Being at the Disney Institute is like going to camp," is how one guest described his three-day experience at the dedication of the new Disney Institute. This is no ordinary camp, though. Guests at the lakeside enclave at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL bunk in comfortable townhouses or bungalows (more than 800 persons can be accommodated) and eat gourmet meals at the Seasons Dining Room.
The best part, however, is that guests choose from 60 programs and workshops daily-a clever alternative for planners who want to offer a group experience, but individualize each person's experience. Programs run the gamut from experimenting with computer animation software to paddling canoes into a Florida swamp to using herbs for healthier meals.
"The Disney Institute offers our guests the thrill of creative challenges," said Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company. "They will collaborate with artists, and enjoy a wonderful variety of entertainment and the amenities of a first-class resort. It's smart fun."
For the dedication weekend, March 1 to 3, a number of celebrities were invited to perform or hold workshops. Among them were actor James Earl Jones, who gave an introduction to animation; Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who shared candid opinions on films and filmmakers with Martin Scorcese; and tap dancer Savion Glover, who showed off his unique brand of funk and jazz dance.
The Institute's expansive, campus-like setting has 28 program studios (animation and rehearsal studios are located in one complex, while another houses the design arts and culinary studios, and a closed-circuit television and radio station). The Institute also has a broadcast-quality performance center, a 1,150-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 38,000-square-foot fitness center with a full-service spa, tennis courts, and a golf course.
During a visit (there is a three-day minimum stay), there are eight different areas to explore, including entertainment arts, sports and fitness, lifestyles, story arts, culinary arts, design arts, the environment, and performing arts.