Ex-Disney animators create art opportunities for autistic students

Lisa F. Crites
Adaryl ‘AJ’ Beasley, 19, has autism and is currently enrolled in Elite Animation Academy’s Digital Arts for Autism program.


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 one of the many instructors at Digital Arts for Autism, or DAFA, the program operated by Orlando’s Elite Animation Academy, where 19-year-old Adaryl “AJ” Beasley is currently enrolled. 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.

Lisa F. Crites


“It’s exciting to see him look forward to class,” said AJ’s mother, Micarla Beasley. “He is motivated to learn.”

During AJ’s senior year of high school, he began showing interest in designing art on his computer. Micarla and husband Adaryl Beasley Sr. researched programs for their son and Elite Animation Academy had just opened its Digita