Academy Center for the Arts hosts festival in honor of Disney

For many, 2023 is a year to celebrate. For some it’s a graduation, a wedding or a sentimental goal, but in the case of Walt Disney productions, 2023 represents the 100-year anniversary of beloved animated stories and world-famous

While places like Disneyland and Disney World decorate their parks for the big celebration, Lynchburg is also celebrating. The Academy Center of the Arts plans to bring some of the Disney magic to Lynchburg with a classic Disney animation festival. The academy’s doors will be open free to the public Feb. 11 to celebrate the happiest place on earth with photobooths, character meet-and-greets, themed snacks and beverages and a two-feature animated event. 

Michelline Hall, the academy’s chief programming officer, explained how the festival is broken into a couple main events: the showing of a classic Disney short, a brief but exciting intermission and a theatrical screening of Disney’s animated classic “Aladdin.” Hall said the academy’s goal is to show off the authentic animation styles of the creators who came before. 

“(The Academy) chose ‘Aladdin’ because it’s a film that incorporates hand drawing techniques that are crucial in animation. You can see the building blocks between the technology, the drawing style and computer-generated animation like they did in the early 90s,” Hall said. 

Not only does the festival honor Disney, but it also seeks to help the less fortunate. The Academy Center working with the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization, will collect canned food from the people who come to the animation festival.

“We wanted to make the event affordable for everyone. That’s why there isn’t any entrance fee. In working with the Knights of Columbus, we just ask that each person or family that comes bring a canned food item so that we can have a positive impact on the community,” Hall said. 

The Academy Center also plans to get local students involved with the festival. Hall said the intermission portion of the festival will feature a musical number performed by Dunbar Middle School. 

“I think it’s important for kids to see the legacy of how we got here (animation-wise) and shine light on the animators who came before us and created breakthroughs. Things that we think are basic (animations) were cutting edge technology 100 years ago,” Hall said. 

Families and friends will also get to experience some Disney magic firsthand with personalized video messages from Tom Sito and Tom Bancroft, who both worked as animators for popular Disney films such as “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas” and “The Lion King.”  Hall explained that hearing these animators’ stories can help bond the younger generation to the older generation of Disney film. Hall said she wants the younger generation to get involved and learn more about animation so they can respect what came before them.  

“Sito and Bancroft are pillars in the animation world, so having them speak just showcases the hard work of animators … Screening these animations is important because showing older animated films that parents or even grandparents remember is a nice way to bring generations together in a lighthearted manner,” Hall said. 

The Academy Center’s bar manager Jessica Knapp explained that spreading “the arts” to the community is a big goal for the academy. 

“Introducing the arts to the local community and educating the community on the different forms of art is what we strive to do at the academy,” Knapp said. “We provide an art bus that travels to different schools, offer many free events, have scholarships available and (we) love encouraging people to come here and feel welcome.”

Wallace is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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