04 January 2010

You’re a character

You're a character
Ryan P. Wilson

When it comes to the well-being of the whole child, we often discuss the need for cognitive stimulation, gross motor environments, and a plethora of other haughty terms. It is true, however, that children require a vast amount of varied experiences daily to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. Relating this to Walt Disney World, we often think first of the playgrounds scattered throughout the parks and resorts as ways for children to engage other children, run off some of the pent-up energy they have been holding onto in long queues, and give parents’ sanity a breather. But what about the problem solving and mental processes that need to be just as limber and stretched each day as well? Turns out, Walt Disney World has our small travelers covered there as well.One prime example of an experience that allows children to flex their creative muscles is their interactive kiosks in The Magic of Disney Animation found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. True, the first thing kids are likely to go gaga over are characters like Dug, Mickey, or Elastigirl, but once the adrenaline has settled down they will be bouncing from booth to booth playing the games that Disney has created. Each experience uses touch screens to entertain and educate young guests about a few of the facets associated with animation. Let’s go ahead and take a look at each activity:

You’re A CharacterHosted by Lumiere, this station is all about character development. After a picture is taken of the guest, a series of questions is asked that cobbles together what type of Princess or Prince the guest is, the magic mirror then changes your picture to the picture of the Prince or Princess the guest represents. While the overall effect may seem similar to those teen magazine “what type of kisser are you?” quizzes, the actual lessons learned go much deeper. Children have to focus on their own emotions and personalities, the ability to turn their emotional cannons inward is a skill all children need, but this activity creates a non-judging environment to do so.

The Sound StatePresided over by Ursula, this booth focuses on the use of sound and dialogue. This activity requires two guests who will view a scene, of their choosing, where two characters interact. The scene will be shown a second time with a running script across the bottom of the scene so the two guests, now voice actors, will be able to rehearse. The third viewing will have no sound, only script, and will record the new vocal talents. The final viewing will show the new finished product. The benefit of this experience for children is that they are able to use their imagination to conjure up the right emotions and voice for a scene, they have to use active listening, and they hone their reading comprehension.

Digital Ink and PaintLed by Kronk, this element adds color to the world of animation. After selecting a character, children are able to color the scene using a digital palate. After coloring in the character and environment, the scene is then put into motion, just like a true animated feature would be. The ability to get creative and color the scene however a child wants to is key to expanding their understanding of the realm of possibilities, both in the activity and in the larger world. Choice and decision making is the heart of this experience, and as such there is also a pattern to follow for the children who love to stay within the lines.The activities Disney has created not only educate and stretch the muscles of children’s brains and hearts, but they do so without ever trying. These kiosks are the definition of edutainment, and work well for children of all ages. While it could be argued that preschoolers are unable to complete some of these tasks and gain the same skills as a fourth grader, the truth is they not only gain ground in the same area, but they actually gain more, the social-emotional bond between themselves and the adult who assists them in their success. In the end however, it isn’t about how much they learn, that is just the added benefit of creating engaging activities that are,… what’s the word,… oh, yeah, FUN!

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