Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Fond Farewell to The Magic Of Disney Animation

     Out of the four parks at Walt Disney World, my favorite has always been Disney’s Hollywood Studios… or as it used to be called, Disney-MGM Studios. The place has Star Wars, Pixar, The Muppets, Indiana Jones, they’ve even recently incorporated Turner Classic Movies into the park! In other words, it’s basically everything I’ve ever loved! Recently, however, the park has been getting an overhaul of sorts. They started by shutting down the Studio Backlot Tour and then removing the park’s central icon, the giant Sorcerer’s Hat. I’m not a fan of change, but I’ve been pretty welcoming of these updates. I think the Studio Backlot Tour was way past its prime and as far as the Sorcerer’s Hat, it never really made much sense to me to begin with. I’ve always thought the water tower with Mickey Mouse ears was a better icon for a park with a movie studio theme.

     But even more recently, an update to the park came out of nowhere and really hit me right in the feels! On July 12th, Disney’s Hollywood Studios closed the doors on their attraction, The Magic of Disney Animation! I, for one, really liked this section of the park, but rather than gripe and moan about how things need to stop being different, I’m using this blog post to give this particular attraction the farewell tribute it deserves! …or at least the farewell tribute that some guy with a blog and some free time is able to give with minimal effort. Here are some fond memories I have of The Magic of Disney Animation!

      Disney’s Hollywood Studios was originally an actual working studio, and The Magic of Disney Animation was the Orlando branch of Disney’s animation studio where such films as Mulan and Lilo and Stitch were produced. At the attraction, park guests would be shown exhibits displaying the ins and outs of an animated film, the basic lifeblood of the Walt Disney company, and were then able to look through a window at an actual Disney animator hard at work. I’m not sure how the animators actually felt about this, but I thought it was cool.

Ever try drawing a dragon riding a featherless falcon while a sunburned couple from hackensack looks over your shoulder? Well it’s likely someone has.
     My most recent trip to Walt Disney World was in 2010. By then, the attraction was no longer a working studio, but the remnants were still there. My favorite part of the attraction was the massive amount of concept art for future projects that was on display. I love the film, Tangled, but this was months before it came out and I knew nothing about it. Massive amounts of artwork for the film filled the walls and display cases of the exhibit. I took photo after photo and poured over them for the next several months, ingesting every detail I could possibly attain on Tangled, as well as the animation business in general. For a wannabe artist such as myself, it was both humbling and inspiring!

     Down the hall were a few generic posters promoting animated films that were on the distant horizon such as Wreck-It Ralph and The Bear and The Bow, or Brave as it would later be called. This hall lead into a large, open room where different characters would greet guests throughout the day. There was the Main Mouse himself, Mickey, dressed in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice garb. The Incredibles had a regular meeting place, and then there was a location for characters from the most recent animated feature. While I was there, it was Lots-o-Huggin Bear from Toy Story 3!

And I could swear he actually smelled like strawberries!
     The queue to meet Lotso was decorated to look like Sunnyside Daycare from Toy Story 3. Backlit displays resembled windows looking out into the playground and the walls were adorned with children’s drawings of the Toy Story characters.  The theme of this location would change with the character so with Wreck-It Ralph, the queue would resemble Game Central Station, or with Winnie the Pooh it might resemble a storybook. It wasn’t the most mind-blowing thing you’d see at Walt Disney World, but it was still a fun little corner of the park that you could tell a lot of thought was put into.

     Last of all, I want to talk about the Animation Academy! These were actual drawing classes that The Magic of Disney Animation offered! For me, this was as close as I’ve ever come (or probably will come) to the real thing. A Disney employee, or “cast-member” as they’re called, would sit in front of a large classroom of drawing boards and go through the process of drawing a Disney character step-by-step. In our class, we drew Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I probably would have rather drawn someone like Gizmo Duck or Zummi Gummi, but, hey… whatchagonnado?

     My wife and I showed up to the class early, so we had to wait outside the classroom. The 3 or 4 cast-members that taught the classes were also waiting, I guess, and were standing in a group quizzing each other on their knowledge of Disney trivia. These people were Disney fans that loved to draw, and they actually got to do it at Disney World! When I first heard that The Magic of Disney Animation was closing, I instantly thought of them. I’m not sure it all worked. Maybe they’re art school interns or something, so they’re not technically out of a job, but I really hope that Disney is able to find a place for these fellow nerds somewhere else in the company.

     I can understand why Disney might feel the need to close The Magic of Disney Animation. Like Opie’s daughter said in Jurassic World, “people want an attraction with more… teeth” and I suppose The Magic of Disney Animation doesn’t really have much in the way of “teeth” sadly. There have been several occasions where I was sad that an attraction I liked closed, but then I ended up liking the new attraction even more! I’m sure the same will be the case here. I’ve even heard rumors about something Star Wars related taking its place! I’m definitely not going to complain about that! Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to the memories I’ll be making there someday, while always cherishing the memories I have from The Magic of Disney Animation. It was a lot of fun.

Maybe a little too much fun.

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