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Disney Fantasy: Drawings come to life in Animator's Palate restaurant

One of Walt Disney Co.'s goals is to create more interactive entertainment for guests, and one of the ways that has come about on the new Disney Fantasy is in the Animator's Palate restaurant. That's the home of the "Animation Magic" show, which makes animators out of amateurs during the course of a meal.

When diners are seated, a place mat that doubles as a drawing template is there. Servers instruct guests to use markers to draw faces and bodies into sort of a gingerbread-man-shaped area. (Staying inside the blue lines is key.) There's also a spot for the artist's signature.

It pays to plan ahead and to know that you're encouraged to use only one color of ink. A fellow diner at my table who had been to the restaurant before recommended using a lot of the space. My character ended up being a sort of barefoot, baseball-headed demon in pinstripes on Monday night.

A server collected our place mats before the meal began.

Joe Lanzisero, a senior vice president with Walt Disney Imagineering, said the joy of creation was an inspiration for the activity.

"I was an animator in my past, and I must say that there was nothing more exciting than that moment when you saw your drawings first come to life," he said. "For us to be able to take that experience and create that experience for our guests to see their drawings come to life, that is the core of who we are, Disney animation."

Before dessert arrived, our dinner party's work was up on a big screen near our table. The characters, mostly in a four-across formation, went through a series of maneuvers, including figure skating and various dance moves. Although other tables were also included in our private show, the artwork is zoned by table, so you're guaranteed to see your art in action. Look across the restaurant and you'll see a different set of newly hatched characters on the move.

It was fun to see my demon come to life, and it was surprisingly fun to look at the handiwork of imaginative strangers.

The animation builds to the point when individual characters share the screen and interact with Disney's finest, including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Disney says "Animation Magic" is designed so anyone can create a satisfying cartoon. The company developed software — it's not eager to share technical details — to turn simple figures into more complicated animation by the 700 people in the restaurant.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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