Animation Academy

Following on from my previous “I’m such a Loser” post about Buzz Lightyear’s SpaceRanger Spin, I thought I’d write about another of my top three attractions, one that doesn’t seem to get much mention – The Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Animation Academy is essentially a drawing class. You’re given pencil and paper and the cast member leading the class will take you through how to draw a specific character. You follow them exactly and amazingly, you produce a pretty fab drawing!

The class is found as part of the Magic of Disney Animation attraction – accessed via Animation Courtyard. The attraction itself involves a short film, with Mulan, and teaches a little bit about Disney animation. At the end of the film, it brings you into the Animation building. Now it seems this is where a lot of people stop – in this building is some pretty good meet and greets. It’s the only place we found Sorcerer Mickey on our last trip and the Incredibles, and its also usually the location of some of the characters from Disney’s latest film – for instance the charcters form Up where there in September 2009. However, at the back of this building is also a classroom, and it is here that you can queue up to attend the Animation Academy.

The classes take about 20 minutes, start at 10:30 and run every half hour for the rest of the day. Don’t make our mistake – it was our ‘must do’ so we went there first and it wasn’t yet open so we missed the crucial Toy Story Mania fastpass dash!

You wait in a very small holding area – at busy times a cast member only lets the right amount of people in. Then when the class is due to start you all file in and sit at the desks, where you’ll find a light box with a peice of paper on it and a pencil. The cast member at the front explains right away that there isn’t an eraser, so you can’t spend time correcting lines. They tell you how to draw softly, and then firm up the lines, so its ok if you make mistakes.

Then its time to learn what character you’re going to learn to draw. I’ve seen this approached in a  number of ways and I have a feeling it might depend on which characters the cast member knows! In some cases they just tell you that we’re doing a specific one. We got that for Carl from Up and I wasn’t that impressed since the film wasn’t out in the UK and I didn’t have a clue who he was. But he turned out to be my best drawing (and now I love the film!) The best cast member we had went through loads and loads of character names until he found one that no-one in the room had drawn in previous classes, which I thought was a really nice touch as everyone got something new. The one I’m really hoping to get next time is Mickey – I’d love to be able to doodle the big cheese when I’m bored! There are also some characters that the cast members aren’t allowed to do. On our last trip a cast member told us that they weren’t allowed to teach the Incredibles yet.

I think one of the reasons I love this class is because usually, I’m drawing-impaired. I’ve been bad at art ever since I was a kid. I had to draw Moses and the Burning Bush for RS in school, and my mum asked me why I had drawn a pineapple on a hill in my exercise book. So you get the idea – I’m rubbish. And when we first took this class, I had no expectations of producing a drawing that looked remotely like the character. So I was very presently surprised when not only were the drawings recognisable, they were also pretty good! I mean not amazing – I wouldn’t put them on my walls, but good for me.

So once the cast member has selected a character, they take you through the drawing step by step. They’re standing at a podium at the front of the class, with a microphone and as they draw, the image (and their hand) is projected up onto a screen behind them, so you can see exactly what they’re doing, as they tell you. They give you hints, such as how to draw a good circle and where to put the faint construction lines. And you just copy what they do exactly. and somehow, it works! They do go kind of quick, I guess to fit it into the time, and also to stop you concentrating on correcting mistakes so you get the whole thing done. I did occasionally find it a little buit too quick – especially when they’re telling you to shade specific bits in, which they do rreally fast, but I have to go slower or I don’t stay in the lines! But generally, I was ok to keep up.

There are probably a few things to know before you head to the attraction:

  1. It’s not one for young kids. The cast member goes way too fast for them and they end up getting frustrated that they can’t do it and that they can’t erase where they went wrong. Mums and Dads don’t really have enough time to help them out if they’re trying to ndraw as well – it really goes too fast for that. They also have to stay pretty quiet as everyone needs to be able to hear what the cast member is saying. I think Disney do advise an age limit but it’s really down to parents to decide if their kids would be ok with it.
  2. The size of your drawing is about A3. You’re then stuck with it for the rest of the day. We were fine to fold them up and shove them in our bags, but if you’re wanting to display or scrap book it, you might want to bear in mind that you’ll be carrying it around the rest of the park.

And that’s it. At the end of the class, you have a really great free souvenir to take home with you – your drawing! Here’s some photos of our efforts – feel free to comment on which you think are best – the ones on the left or right:

The Animation Academy can also be found at DisneyQuest. However, personally I don’t think it’s as good here. You sit at little pods and draw on an electronic screen, but still guided by the cast member teaching the class. There are a few reasons that for me, mean its not as good as the DHS version:

  1. You draw on the screen, not paper. I find it harder and it doesn’t create the same feeling of accomplishment
  2. You don’t get your drawing to take home with you. It used to be that you could pay for it to be printed (I’m not sure if thats still the case) which a) means more money and b) still just isnt quite the same
  3. The class isn’t offered as often – only a few times during the day, so you neeed to find out the session times.
  4. You’re not in a separate classroom – just an open area
  5. It’s in DisneyQuest. Now I know many people enjoy the Interactive Theme Park, but I’m not one of them. Is it just me or does it smell a bit like a boys locker room? (I imagine!)

So next time you’re at Hollywood Studios, why not have a break from the rides and have a go at drawing your favourite characters instead?

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