Last year, Walt Disney World announced that Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom would close seasonally. That means when the park is less busy, they’ll close this part of it down to save money. Disney World enjoys being somewhat ambiguous like that. So that was the bad news. The good news was that when this area of Animal Kingdom re-opened, it came with a new experience for guests. That would be the Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
In our view, being able to try your hand at the animation side of Disney World is a great opportunity. If you go back to the beginning with Walt Disney himself, animation based around animals was where the Walt Disney Company started. From Mickey Mouse to the animals in Snow White, animals are a central theme of Walt Disney animation.
Here in our Animation Experience at Conservation Station review, we’ll tell you about our chance to do this fun class with Anna and Elsa. Towards the end of the review is a video that we did as part of our foray here. Make sure you check that out too!
Animation Experience at Conservation Station Basics
What is the Animation Experience at Conservation Station?
At its core, the Animation Experience is a drawing class. However, I think that sells the experience short of what it is. This isn’t a general class on how to be an artist or an animator. Instead, it is a focused 25-minute drawing class that shows you how to draw a Disney character.
When Does the Animation Experience Take Place?
Before you head off to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to demonstrate your remarkable artistic ability, you need to do some basic planning. The answer to the above question is actually two-fold. First, you need to know if Rafiki’s Planet Watch is open in Animal Kingdom. If it is, then you need to find a time you want to go. Fortunately, you can do both of these by going to Disney’s official page for The Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
Use the calendar links on the right-hand side of the page we linked to, to see if it is open and what times classes happen. In general, classes take place starting around 10:00 AM and end around 5:00 PM. There is usually a 45-minute gap between the start of classes.
Once you have a targeted class time, make sure you are at the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch around 45 minutes before the class is supposed to start. Yes, you read that right, you have to take a train to get to the Animation Experience at Conservation Station. It’s a short ride that lasts 5-10 minutes.
Can I use a FastPass?
Yes, you can. However, we don’t recommend it. There is ample seating, and there are better uses of your valuable FastPasses. If you’re interested in how to prioritize your FastPass reservations, check out our Animal Kingdom FastPass Guide.
Does The Animation Experience at Conservation Station Cost Anything?
No, it does not. It is included in your regular park admission to Animal Kingdom.
Our Experience with The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
We weren’t targeting a specific class time. Instead, we just headed that way when it fit with our FastPass schedule. After the short train ride, we arrived back at Rafiki’s Planet Watch with about 30 minutes of spare time.
If you’ve got younger kids or even older ones, there is plenty the keep them entertained while you wait for a class. The first thing we did was spent time at the Affection Section. Here you will find a variety of animals that kids can pet and have a good time with. Some roam freely and get close, while others are more for viewing only.
After we finished there, we headed inside Conservation Station to see some of the exhibits they have inside. Elsa was most intrigued by the working veterinary space they have, where you can observe what is happening. The veterinarians in the room have a mic where they can take questions from the guests.
That adequately killed our extra time, and we went and got in line for the show. There were probably 10 people that used a FastPass to get in before us, but we had no problem getting into the class.
When you get to the front of the queue, you will find out what Disney character you will draw in that class. The characters change all the time, and as best we can tell, there is no way to predict it or somehow get a specific character you want. On our particular day, we drew Hopper from A Bug’s Life.
As you enter, you will be given a drawing board, sketch paper, and a pencil. The sketch paper has guide lines on it to help you orient where your lines are. As someone of limited artistic ability, I found those most helpful to make sure my proportions were okay.
From there, you are given a little preamble from the class instructor. After that, the drawing begins.
The instructor provided good verbal direction on what to draw, but the large monitor that showed what she was doing was most helpful. It’s a good-sized screen, but I would try to sit as close to one as possible. There are three of them in the class area.
I will say that it wasn’t a very interactive experience, and if that is what you are looking for, you may want to skip this. The communication was very one way. Our instructor provided adequate time to draw Hopper, but I will say that Anna got frustrated by how fast she was moving. Now, Anna is 7 and a perfectionist, so any deviation from the instructors drawing to hers is not tolerated well. I say all that so you can judge for yourself if your kids are old enough to handle the pace at which they move. Elsa, our 9-year-old, kept up with no problem at all.
Watching them learn how to draw was fascinating to me. It was like watching their own development happen right before my eyes. Now, I’m not suggesting the girls are going to be the next great animator. But to see them have a good time and build some more skills was really fun for me as a parent.
One thing I will note is the caliber of the animation that you are taught as part of The Animation Experience at Conservation Station. It is very well done. As you can see in the pictures down below, these are detailed and well thought out drawings.
If you want to judge my artistic ability, you can look at the side by side comparison above. The red drawing on the left is what our instructor drew. The pencil drawing on the right is my version of it. Not too bad, if I say so myself! But like I said, I’m not a great artist.
If you’re interested in what an unskilled kid can do, below is a picture of what Elsa’s drawing looks like. Not bad. I think she gets her drawing skills from me.
When we were done, the instructor did answer a few questions from people as they exited, but otherwise, we just filed out. We gave the drawing board and pencil back to a cast member, but you can keep your drawing to take home. I love souvenirs that don’t take up a lot of room in a park bag or suitcase!
Wrapping Up Our Animation Experience at Conservation Station Review
I must admit that I was a little ambivalent when Carla brought up the idea of doing this Animation Experience at Conservation Station review. Drawing has never been my thing, so it wasn’t high on my list. My experience was much better than I imagined, but being able to do it with the kids was so much fun. And that is true even when Anna had her little pity party of not being able to draw perfectly.
This experience is something we enjoyed much more than we anticipated. It’s not something we would do every time we go to Disney World, but we’ll definitely do it again!
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