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Woody Woodman working with AJ Beasley

Featured Article

Animators from Disney Develop Young Minds Through the Art of Animation

And Create Art Opportunities for our Autistic Youth

Elite Animation Academy was founded in 2012 by former Disney animators, Gladys and Todd West. The couple saw a need for animation teaching after Gladys worked in an executive role with  Disney's MGM Studios. Elite provides general art and animation training with experienced movie, cartoon and print animation instructors. The Wests envisioned a design studio with a primary mission of developing young minds through the art of animation. In less than a decade, Elite has grown to include an expansive lineup of summer camps and virtual opportunities through which students acquire design and animation skills. Digital Arts For Autism (DAFA), only for adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, trains students for specialized jobs in animation and publishing.

The DAFA program is aimed at high-functioning students in the 17-to-23-year range who want to learn design disciplines. “Our primary target is those who cannot attend a traditional college because the curriculum is too fast-paced,” said Todd West. The new program began January 2021 and offers a year-long syllabus. “We have designed a custom teaching model to educate ASD students,” said Gladys.

“The goal of the program is to give students employable skills with autistic-friendly employers.”

Elite instructors are animation artists who built successful careers as graphic artists and feature movie animators for studios such as Disney's MGM. They teach the fundamentals of animation, digital media and creative regimen skills. Program disciplines also include training on Adobe Suite, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Animate and WordPress. 

An artist who helped create several Disney animated legends such as “Mulan” is teaching students on the “autism spectrum” to unleash their creativity through animation. In addition to “Mulan,” veteran Disney feature animation artist Woody Woodman also worked on films like “Tarzan” and “Lilo & Stitch,” and is now working with 19-year-old Adaryl “AJ” Beasley. A.J. was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Art is a powerful force for autistic individuals. Creating art promotes mental and emotional growth and a natural way to explore and express feelings. According to AJ’s parents, he is thriving in his animation studies. “It’s exciting to see him look forward to class,” said AJ’s mother, Micarla Beasley. “He is motivated to learn.”

The syllabus, designed specifically for adults on the autism spectrum, was perfect; AJ’s classes are small, and the material is always very well explained. Added Micarla: “He has grown so much in the last few months. We are grateful we found the right fit.”

Elite Animation Academy 

8933 Conroy Windermere Rd, Orlando, FL 32835


  • Woody Woodman working with AJ Beasley
  • Woody Woodman working with AJ Beasley
  • Woody Woodman working with AJ Beasley
  • One of the studios at Elite Animation Academy
  • Virtual classes make it easy to enjoy remotely

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