonable. I've never had to wait longer than for the next show to begin, even on days when Toy Story Midway Mania posts three-hour-plus stand-by waits. But do plan to queue up 10-15 minutes before show time to ensure that your family can get seats together.
Four Goofys, drawn by members of the Niles family at the Animation Academy.
And don't worry about keeping your picture in pristine condition during the rest of your day at the parks. The merchandise crew at the pavilion's gift shop will provide rubber bands to hold your rolled-up drawings after the show, as well as a shopping bag to carry them in after you leave.
Have you ever found your inner artist at the Animation Academy? Please share your story in the comments.
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