The Magic of Disney Animation was a highlight for many on their visit to the Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World. During the park’s first decade of operation, this attraction housed a working production facility for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Here you could learn about the traditional animation production process through an entertaining film starring Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite. Then you were given the opportunity to see a glimpse of the production process as you walked through glass corridors to look over the shoulder of Disney Animators at work on future films and projects.
The Disney Animation Renaissance: Behind the Glass at the Florida Studio by Mary E. Lescher is a detailed look at the history of the Feature Animation Studio at Walt Disney World, chronicling and examining the projects that were worked on by the Orlando team and the theme park attraction that coexisted with their facility. The book also discusses the transformation of the animation process from traditional cell animation to computer-assisted to full computer 3D. Mary takes a well researched look at the evolution of the attraction and animation studio over the years, examining the intersection and friction of the objectives of each and how they adapted to each other. She details the changes to the tour content, layout and purpose as the Animation Studio grew and changed over the years.
I was excited when my review copy of this book arrived. I had always enjoyed the attraction and was disappointed to watch it slowly fade away over the years before finally being transformed into an interactive experience vs working studio/educational one. Mary writes about many of these changes and some of the reasons behind them ranging from how the animation process was changing to the studios growth and need for more space. I appreciated how she looked at the experience from both sides of the glass, in many cases from three aspects.. those of a guest, a park operator/cast member and the animation studio team.
Mary writes in a more academic style than many books about the parks. This is not a personal memoir, it is a documented detailed look at the facility, projects and production techniques. This can be seen with the extensive reference section at the end of the book containing 35 pages of notes and almost 50 pages of glossary, filmography, bibliography, suggested readings and index content.
The book is organized into five chapters looking through the studio history chronologically:
- A Theme Park Attraction (1989-1990)
- Traditional or Digital: It’s All Hand-Drawn (1989-1990)
- B Unit to the Blockbusters (1991-1997)
- The Little Studio That Could (1998-1999)
- Shutting Down the Studio (2000-2004)
I enjoyed reading The Disney Animation Renaissance: Behind the Glass at the Florida Studio. The way the author explored the evolution from various vantages points was interesting to me. With how well documented this book is it will be a great reference for years to come. If you are interested in Disney Animation history or are a theme park attraction history buff you will appreciate this book’s chronicling of this niche of Disney History. . If you enjoy taking a deep dive into a topic within the “Disney” universe, like I do, you will most likely find this an interesting read and something to consider adding to your library.