The Animation Experience: A Review

Ever wished you had the drawing skills of the animators at Disney? Well, now you have the opportunity to learn directly from them.

Epcot’s Festival of the Arts debuted animation classes in 2019, and they were wildly popular. Disney made the wise decision to move the feature over to Animal Kingdom so that visitors could experience this awesome class year round.

Here’s the short and sweet of the Animation Experience at Conservation Station:

  • – The Art of Animation class is featured multiple times per day and is located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom.
  • – Fast Passes are available to reserve your seat, and they do run out of Fast Pass reservations.
  • – Multiple characters are featured each day and the classes are offered almost every hour.
  • – I would NOT recommend this class for anyone younger than 8, nor for any child who is the ultimate perfectionist.

Now, if you’d like to keep on reading: here’s my review and the hidden info you need to know!

Once you get off the train at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, there are big signs telling you exactly where to go to find the class. There are two lines once you arrive: one for Fast Pass holders, and one for standby. There is a picture of the character that is scheduled to be featured right at the front, so you know who you’ll be drawing once you’re in.

Once they start moving the line in, you pick up your pencils and sketch paper and head in. One fast tip: make sure you grab a pencil that is well sharpened and HAS AN ERASER. The pencils are recycled after each class so there are some pretty worn down pencils in the bin. My trick? I grabbed multiple pencils and multiple sketch papers.

They begin seating Fast Pass holders first, and basically herd you in like cattle, and you just grab the next assigned seat. They move people pretty quickly, with the standby line coming in after the Fast Pass holders. There’s a very big lap board sitting on your chair, so once you’re in, get comfortable.

After everyone gets seated, the animator joins the class and you watch a quick video on how animators get their inspiration from real life animals for Disney movies. There are multiple tv screens around the room, so everyone has a great view.

Next, the animator will show you which lines to start from, what shapes to draw, and more. Tricks like “You’re going to draw a backwards check mark between the upper and lower line,” or “draw a football on the corners of these to marks” is how they explain it to the students. Of course, they do it perfectly, and you do it awkwardly. That’s just how it goes, and you’ve got to be okay with the awkwardness.

The trick of this class is to be able to watch the animator and draw at the same time. I felt our animator went waaaaaay to fast, and there were a number of quiet grumbles of “I wish he would slow down” coming from the crowd. However, by the time the class was finished, I didn’t see a bad looking Scar in the entire room. Pretty amazing how that happens.

Daddy-O working on his version of Scar. Funniest thing was – he’s never seen The Lion King, so he couldn’t really connect to the importance of the Scar and his darkness, but still did a pretty darn good job!

In Review:

To be honest, I completely loved this “attraction”. I plan to do it every time I visit Disney. I loved the ambience of the room (the wallpaper was my favorite), the animator was nice and told funny jokes, plus the organization of it was pretty seamless. The class went just about a half hour, and no, they won’t let you stay seated for the next class. It’s also a great escape from the heat if you need it.

A few things to note:

*You have to ride the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in order to get to the class, the train ride is just under 10 minutes, so plan accordingly. The Fast Pass window is small so you want to make sure you get there in time. You can board the train over by the Safari Ride in Africa. There’s a cool petting zoo for the kids, as well as views of the animal hospital, so if you go early there’s things to keep you occupied. From the ride queue’s for the train, it looks as if it can get really busy during peak times. If that’s the case, be prepared to wait. The train comes about every 5-7 minutes.

*I would absolutely recommend getting a fast pass if you’re “looking” for a Fast Pass to book and don’t want to waste it. It should be the last Fast Pass you book though: this class is not better than headliner attractions, which is why it’s a Tier Two Fast Pass for Animal Kingdom. Those with Fast Passes do get priority seating (usually the first two rows) and then they fill the rest of the seats with the standby line. Sometimes, there are more people in the standby line than there are seats. If you’re caught in that and can’t get a seat, you’re looking at another hour before you’ll get into the next class.

*I would not recommend this activity for kids under 3rd grade. Remember, I used to teach 3rd and 5th grade, so trust me on this! Following the artist while drawing at the same time can be pretty difficult. Kids who do not understand multitasking will struggle with watching, then trying to draw quickly, then going back to watching again. It’s like that the entire class. If you erase, you have to erase quickly because the animator keeps going no matter what. If you have a child who is a perfectionist (i.e. erases the number 4 on his math homework six times before it’s just right), I would advise against this opportunity. You have to be willing to have an “imperfect” illustration upon completion, but the chances are, it will still look great no matter what.

I honestly feel like this is as close to having a chat with an imagineer that you can get, without having to fork over the $80 to have dinner with one. I really enjoyed it, so if you’re Leavin’ 4 Disney, I highly recommend you add it to your plans!

All photographs in all blog posts are taken by me. Please don’t use without giving proper credit to @leavin4disney. Thank you!

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