The Magic of Disney Animation

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The Magic of Disney Animation was an attraction located in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The Magic of Disney Animation
The exterior of The Magic of Disney Animation
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Land Animation Courtyard
Attraction type Tour
Opening date May 1, 1989
Closing date July 12, 2015
Ride duration 15:00 minutes

Attraction History

When the Animation Courtyard section of the Disney MGM Studios opened in 1989, Disney wanted guests to be able to see how their animated films were created. To do this, the area housed the branch of the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio. This meant that real Disney animators worked inside the theme park, animating sequences for Disney films. Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear and the "I Just Can’t Wait to Be King" segment of the Lion King were all animated at the Florida studios.

The animation studios were incorporated within an attraction known as The Magic of Disney Animation. The 35 minute tour showed guests a short film titled Return to Neverland which explained how animated films were created. After the film, a walking tour allowed guests to see the animators working inside the studio. After the walking tour guests watched another short film, this one a montage of Disney animated films.

On April 22, 1998 an expanded production area was dedicated. The area opened on the same day as Disney's Animal Kingdom, a fact which was referenced in Roy E. Disney's dedication speech for the new park. In 2003, Disney announced that the Florida branch of the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio would be closing.

Due to this closure of the Florida animation studio, changes were made to the Magic of Disney Animation. In this version of the attraction, guests entered one showroom where a Disney animator showed them how films are chosen and designed. There was also an interactive area, and a place where guests could learn how to draw Disney characters. The tour at this time was about 15 minutes long. On July 12, 2015 The Magic of Disney Animation closed.

Attraction Plot

First Incarnation (1989-2004)

The original Animation Tour began with guests winding through halls decorated with animation sketches from various Disney movies. Guests then entered a theater where they watched a short film called Back to Neverland featuring Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite.

The film began with Walter Cronkite telling guests that they were going to learn how Disney animated its movies. Walter was soon joined by Robin Williams who told guests that his favorite movie was Peter Pan, and that he wished he could go to Neverland. Cronkite then explained to Robin, that in order to show how Disney animation works, they were going to turn him into an animated character. Tinkerbell then flew on screen and with a little pixie dust transported Walter and Robin away from the Disney Studios. After Tinkerbell flew away, the men found themselves shrunken, and in the presence of books of different genres. Walter then explained that this is where Disney animation began, with stories. He then went on to disclose that the next step in the processes was to create a storyboard.

Cronkite then disclosed that in Robin's story, he was going to be a lost boy in Neverland. The duo was then transported to a sound studio, where Robin would record his voice for the film. An animator was then shown, drawing Robin's character. Next, Robin's character was colored on a computer. Neverland was then shown being drawn by the layout artists, who drew a boat that Robin was going to act upon. The background was then sent to the computer also, so that animators could create the final scene. Walter then explained that music and sound effects completed the scene.

Inside the story, Robin was captured by Captain Hook, who tried to find out where Peter Pan was. When Robin said that he didn't know, Hook knocked him overboard where he was almost eaten by the Tik Tok Crocodile. Just as he was about to be eaten, Tinkerbell flew by and sprayed him with pixie dust. Now able to fly, Robin distracted Hook, while Tinkerbell also gave the Tik Tok Crocodile the ability to fly. After the crocodile chased Hook off, Robin briefly left the animation. After being called back to Neverland however, Robin and Peter flew off, ending the video.

After the film, guests met with an animator who gave some brief animation tips and took questions from the audience. Moving on, guests then passed by the working animation studio located within the park. Here, guests could peer down and see animators while they were at work. The Animation Tour then ended with a short montage which showcased the different Disney animated movies.

Second Incarnation (2004-2015)

The second version of the Magic of Disney Animation began with a presentation hosted by Mushu (from Disney's Mulan) and a Disney animator who explained to guests how Disney decided what characters they use in their films. The example that the animator used was from the Disney movie Pocahontas. Originally, Disney was deciding between a hummingbird, a turkey and a raccoon named Meeko for the role of Pocahontas' sidekick. After initially deciding to go with the turkey and the hummingbird, Disney realized that Meeko the raccoon was a much better option than the turkey. The animator then explained to Mushu that the original guardians for Mulan were going to be a Gryphon and a Phoenix, before deciding that he (Mushu) should be a dragon. Mushu took exception to the inference that he was not always a dragon, and he proceeded to show guests pictures of him with his cousin Elliot the Dragon, with his baseball team the Chunichi Dragons, playing his favorite game Dungeons and Dragons, and finally a picture of him and Cher (which has nothing to do with him being a dragon).

In order to explain Mushu's past to him, a film was then shown on the screen across from the dragon. The first person to appear was Chris Sanders who did early sketches of Mushu and was also the Head of Story Development for Mulan. Chris explained that originally there were going to be two guardians for Mulan, but then it was then decided that was too much. Next, Mushu was changed to a dragon with two heads. Mushu's supervising animator Tom Bancroft then appeared on screen. He explained that Mushu was made up of the body of snake, the horns of an elk, the claws an eagle and the face of camel. Tom then went on to say that in order to travel with Mulan, Mushu had to be downsized. After Tom leaves the screen, the other animators in charge of creating Mushu appeared. As Mushu was getting "reacquainted" with them, a short film was shown which showcased the newest Disney animated characters. After the clip, Mushu and the animator said goodbye to guests ending the presentation.

After leaving the presentation, guests entered an interactive area where they could play animation games and meet the newest Disney animated characters. Guests also had the option of entering the Animation Academy, where a real Disney animator would teach them how to draw Disney characters.

See Back to Neverland

To see Back to Neverland, the original film shown in The Magic of Disney Animation, click play below!

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • Lilo and Stitch, Mulan, Brother Bear, ink and paint for the Little Mermaid and two Roger Rabbit spin-off cartoons (Roller Coaster Rabbit and Trail Mix-Up) were produced within the Magic of Disney Animation’s studios.
  • Several original cels from Disney films and various Academy Awards won by Disney films were on display within the attraction.
  • 50 guests could be seated in the Animation Academy.
  • If you want to see the closing montage shown at the end of the original The Magic of Disney Animation click here