Disney Art Academy review: Becoming a better artist, one Mickey Mouse sketch at a time

Post Arcade junior reviewer claims Nintendo’s latest art game can really improve your drawing skills – as long as you stick with it

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[np_storybar title=”Disney Art Academy” link=””]

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Rating: 8.0/10
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: nintendo
Editor: nintendo
Release: May 13, 2016

My daughter accompanied me on a trip to Manhattan a few weeks ago to see a preview of Disney Academy of Arts at the Nintendo store in New York. Despite my best efforts to make the trip feel like work – so that she thinks I have a real job – she came away feeling like it was basically a great time of fun.

Sitting down to review the game with me at home didn’t change his opinion much.

Disney Academy of Arts is the latest in a series of games from Nintendo that use the Nintendo 3DS touch screen or Wii U gamepad as a canvas on which to learn to draw. The lessons are simple, but teach many traditional drawing and painting techniques (while spoiling us with the added bonus of being able to erase any mistakes we make with just the press of a button).

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I only spent a few hours with Disney Academy of Arts, but I was happy with the quality of a Chip – or was it Dale? – drawing I was able to produce completely from scratch following the instructions. My daughter, on the other hand, has spent days drawing Disney characters while traveling, in bed, and even on the bathroom. (A bit of parental failure there. Sorry, kid.) She had a great time with the game, even calling it her favorite on the show — though it’s worth noting that she doesn’t have one. played only one other.

Once she had played enough, I sat her down in a chair next to my computer and told her about her experience. The transcript of this conversation will serve as our review.


On a scale of one to ten, how much of a 10-year-old artist are you?

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Seven. There are a lot of kids in my class who are much better than me, and there are also a lot of kids in my class who are much worse. I guess it might sound more like a five, but I upped it because, I don’t know, I don’t feel good about giving myself a five.

I think that’s kind of how game review scores work. Have you ever drawn something by yourself that is as good as what you drew Disney Academy of Arts?

Well, I think a rose I drew once was pretty good. I can show it to you, if you want. But it’s not the same style as what we draw in the game. Maybe you can say that I drew things as good as in the game, but not as professional.

We are on the verge of entering into a debate on the philosophy of aesthetics. Let’s move on. Why do you think an art game like this can maybe make you draw something better than you can do freehand?

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Because they give you instructions. Lessons sometimes start with a simple pencil sketch that you color in, then do all the detailing and highlighting. Or, like when you drew one of the chipmunks, you can start with a blank canvas and then try copying what they draw on the top screen, step by step.

This isn’t the first art game you’ve played. But it’s a sequel to the one you love the most, the original Academy of Arts. How do the two differ?

Well, in this one you can draw things that you already know very well. All Disney characters. And I like to draw things that I know. Also, they sometimes crack jokes while giving you the lessons. Like the cartoons that come at the end of the lesson, which look a bit like what you drew but are usually much worse and quite funny. It makes you feel good about what you’ve drawn.

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Just so everyone knows, it’s not really a game, is it? More like a creativity app.

Yeah, but they put a very vague story in it. It’s not like you have a goal where you have to draw a specific character and then you save someone from dying or something. It’s more like you’re on vacation and you meet a guy who’s an art teacher. He complains to his nephew and niece that there aren’t enough people in his art program to save some kind of art festival. It asks if you want to register. And you don’t really have a choice to say no, because if you did, the game would just be over. So you say yes and then spend the rest of the game making art for a festival.

To the right. Now you told me many times that you love Disney Academy of Arts more than the original Academy of Arts. Is it because you associate it with our trip to New York, where you met Sabrina Carpenter? Be honest.

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Seriously? Do you really think I would like a game just because I went somewhere and met someone? I am not a simple minded person interested in simple pleasures. No, it’s because in Academy of Arts you draw real things that I don’t care about. Just everyday stuff like cherries. In the Disney version, you draw fun stuff like cartoons. Cartoons are easier and it takes less time to make them look really good.

I actually like the original a bit more because, as you say, it focused on everyday things. It reminded me of my art classes in college. I remember the cherry in which I drew Academy of Arts was great. I got the shiny piece just right.

I remember that. It was good.

Can you save and print your photos in Disney Academy of Arts?

Yeah. You can save them to an SD card I think, then put them on your computer and do whatever you want with them. I could do it with my Maleficent drawing. I drew it in New York and then redid it when we got the game home because I loved it so much. She is fun to draw.

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But aside from the subjects and some interface tweaks, Disney Academy of Arts gives you more or less the same set of tools, doesn’t it? The ability to zoom, choose tip types and thicknesses, color and stains…

Yes, but they added a new tool. It’s like a magic brush that lets you scatter glitter everywhere. It’s awesome. Do you know why it’s awesome? Because glitter is awesome. Do you know why glitter is awesome? Just because.

Now the key question: do you think Disney Academy of Arts made you a better performer in real life? By that I mean, if I gave you a bunch of colored pencils and you drew Maleficent on a sheet of paper, would your physical drawing look as good as it did in the game?

I think I should practice more with the game, but over time, yes. For example, I wouldn’t have the simple sketch they start you off with, so I’d need to practice drawing it a bit more in-game to be able to do it very well on paper. And I know I said I was a great artist, but all artists make mistakes – remember when I saw a little paint drop mistake on this Degas painting at the Museum of Modern Art ? – and Disney Academy of Arts allows you to correct these errors at the push of a button.

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Yeah, that feature rocks. I would kill to be able to do drawing touch-ups like this in real life. So what’s the score? And should people buy it if they already have another game in the series?

They should decide for themselves. If they really love Academy of Arts, they might not need it, because it’s basically the same game, except you draw different things. But if they really like Disney, then they’ll probably like those things more. If they have never played Art Academy games before, they should definitely give it a try. Because it’s great fun. Well, that’s if you like to draw. I give it an eight out of ten.

I think you hit the nail on the head with that. It’s eight.




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Mildred D. Field