One of my favorite things to do in all of Walt Disney World, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I have done this at least 15 – 20 times over the past few years, but sadly have misplaced some of my drawings. If you are unfamiliar with this hidden gem, let me shed a little light on it for you. Back in the corner of DHS is the Animation Courtyard. It is situated between Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Disney Junior Live on Stage. Inside you will find the Magic of Disney Animation, a short movie hosted by an animator on stage and Mushu from Mulan. After you exit the theater, you are directed down a hallway flanked by artwork from newly released or upcoming Disney/Pixar films and on the other side you are sometimes treated to a view of an animator hard at work at their desks below.
As you continue along the corridor, you arrive in a large open room that plays host to many Disney and sometimes Pixar characters available for meet and greets. Of course this is where you can have your picture taken with Sorcerer Mickey, often times Captain Hook, the Incredibles, Frozone, and now Winnie the Pooh. The characters are always subject to change, so it is best to consult your times guide or a Cast Member before promising your little one the chance to meet their favorite friends.
Nestled in a corner of the room on the upper level is an unassuming corral with a few banquettes of seating in front of a set of double doors. What lies inside these doors has provided me with hours of air conditioned enjoyment over the years. It isn’t so much a what per se, but more the idea, the potential of what could be. I’m positive all of us have had dreams that have been cast aside along the way. One of those for me was to be an animator. I never really vocalized this desire to anyone since my artistic (in)ability didn’t warrant it, but it has always been there in the back of my mind. So, when I’m given the opportunity to pretend, even just for 20 minutes or so, that I can actually draw some of my favorite animated characters, I’m in heaven.
Once the doors open into the classroom, you find yourself a seat in one of the rows of desks. If the class is really full, which it often fills to capacity, there are also a few seats at the very front with lapboards. The animator instructs the students to make sure they have paper and a pencil with which to draw. The caveat is that the pencil has no eraser, so you are encouraged to draw very light lines and then trace back over the ones you like to “hide” the lighter guidelines. Occasionally the instructor will poll the guests to see if they have taken the class before so as to *attempt* not to repeat the same characters you’ve drawn before. This doesn’t always happen and it sometimes is put to a vote and you are forced to draw someone again. I try not to grumble too much, but take it as an opportunity to improve upon my previous effort.
If you have seen my gallery of pictures I posted earlier today, you can see that I can, every once in a blue moon, draw a pretty decent dog (Pluto), or alien, but more often than not they come out like warped trippy caricatures of themselves (see Buzz, Woody and Rapunzel). I’ve learned drawing humans is a lot harder than animals or aliens. Nonetheless, I love it each and every time I get to participate in this class that provides you with a great (and free!!!) souvenir from your trip. I have even been so lucky as to win the animator’s drawing a couple of times by answering a trivia question at the end of the class. Sometimes the instructors will offer this challenge and other times they will just give their drawing to the first guest who asks. I hope you get an opportunity to check out this great activity on your next trip to the Studios. If you’ve done it before, have you found you have a particular area of expertise? Do you enjoy pretending to be an animator for a few minutes as much as I do? Who has your best drawing been of?