One of the most common questions I get is from folks who have visited Hollywood Studios a few times (or more) and want to know about other things to do in the Studios beyond the obvious attractions. Over the years one part of the park has been built up with lots of little mini-attractions to experience and I think there's enough to do in this one area perfect for when it's the most hot and crowded during the day and even better for those with kids. I'm talking about the final portion of the Magic of Disney Animation, where I'll go through the various options so you can get an idea of what to expect and what's worth doing.
Often, the end of the Magic of Disney Animation is overlooked for two reasons. First, the attraction itself is one of those that many Studios veterans have written off because it hasn't changed at all since it's last rehab a few years ago now and so they just avoid the whole building. Second, guests who do experience the attraction are often "trained" once the attraction is over, to exit as quickly as possible to experience the next attraction and the entire final area is overlooked. Regardless of the reason, Disney has been quietly putting more and more into this area and it's time to stop and take a look.
Let's begin with the area immediatley after you finish the film portion of the Magic of Disney Animation (the film with Mushu). As you are let out of the theather, you will enter a room with glass displays of artwork and props from the most recent Disney film. As of the writing of this article, it's artwork from Bolt, but over the years we've seen artwork and props from Bolt, Wall E and others. If a major new Disney film has been released (certainly any Pixar film), you should take time to stop here and enjoy what you can see. Often you will find early concept drawings and it's really interesting to see the development of the various characters, as well as inspiration for them.
As you leave this first room, you will walk down a hallway with on the right side, posters and art work from upcoming Disney film releases. Sometimes they are bland posters with nothing much to them while other times you will find vivid scenes from the movie. What's interesting is these posters can be from early development of a film. One particlar poster stood out in my mind as initially it was a poster for the film that would eventually be called "Bolt", but the first poster listed the film under a different name, "American Dog". This doesn't happen all the time but it's proof that what you see here isn't written in stone yet. On the opposite side of the hallway is a glass wall that allows you to look into the work area of two Disney artists. Years ago this would allow you to see a real Disney film animator at work but today you can watch a Disney artist working on something that will later be sold in the park. Not as exciting, but the excentric design of the room with an ungodly amount of Disney merchandise is worth checking out.
When you emerge from this hallway, you'll be in the middle of the area and there's lots to do here. First, you'll find a dedicated Mickey Mouse meet-n-greet area here. This is a great opportunity to meet Mickey in an air conditioned environment and the lines aren't as long here as you'll find in Toontown over in the Magic Kingdom. Mickey is dressed in his Sorcerer Mickey outfit and he's around nearly all day so if you need a picture with Mickey, this is the place to go. Throughout the room are kiosks that allow you to sing along to famous Disney films or paint in Disney characters and these games are fun, especially for the kids. There's usually a kios or two available so try them all out and I think you'll make some great vacation memories of someone in your group singing completely off key or anything else that "you had to be there" to find funny.
Along with Mickey, there's also two other character meet-n-greet areas. First is the meet-n-greet area for the latest Disney film. As of the writing of this article, you can meet the characters from "Up". This area is regularly swapped out when a new Disney film comes out so again, something new usually if you make annual pilgrimages to Walt Disney World. In addition to that, there's also a character meet area for characters from the Incredibles. You'll find here Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible and Frozone and they swap out regularly, although sometimes you will find two characters out at at the same time. Not enough characters for you? Well, on days when Fantasmic! isn't being shown, you can find regular character meet-n-greets in the area throughout the day in this final area. For those who love to meet the characters, you'll find a nice assortment and again, no hot weather to deal with and typically shorter lines than when you meet characters elsewhere in the park.
Still not enough for you? Well, the real gem of this area is the Animation Academy, where you can learn to draw Disney characters. Before you write this off, let me tell you I used to skip this too because I used to be of the opinion "I don't care about drawing and I'm not even good at drawing". In fact, the only reason I tried it was because I felt I was obligated to because of this website but it was the best decision I ever made. Even if stick figures are the extent of your drawing experience, you can draw and enjoy this attraction. The Cast Members here make it easy to learn to draw these and it really is fun. I've written extensively
about this area before but you should check it out and I promise you'll enjoy it.
To wrap up the area, as you make your way out you will find more original Disney artwork from Disney films. As of the writing of this article, it includes concept art from Snow White, Toy Story and Alice in Wonderland. You can take it all in while walking by but there are some interesting anecdotes to be found here and I'd encourage you to read some of the panels to learn some pretty interesting facts about these classic films.
In general, the best time to stop by and have no crowds is going to be before noon. You actually don't need to experience the Magic of Disney Animation attraction at all to see everything I've described here. Simply go to the Animation Gallery store (located to the right of the entrance of the Magic of Disney Animation) and walk through the store to the back where you'll find sliding glass doors that will grant you access to everything I've described. Keep in mind before 10:30am, the area is dead and no characters are out but once 10:30 rolls around (that's when the Magic of Disney Animation opens up), the characters come out and the area is mostly empty throughout the morning. The only times it gets crowded really is when a group from the Magic of Disney Animation is let out but generally they subsist and you'll find the area mostly empty for 5-10 minutes before the next group comes through. Take some time on your next trip to enjoy everything here and you may very well find a new somewhat-hidden gem of the Studios.