Animation Academy: Disney California Adventure vs. Disney's Hollywood Studios - Attraction Review

As anyone who has been to both the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort can attest, the parks have a bit of overlap when it comes to attractions such as some of the signature mountains and areas such as Fantasyland. Of course, one may notice some subtle differences such as scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean or the holiday overlay that both the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World get at Disneyland. Speaking for the The MountainEars as long as we are in a Disney Park we are happy and any overlaps or differences don’t really matter all that much.

Today’s post is here to compare and contrast an attraction found on both coasts. With that said, we have decided to review the BEST hidden gem attractions at both Disney California Adventure and Disney's Hollywood Studios: the Animation Academy!

After many visits we finally decided to try this out and walked out wondering why it had taken so long for us to do it. Not only is it a genuinely fun attraction but we really appreciated that it was interactive, you learn something and get take home a free souvenir. What’s that? A FREE souvenir, from Disney? Yes! Another underappreciated perk… you get to sit down while you do it in an air conditioned building; it is a great way to be the heat!

Danny (top) and Jaime's (bottom) Goofy
drawing.  Clearly Danny didn't pay
attention to the darkening instructions.
This attraction is an interactive experience where a Disney animator teaches you (and the rest of the room) how to draw a Disney character using very easy instructions. In my experience it has only been faces of characters and has only been the more “cartoon” characters, but that is not to say that is always the case.

Upon entering the Animation Academy the chief artist at the front of the stage introduces themselves and the character they will bring to life! They also introduce the fact that there are no erasers - and that’s a good thing for all artists! The whole experience starts off very positive, which was so nice, especially considering the fact that drawing and artistry can be very fearful for some guests.

Then the art itself begins! The chief artist introduces the idea of drawing all characters with simple geometric shapes. Usually this involves a circle or oval. Then they further introduce - what would appear to be harder concepts to draw such as eyebrows or stripes as creating "rainbows" or "hooks;" I.E. using terms that make more simple sense to us.

The class proceeds until the project is complete. Throughout the entire project the artists are told to draw very lightly and messy and then darken their lines at the end of class. Once the project is complete, then the darkening begins! This is the same time that all artists are given the chance to show off their works of art! The beauty of this is that everyone’s art looks similar but different - and this is the beauty of it all! You then finish class by signing your work of art - and leaving with a nice free souvenir! Again, a huge perk - free souvenir, different examples of art and most importantly - a renewed confidence that anyone can be an artist!


Disney California Adventure Details:

Classes take place every 30 minutes. The class size can fit a large group (75+ people).

 The drawing schedule is located outside on a sandwich board, with times from park open to park close, that can help you choose when to attend, if let’s say the Mad Hatter doesn't excite but you have to draw Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It was really nice to get to see who would be drawn when. This can may be attributed to the fact that Disneyland has more local visitors who would want to know if they should stop in at any given time.

The room is set up in a large room like an auditorium. The seating is tiered and in long benches that span the room. Artists are instructed to pick up a lapboard, complete with the paper and a pencil and sit down. The nice thing about this is that everyone has a great vantage point to see the Chief Artist and watch their instructions. The downside is that for smaller children the lapboard may be cumbersome and you need to hunch over your drawing.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Details:

Light Board for drawing at
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Classes take place once per hour. The classroom holds around 30 artists.

We find the smaller set-up to be very disappointing given the much larger volume of people that go to WDW on a daily basis. There is a holding area for the next class with a Cast Member keeping track of the exact amount of people in the holding area. If you leave the holding area, you can forfeit your seat, and it cannot be held. This is a little disappointing, considering these classes are only held every 45 minutes with one class per hour. This translates into about 10 Animation Academy class a day at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

There is no set schedule and the character you learn is decided by the Chief Artist. During our first visit to the Hollywood Studios Animation Academy we weren’t even told who we would be drawing. The Chief Artists just started with the instructions and had us figure out who it was that we were drawing as we drew. This approach may work very well for some and may not be appreciated by others.

Class is a lot more intimate, which is very nice and set up to be like you are at an artist’s drawing table which is nice. The room is not nearly as tiered as the DCA version and has built in tables and stools for all the artists. As you enter the room you see all the drawing desks with paper, pencils and a light table like real animators use. The light table became distracting for Danny, however Jaime appreciated it. The downfall to this is if you want to keep your paper stabilized and move around your drawing table you cannot.


Final Thoughts:
Would you re-do this attraction: YES! We love this attraction but as returners to it we prefer the California Adventure version more since the classes happen more frequently and we know who we will be drawing ahead of time.

Would you recommend this attraction: YOU BET! We think this is a great attraction for the young and young at heart, just like Walt envisioned for his parks. One should take into consideration the attention span/energy level of your party, however, especially with the Hollywood Studios version if you will need to sit and wait 45 minutes in a small holding pen.
The finished product! Hi Tigger!
Would you recommend this attraction because it is fun or because it gets you out of the sun: Both, you can enjoy the air conditioning for a half hour, leave with a free souvenir and had a fun time!

 Is this attraction a must do in the park: NOT NECESSARILY. Again, depending on your energy level and interest this may not be for everyone but we cannot stress enough how much we enjoyed it after our skeptical start. What it comes down to is time and money. If you have more time to spend (and not so much money) this is a great way to get off your free and leave with a free souvenir. If you are pinched for time and have other must-dos while in the park you may not want to spend the time waiting for and attending the next class. With that said, we wouldn't be surprised if once you have exeperienced it that it does become a must-do!

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