The Animation Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios

I can't draw.  Not even stick people.  Clearly my 7 year old's affinity and talent for sketching was not derived from my gene pool.  Since I cannot help her budding artistic talents directly, I will sign her up for the occasional art class after school or if I find a cute learn to sketch book I will grab it for her.  As you can imagine, a visit to the Animation Academy was on our "must do" for our Studios day.

The Animation Academy is a fantastic attractions that you actually have to seek out.  There are no exterior signs or lights to draw you in.  There are no "teasers" about what you may find inside. There are no squeals of delight as you walk by.  And yet this 20-25 minute class is a fantastic little find.

The Animation Academy is located inside the Magic of Disney Animation building.  As you enter the large room to the right you immediately notice the characters surrounded by the adoring masses.  We saw Sorcerer Mickey, Lotso, Frozone, and Mr. Incredible.  It is easy to become distracted by the Sunnyside Daycare set up and not even notice the small waiting area for the Animation Academy.  The waiting area consists  a few benches separated from the rest of the room with a movie theater style velvet rope.  The classes are offered every 30 minutes or so through out the day.  There are a limited number of seats available, so I would not arrive moments before a class is scheduled to begin and expect to find a seat. 

Usually, our family plans a mid day break, but for our Studios day, we decided to try to push through.We planned to attend the class in the afternoon to give ourselves a little rest.  It was a great idea, as the "tired" was starting to set in.  Because of that, I was not nearly as diligent with picture taking as I normally am - my apologies.

In any event, we ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the class to begin.  As they swept open the doors, we entered an upscale classroom.  The instructor was seated at the front next to a large overhead projector.  There were rows of Mickey themed desks and stools, along with paper firmly secured to the desk and some pencils.  The room filled quickly and the instructor started the class by letting us choose which character we wanted to draw - an easy Mickey or a more complicated Stitch.  The class must have been filled with other drawing impaired folks, as the overwhelming choice was Mickey.  (I am sure it had nothing to do with it being, you know...Mickey!)
The instructor moved at a good pace.  She kept everyone moving so the class would end on time.  She gave great general drawing tips - For example, when you draw a circle you should move from your shoulder, not your wrist or elbow, as that is the natural movement of your shoulder.  You know what?  It worked!  I started my Mickey face and ears with a much rounder circles than I had ever drawn before. Certainly not perfect, but passable.

The she moved on to explaining exactly where to draw a few simple guidelines.  Once we had our guide lines we and used them to get the proportions of Mickey's features just right.  Before I knew it I had a pretty good Mickey staring back at me - albeit a bit cross-eyed.

Quick Tip - In order to keep the class moving, there are no erasers in the Animation Academy.  Keep your sketch lines very light until you are instructed to make them heavy - or just wait until the end of class and use the last minute to darken up the appropriate lines.  If I had done a better job of that, my picture would have been even better.

So next time you visit Hollywood Studios, build in a little rest and drawing time at the Animation Academy.  It is absolutely worth looking for.  I must say that I was ridiculously proud of my work.  You are encouraged to sign and keep the fruits of your labor.  I wonder if Mom has any room left on her refrigerator?

My crossed-eyed mouse
My 7 Year old's efforts - She was frustrated with no eraser, but now sketches much better Mickeys with ease.

And the 4 year old...Have I mentioned that listening and following directions are not her strong suit?  She now does great sketches of Mickey, but she still puts the guidelines on the face - even though she does not actually use them!

So long, Toontown: A tribute

Today is the last day that kids will take their first roller coaster ride on Goofy's Barnstormer, run through Donald's Boat, smile at all of the clever details in Minnie's House and Mickey's House, or load up on Disney goodies in the County Bounty.  Today is the last day Mickey will greet visitors in the Judge's Tent.  Today Toontown closes forever.  Toontown is saying goodbye to make way for the much touted Fantasyland expansion (details here).

Although Toontown never received much "critical acclaim", I must admit that I am a fan.  As a total ride whimp, the Barnstormer is just my speed.  And while the coaster itself is not going away, the theming (and the chickens) are.  I love looking at all of the clever details in the mouse's houses.  I love Minnie's painting of the view outside her window, and peeking in to Mickey's bedroom.  And if you have young girls, the Toontown Hall of Fame is tops on the list of attractions.  And while the notoriously icky Pete's Garage (aka Potty Training Central) won't be missed much, I will surely miss good ole Pete's Bumper Crop.

So...good bye old friend.  While we are looking forward to what the future holds, you will be missed in this household. 

Enjoy some scenes from a sweet little spot in the Magic Kingdom...


What you should REALLY do with your luggage tags...

If you have purchased a room and ticket package as part of your Walt Disney World vacations, then one of the added perks that you will receive is a set of Disney World luggage tags.  If you flip to one of the back pages in your travel documents Disney even provides you with a page of preprinted inserts.  You can just fill out your personal information, slide it right in, and attach it to your suitcase, right?  Wrong!  There are trolls that roam the airport who are very interested in your home address, particularly if they happen to see you headed out of town.

Instead, head over to your local department store and buy a few luggage tags that are designed to obscure your address from plain view.  It satisfies the airline's requirement that your bag be labeled, but it keeps your address from being proudly displayed to any bad guy that happens to wander by.  It really is $2 well spent.

I know you are thinking, "But what about my cute little luggage tags?  With the castle...and the balloons?"  Well, I am certainly not going to suggest you let them go to waste!  Instead of your home address, write down your name, the name of your resort, and your cell phone number and tuck it into the tag.  Attach the tag to your stroller, your cooler, your park bag, or anything else you plan on bringing inside the park with you.   Now if you drop or loose something, it has a fighting chance of being returned to you!

When you get home, you can recycle the tag for anything else that you want...gym bag, back pack, lunch box, whatever!  Just be sure that if you let your child use it that you do not put their name out in plain view.  (Somehow kids think that if a stranger knows their name, then they are not a stranger.) 

My tag is still attached to my cooler and my camera bag.  I take a little bit of Disney with me where ever I go...