Disney Art Academy (3DS)

DISNEY_BOXFor nearly a century, Disney has been synonymous with artistic animation and cartoons, and now they’ve teamed up with Nintendo for a new Art Academy game.  Nintendo has been teaching art lessons with their Art Academy franchise on multiple consoles, spanning the DS, 3DS, and even the Wii U.  So it only seems natural for them to feature art lessons with Disney characters on the 3DS.  I’ve wished that this series would get more recognition, and maybe now with the familiar Disney license, it might just do that.

After playing Disney Art Academy, it’s clear that this game was made with kids in mind.  Even more so than Pokémon Art Academy.  The art tools you’ll be using to draw and color on the touch screen are more familiar to younger players, like pencils, markers, paintbrushes, and pastels.  In Free Paint Mode, where you are allowed to draw an assortment of Disney and PIXAR characters without a lesson, you can even use a magical wand to draw patterns like sparkles, bubbles, leaves, and more.  It may not be as realistic, but it is fun!

The lessons also start out a bit more basic and easier, which is perfect for kids.  In fact, most of what you do in the first half of the game is color and trace existing pictures, and in Free Paint Mode you always have an option of drawing over a pre-existing overlay.  Some may criticize this, saying it’s nothing more than an over-glorified coloring book.  But a long time ago, I once took a cartooning class from a former Disney animator (more on that later), and he said that tracing was a good way to learn to draw.  And coloring can be very therapeutic, even for adults (which is why adult coloring books are so popular now). 

Each lesson in the game features a Disney or PIXAR character along with a basic art concept.  You’ll learn how to draw facial expressions with Sadness from Inside Out and Olaf from Frozen.  Discover how to shade characters and why shape and volume is important by drawing Winnie the Pooh characters.  Learn about the importance of symmetry and profiles by drawing Disney Princesses.  Later in the more advanced classes, you’ll even learn about color theory, and how to draw animals and people, as well as creating 2-D and 3-D characters.

Really the only thing I can think of that this game could’ve improved upon was to make better use of the license.  For instance, instead of the generic background music they play as you draw, they could’ve used music from various Disney films.  But other than that, this is another fine game in the Art Academy lineup.  While this particular game in the Art Academy series is geared toward kids, I think adults who are interested in the art of Disney will enjoy this, too.  It’s sad that Disney Interactive has closed their doors (so no more Disney Infinity), but maybe it’ll give other companies like Nintendo an opportunity to create more great licensed Disney games like this one.


Kid Factor:

Even though Disney Art Academy is geared toward kids, reading skill is still a must as everything is text-based.  This game is certainly educational, and kids will love drawing familiar characters.  The game also boosts confidence, and I can imagine kids taking these lessons thinking, “I can do this!  I CAN draw!” Disney Art Academy is rated E for Everyone.

Usually when I review these Art Academy games, I dedicate the review to one person: my grandmother.  But this time I’m dedicating this review to two people.  One is my grandmother, of course.  When she was alive, she used to love to draw and paint.  She won many local awards, and even painted the mural at her church.  Later, she taught art lessons to kids around town, and even gave free lessons to us grandkids!  Any artistic ability I have, I’m sure I got from her.  I wish I could’ve shown her one of these Art Academy games before she passed away.  When I play these games, I’ll always think of her.

Another person I’d like to dedicate this review to is a former Disney animator I took a class from once as a kid.  When I was young, I thought it would be cool to draw and make cartoons at Disney.  As unrealistic and lofty as that goal was, my parents still supported me on it, and my mom even enrolled me in a cartooning class one summer.  It was held at a community college, and even though I was way too young to take the class, the teacher still let me attend.  His name was William “Tex” Henson, and he used to work at Disney a long time ago.  At Disney he helped create Chip N Dale, which is cool because they are my favorite Disney characters.  I was glad to see that there are even lessons and Free Paint sessions in Disney Art Academy that feature the chipmunk duo. 

After working at Disney, Tex went on to work at Fleicher Studios, or Famous Studios as it was later called.  He wanted to do Popeye cartoons, but since he worked at Disney and was typecast as a ‘cute’ animator, they made him do Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons instead.  After that he worked at Jay Ward Studios doing the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.  He said that was his favorite place to work.  Then he did animation for TV commercials like the early Trix Rabbit ads.  After that he moved back to Texas to teach.

I really didn’t learn a whole lot of cartooning skills from his class I took, as he mostly rattled on about the good ol’ days (he was pretty old).  But there was one thing he always said before every class that I still remember today.  He always said, “Back in the day, we were storytellers first and animators second.”  Even though I never became a Disney animator, I’m still kind of a storyteller as I write lots of game reviews and other articles.  I wish I could’ve kept up with him more than I did, as he has passed away also.  The lesson here is to learn as much as you can from older generations, because you’ll miss them when they’re gone!  I hope he and my grandmother can watch me play the Art Academy games while they’re up in Heaven!

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