Scheduled times have changed a couple times already since the park’s reopening due to park hours changing, so be sure to check the schedule ahead of time before taking the train over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
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The Animation Experience opened this past July in Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom. This new experience is a place for guests to learn how to draw Disney characters from a cast member. Several people have mentioned that this would make more sense in Hollywood Studios, and while I agree, I’m also glad they chose to put this in Animal Kingdom instead. Hollywood Studios is getting another new land after opening one last year as well as having opened the new Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy earlier this year, and finally, it has Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway coming in 2020, so Hollywood Studios is getting enough attention for now. Animal Kingdom has been somewhat neglected since Pandora: The World of Avatar was opened, so this a fun new experience to bring guests here and have another indoor activity for those rainy days.
The Animation Experience has scheduled times every day for the drawing classes that begin at 10 a.m. with the final class starting at 4:45 p.m. Classes are every 45 minutes throughout the day except for a break at lunch, and the FastPass+ is for arriving in the 15 minutes before the show begins. You must arrive before your class starts to take advantage of your FastPass+. The FastPass+ gives priority seating, but even if you don’t have a FastPass+, there are plenty of seats from which to choose, and none of them were very far back.
Our entire experience took about 30 minutes while the one after ours only took about 20. It depends on the character you’re drawing and how quickly everyone gets in and gets seated. The time flew by, and we honestly didn’t even realize it had been that long. They keep the class fun and enjoyable.
This is very similar to the Animation Experience Disney used to have at Hollywood Studios. There were mostly adults in our group with kids scattered throughout. While kids will enjoy this experience, younger ones probably won’t enjoy sitting for 25 minutes or trying to draw. If you’re fine with them just coloring their paper, I’m sure they’ll have a great time, but this experience is best for kids around 10 and up.
The Animation Experience Class
After we scanned our FastPass+, we were told to grab a pencil and paper and head to our seats. The papers have lines on them to get you started which is how the drawings look decent; otherwise, I think they know guests would never want to keep them. On our way to our seat, there was a small penned-off area where Red was sitting, and we could take pictures of him and say hi. Once we sat down, we waited for the other guests to be seated, and they told us who we’d be drawing. Then we watched a short video about the warthog on Disney’s Safari who was the inspiration for Pumbaa in the Lion King remake. It was a really cute little video.
We were then given the challenge to not use our erasers as animators don’t use erasers when they draw. We began drawing slowly with very well explained instructions and screens everywhere so we could see exactly what the cast member was doing. He used a lot of food analogies to help us understand the shapes we were aiming for in our drawing. He was so animated, the time passed quickly, and suddenly we had a (somewhat resembling) Pumbaa drawing in front of us! It’s a nice keepsake and memory to take home that the whole family can do together, and everyone has their own unique drawing.
Know Before You Go
If you are trying to make a certain class for a FastPass+ or just for your schedule, be sure you allow plenty of time to get there. In order to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you have to take a train over there. The train wait could be two minutes or 20 minutes (in some cases it has been over an hour because they’ve had issues with the trains breaking down fairly regularly). Once you arrive, you walk down a path to get to the building where you’ll do your drawing. We arrived right as a train pulled up, and we didn’t have a problem with it breaking down, so we managed to get from the train station to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to draw in about 10 minutes. You can still go into the class up to five minutes after it begins, but once you’re passed that point, they can’t let guests in because you won’t be able to catch up to where they’re at in the drawing. So the entire experience from the train station and back was about an hour, but that’s on the low end because we didn’t have to wait long either time for a train.
If you don’t have a FastPass+ for this experience, you can still go and get in the StandBy line. Currently they release about 100 FastPass+ per class, but there are 172 seats, so there’s plenty of room for everyone. They also mentioned only about half of the guests have been showing up with FastPass+, so it really isn’t a problem for everyone to get in who wants to. If you really want to be sure you get in, the best time is in the morning because less people go to those classes as they are heading to other areas of the park.
With the huge push for the Lion King remake, Disney is only focused on the characters from Lion King for The Animation Experience, but this fall, they are planning to add more characters to the mix. Currently, each hour has a different Lion King animal (Simba, Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa, a hyena, Scar) Once their Lion King push is done, they have plans to add Thumper, Iago, Eeyore, Kuzco, Djali, Pua, Bellwether, Joanna).
They decide which characters to draw based on what live animals they can bring in and show guests (Lion King characters are the exception as they were chosen because of the movie: they will not be bringing lions into the drawing area). This idea is based off when Walt would bring in real animals for the animators to draw Disney characters from. For the Lion King characters, cast members bring in a Macaw to represent Iago. His name is Red and was the type of bird animators used to create Iago for Aladdin.
The drawing class at The Animation Experience is a lot of fun and a great activity for families, especially those who don’t like bigger rides. It’s also a great backup plan for days it may rain because it’s all indoors. You could spend lots of time there looking at all of the reptiles, insects, and arachnids plus the petting zoo with goats. The petting zoo is outside, but the goats are fun for kids. If you really enjoy the drawing, you could always get in line again and draw the next character since each one is different. We almost did that but decided to head out for our next activity.