Vault Pixar

Disney Art Academy – First Impressions

Because the major focus of this blog is primarily Disney or Writing, I like to think that anything Disney that is available deserves my attention.  At least a little bit of it anyway.  I love the idea of bringing you guys my unique impressions of different Disney games, movies and whatever else the licensing department would like to throw at us.  Still, with the release of Disney Art Academy for the Nintendo 3DS, I waited a bit before picking it up.  I had reservations.  At $30, could this ‘game’ about drawing characters really be interesting or fun…or interesting?  But, I have an undying love for Disney, so I took the plunge.  After only a couple hours with the game, I found something interesting beginning to happen.  Despite my reservations, I was actually LEARNING SOMETHING!

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Disney Art Academy starts off very simple.  With the opportunity to draw Mickey or Minnie, you literally start by drawing circles and tracing lines.  But all of this is in the hopes that one by one, you will learn the many different techniques and tools the game has to offer.

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I felt pretty confident in my circle drawing skills.

Here’s the thing though.  Going in, I thought this was the whole game.  Tracing.  Oh, how wrong I was.  As you continue to draw Mickey’s face, you start to see that there are different tools, giving you a range of possibilities for making your drawing all your own.

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And you know what?  Even though I was essentially tracing, I felt a sense of pride that my Mickey had come out so well, especially when shown how some people drew him.

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The game then sets you off on various lessons.  Here again, I was given choice.  Did I want to learn about symmetry with princesses or go the route of learning about expressions and how to make cute characters look, well, cute.

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Again, I think I won.

In this simply Nemo drawing, of which I only did the face, I learned that a closed smile implies innocence and dimples add to the cuteness.  It may seem trivial, but what this game was teaching me, and any young artist who might decide to try this out as a next step from making paintings for the fridge door, was how to build character.  That’s fairly impressive for a game that I thought was just about tracing.

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I started off my time drawing sadness by learning about color palettes and color theory.  I was informed that the colors used for her are colors that typically relate to sadness in general.  I was then given new tools in order to create texture, giving her face a rough particle effect and then giving her hair depth and shading.

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The entire time, I was given very basic yet effective tutorial videos and everything was explained to me.  This is super important.  There’s a difference between saying “Color her hair this blue and than that blue so that it looks like the picture,” AND “By highlighting with a light blue, we give her hair more depth and personality, as well as texture.”  The game wasn’t talking down to me or making me feel silly for following orders.  I was learning not only how to draw but also artistic concepts.

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I continued my drawing lessons by learning about symmetry and how this makes princesses appear so beautiful.  Again, I was taught about color palettes and contrast as a way of defining a character.

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With each lesson, I was also taught a little bit about the character I’d be drawing so that I had some context as to who this character was if, for some odd reason, I didn’t know Snow White already.

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Feeling fairly ambitious, I decided to give Free Draw a chance.  In this, you are basically set free by the game, given all the tools and given a character to draw.  The game still shows you the basic steps to follow, but with far less hand holding and no tutorial videos.  I was sure this would be it.  I would be too challenged and too confused and I would end up defeated.  Yet, I didn’t.  Thanks to handy lightning of the next tool you might need, the game gently nudged me in the right direction, while never punishing me for “Trying it my own way.”  I started with a layer which allowed me to essentially trace some lines, but by the end, I had gotten ride of that guide completely in favor of “Making it my own.”

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Obviously, I still have a lot to explore in this game but I have to say that I am already very impressed.  If you or your youngster has any interest in art and/or Disney, this game is nothing short of fantastic.  By giving families tools and teaching them how to use these tools in clear, understandable ways, it seems as though you could be drawing amazing paintings in no time.  I love the sense of accomplishment at the end of drawing one of these characters and the thought of unlocking more of them makes me want to jump back in.  I can’t give much higher praise than by saying that in the two hours I spent playing, I felt like a actually legitimately learned something.  I got lost in the fine lines and shading and loved every minute.  I hope to bring you guys some more of my drawings as I progress through the game, but in the meantime, let me know if you are playing and what you think so far.

Now it’s time to get back to drawing practice!


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