Magic of Disney Animation at Hollywood Studios may be closing, but drawing lessons remain at Walt Disney World

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A cherished part of Walt Disney World has been highlighting artwork and drawing since the late 1980s, and now it is drawing to a close.

The Magic of Disney Animation at Hollywood Studios is closing, local media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, have confirmed this week. The attraction features a short movie about Disney animation; two character greeting areas; and Animation Academy, where guests can learn to draw popular characters. The Magic of Disney Animation closes on July 13, so the last day for guests is July 12.

My family and I have enjoyed this attraction on many visits to the Walt Disney World theme park, so of course we’re sad to hear it is closing. The Magic of Disney Animation is one of the park’s original attractions, and it allowed budding artists and those fascinated with animation to delve into techniques used in the field. In fact, for years, animators actually worked in bays with large windows designed to allow visitors to watch them draw. Now, guests see their work during an introductory film clip.

In addition, the Magic of Disney Animation usually offered several character meet-and-greets. Mickey, Minnie and The Incredibles were regulars, and a separate, central area with a themed backdrop was used for characters from the latest Disney and Pixar films. Currently, Baymax and Hiro from “Big Hero 6” are located there. Disney officials have not revealed where Mickey and Minnie will be relocated — or if Hero and Baymax will continue to have a presence at Hollywood Studios.

The third component — Animation Academy, the hands-on opportunity for kids and adults alike to learn to draw from a trained cast member — is what we will miss most. I’ve written about this hidden gem for years because it’s such a unique opportunity.

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Drawing classes at the Animation Academy are offered every 30 minutes, and the subjects are chosen from requests by visitors. The classroom inside the Magic of Disney Animation is quite large, and the setup is fun, with each student sitting on a stool at a slanted drawing board, just like a “real” artist. The Disney animator guides guests through the process of drawing a character, line by line. And the pencils they provide purposely do not have erasers. As the cast member explains, they want guests to understand these drawings are sketches. The pencil strokes are done lightly until the end, when the guests then go over their finished products with bolder markings.

Speaking of finished products, each guest leaves the Animation Academy with a pretty cool souvenir. Guests are invited to autograph their work at the end of each session, but they also could visit the subject of their sketch for a character signature if that character is in the park.

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Guests who really want this experience the Animation Academy after the Magic of Disney Animation closes can visit a second drawing school of the same name, located inside DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney West Side (soon to be renamed Disney Springs). It operates in the same fashion, except that subject requests are not accepted. Instead, there is a posted schedule of the characters to be drawn each day. To access that Animation Academy location, guests must pay admission to DisneyQuest, which is $45 plus tax for adults and $39 plus tax for children ages 3 to 9.

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A similar activity has been built in the lobby of Disney’s Art of Animation hotel. Tucked in a corner to the left of the registration desks, guests will find comfy benches and an animation station, where the instructor shows line by line on a projection screen how to bring a Disney character to life. The classes are free for resort guests. Check with the front desk for the current schedule.

Kids, teens and even adults of all talent levels usually find the drawing classes fun. And getting the chance to learn to draw your favorite character is a unique kind of entertainment you might not find just anywhere. My two kids always got a thrill whenever their “favorite” character was the featured one for the artwork session.

Animation and artwork are, of course, the basis for all of what Disney is and has become. Hopefully, whatever replaces the Magic of Disney Animation will be just as moving and inspiring for guests as this attraction was for my kids and our family.


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36 Replies to “Magic of Disney Animation at Hollywood Studios may be closing, but drawing lessons remain at Walt Disney World”

  1. Such a shame. Walt started the company with the drawing of a mouse. So many people loved the classes. I agree with everyone else…the classes should be offered somewhere in one of the parks, from open to close, every 1/2 hr. Some people just aren’t thrilled with rides, these classes offered something other than a ride. It was also a great place to relax and enjoy some of the original Disney magic. Please bring it back to one of the parks!!!

  2. This is a travesty of Disney – shame on them!!! The inspiration for future animators is gone!! My two daughters looked forward to this every year we went to WDW – and we went every year – NO MORE! My one daughter wanted to attend Ringling School of Art and Design and work for Pixar – and LOVED this part of her visits to WDW – what are they thinking??? They need to have people, especially the younger people have a voice and hand in what they see and experience – old man Iger, you had better wake up or stand aside… or be passed by!

  3. This attraction has already been changed once (it used to be a working animation studio, complete with a studio tour). It has a great legacy, but most people don’t even know about it. For instance – as you enter the attraction there is a small outdoor courtyard with a sunken circular area. most walk by without thinking. But set in the ground there are three concrete slabs that were signed on Opening Day (5-1-89) by the four remaining members of Disney’s Nine Old Men (Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston), as well as Ken O’Connor, another Disney Legend (art director, animator and consultant on the original tour film at the attraction, Back To Neverland). This was originally backstage, in an area that only the animation staff had access to – presumably for inspiration. You know, the original generation passing the torch to the new one at their new home. When the attraction was redesigned, these signatures (including hand and drawing pencil prints) were now accessible to the public. But no one ever said anything about it. On my last visit, none of the working cast members even knew they were there! I’ve contacted WDW Guest Relations to try to determine their disposition after the attraction closes – it’s too great a legacy to just demolish with the rest of the attraction. So far, no answers. But I’ll be there on Sunday to document them, and to say good-bye to the one place where you were literally a quarter-inch from the magic.

  4. Kristian I love ur blogs , but , Ur bumming me out again !! Just read and commented on ur blog about DQ closing ( which I must say is more disappointing To my kids than even this ) and now I hear about this , good grief !! Man my kids loved doing Anamation Acadamy at DQ and here ! This was a nice reprieve on a hot day !! When my parents would come they insisted on meeting us here . They loved to see the kids deawings and have even framed a couple of their ” art works !!” This was a family attraction , interesting and educational …again what A shame !!!

    KRISTIN: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news! My children have really enjoyed both Disney World attractions, too, and are sad they are closing.

  5. This is really a bummer. I have always loved this part of the park. DHS or MGM as it was when i was a wee child had the best memories for me. It was the best area to see the characters and the billboards for the upcoming disney movies would always be shown in the hallway before anyone else knew about them. The interaction between the disney castmember and the animation vid always made me chuckle. Me and my bro drew goofy last time and it was the highlight of our day! I cant draw anything and they made me a believer. We really need to give disney imagineers the benefit of the doubt here. But im also wary bc the whole frozen thing they have going on in the park seems rushed and just half fast. If they are planning on star wars land it would be a smart move. Just add more quality bc walt will be disappointed. And if they touch the muppets in protesting!!!!!

  6. Uuuggghhhhh! I haven’t done this in ages but planned to do it next week. We don’t get there until the 15th though so I’ll miss it! I really wish they’d get some new things on line before closing more attractions. The Monster Sound Show (original version which I adored) has been closed for ages with nothing new going in that space. I’m an annual passholder and have been going to MGM/Hollywood Studios since its opening weekend – but with only a few attractions open it’s not even a half day park now.

  7. So sad, this was must do every year. My 19- and 16-year-olds have been making this form of Disney magic since they could sit on the swivel stools and hold a pencil.

  8. Very sad indeed. Maybe they should consider closing out some of these imagineers and their lack of imagination. Mr. Disney wanted the parks, above all else, to be where a family could enjoy all the attractions, regardless of age, together. Mickey and Minnie’s houses were removed with no thought as to their return. The Castle forecourt was enlarged creating a very sterile environment. The Studios icon, Scocerer Mickey’s hat, was removed to be replaced with? Well, we’re still waiting. Mr. Disney thought of his parks as living and breathing. Always changing. Fine, I am good with that. But now they remove a very popular attraction the whole family could enjoy together.

  9. My family is very sad to hear that the Animation Academy is closing, it has always been a favorite of ours. We are frequent visitors to WDW & while change can be good, I sure hope that Star Wars & Frozen are not going to be the focus of everything. The theme of the Studios should remain the “movies”

  10. I never like to see things go BUT Disney has to evolve. I just hope they change the name of the park (which I believe they are) to reflect the changes. The park is no longer about it being a “studio” it is more a movie park. I just wish they would come out with the plans so we could understand why they are taking all these things away. I am really looking forward to hearing about the Star Wars plans they have.

  11. What is next, “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”? The most Walt things are disappearing. Animation and movies. Sad.

  12. Sad news yet another closure for DHS. This has fast become a 1 hour park visit. The only thing left is Toy Story and Fantasmic. The changes Disney is making with all the closings and higher prices are driving people away. We are actually talking about selling our DVC membership with all the closures and lost perks. Fast becoming not worth the price of annual pass.

  13. It would appear that as they expand Animal Kingdom so it is not a “half day park”, they are turning the Studios into a half day park. Did they not just redo Minnie’s dressing room?

  14. My family is saddened by this news! We are pass holders and have visited the animation academy on each and every visit. We have many of our drawings framed in our “Disney room”. We are super sad to see this experience go!

  15. I am so sad to hear this is closing! We always enjoyed going in and seeing what characters were around. I’m so glad we got to go there this past March – meeting Hiro & Baymax was a highlight of the trip for my daughter. We also felt it was a great place to step into, away from the hustle and bustle of the park, and cool off. What a shame that Disney has decided to close this attraction.

  16. So sad to hear this, it’s one of the true hidden gems of Disney. It seems like the park rides are shutting down at an alarming rate. The only plus at the moment is the pending expansion of another track for Toy Story. With about 6 rides left in the park,it must be really having an impact on the wait times for the stand-by lines. Disney needs to throw us some crumbs of hope to cling to, especially now since they’ve recently increased their ticket prices.

  17. How sad. My husband is a retired art teacher and he loved visiting this attraction. I guess someone forgot that animation is how Disney World came about.

  18. We have been passholders for years, but never knew that this attraction was even there until a couple of months ago. Good thing we visited.

  19. Who is running WDW these days? Taking away an area dedicated to animation and the chance for us to be a little part of that is crazy. Many of the changes they are making lately are going in the wrong direction. Walt Disney would be disappointed.

  20. I’ve never been to the Animation attraction, but we are going in January and my daughter loves Hiro and Baymax. I really hope we will be able to meet them somewhere.

  21. Booooooooooooo! This is such a classic attraction, and just a really cool piece of Disney history. (Not to mention the fact you can feel like you are a part of the studio.) Such a shame Disney does not see the value in art! Incredibly sad to hear this.

  22. Well I am sad to see this closing and disappointed. This is a great place to learn and appreciate animation and how Walt Disney came to be. To be able to see the artists draw and sit in a room and create a drawing is a great experience. I love going and stopping by and seeing David one of the artists who does the Disney cells, we would chat about how the cells came about etc. This was the first place I would go and visit when I got to the park. I think Disney is making a big mistake taking this away as it is a part of Disney history.

  23. I am so sad to see this attraction close. It was usually one of our first stops at the park. We always enjoyed the character meet and greats. We have great memories of our first visit with our son at age 2 with Mr and Mrs Incredible. The characters were just as taken with him as he was with them. I hope Disney finds another great place for kids of all ages to meet some great Disney characters.

  24. Is the Disney Studios Animation Gallery in the Magic of Disney Animation building closing also? We like the hand painted cells they have been making for that gallery and would miss those.

    KRISTIN: Yes, it is closing, but not until August.

  25. I am so very sad to hear that The Magic of Disney Animation is closing, especially the Animation Academy. My husband and I have 3 drawings from there; Pluto, Mickey Mouse and our last one Dopey which we just did on June 18. We really enjoyed this class and felt it was what Disney is all about. Kids and adults alike enjoyed this activity and I don’t understand why it is closing. We always had to wait in line and the class was filled. So glad we got to do one more character before it closes.

  26. Unfortunately today’s announcement that DisneyQuest is closing leaves us with nowhere to draw with a disney artist. Sad days indeed.

    KRISTIN: DisneyQuest is not closing until 2016. Hopefully, another option will be in place before then!

  27. Wow, this is very disappointing. My family also greatly enjoyed the animation classes. I’m trying to keep an open mind because typically when Disney closes an attraction its because they have grand plans in the works – so now I’m excited to hear what is in store. I did not know about the animation class at DisneyQuest – we have never actually taken advantage of that option on our Water Parks, Fun & More passes but perhaps now we will. Thank you for another informative blog.

  28. Oh Wow, we were going in November this year and this was one place my children ask to visit. My oldest got to draw on our first visit, but my second was too young. Now they both have asked to make sure we go to the Animation Academy this trip. So sad, now to find a way to break it to them.

  29. I don’t know why I’m surprised…. They have been slowly turning the park from the working studios that it once was, into just another theme park filled with thrill rides.
    I’ll never forget Aug. 9, 2007 when Meg Crofton made the announcement that effective Jan. 7, 2008 it would be re-named “DHS” to reflect how the park is growing away from representing the Golden age of movies to celebrating the new entertainment that today’s Hollywood is putting out. This is a sad loss of yet another piece of what made The Studios so special to us.

  30. Closing of Backlot Tour, Catastrophe Canyon, American Idol, rumored Indiana Jones and now Animation Academy. Closing of other attractions at other WDW parks with only addition Frozen at the expense of a World Showcase original, Maelstrom. About time they announce something being added, don’t you think? Starting to feel like Hollywood Studios in particular is closing. Very disappointing.

  31. What a shame! My entire family looks forward to drawing characters every time we are there. We often go more than once per trip because my kids enjoy it so much. Any idea what replacement (if any) will be in that space?

  32. What sad news! My family loves the Animation Academy and we went several times each visit. Each sketch is a treasured souvenir of our trip. One favorite memory is on a rainy extra magic hours night, my daughter and I went 4 times in a row until the last class of the evening. The animator gifted his drawing of Winnie the Pooh to my daughter. She was so thrilled!

  33. My family will really miss this. DHS has seen so many attractions close lately. I wish they would announce the new plans already. That might make seeing all of these attractions closing a little easier to swallow.