The Art of Animation Resort is Disney’s latest hotel at Walt Disney World. Opening in stages, this value resort will offer both standard rooms and one-bedroom suites when completed. I recently stayed here and would like to share my insights with all of you. Some of you might already be familiar with this resort through articles written by AllEars newest feature blogger, Kristin Ford and videos I shot last month.
Before I get started, I need to share some history with you. (Surprise, surprise)
Disney’s Pop Century Resort was to feature 10 sections, each representing a different decade of the 20th century. The resort would be divided in half with Hourglass Lake separating the Classic Years from the Legendary Years. A bridge would connect the two.
The first phase of Disney’s Pop Century Resort (the Classic Years) opened in late 2003. This half of the resort featured pop icons and memorabilia from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. The resort was an immediate success and quickly became a favorite of those seeking a value resort.
Construction began on the second phase of the project and the lobby/restaurant and three hotel wings were nearly completed. However, because of the slowdown in tourism after the 9/11 attacks, it was decided to put the project on hold until things turned around. In this next picture, you can see the nearly completed lobby/restaurant of the Legendary Years. The project was so far along that even some decorative touches had been added.
In 2010, Disney announced that they would restart construction on this unfinished portion of the resort, but instead of completing the Legendary Years, they would build the Art of Animation Resort. No reason was given for this change of course. The announcement also surprised many as the hotel would contain both standard rooms and one-bedroom suites. The three buildings that had already been completed would be standard rooms.
The Art of Animation Resort is located off of Victory Way at the south end of Disney World property. The entrance sign is big and inviting.
The resort features four sections, each themed after a different Disney or Pixar Movie. The first section to open was the Finding Nemo district in May of this year (2012). This was followed by the Cars district opening in June. The Lion King rooms will open sometime in August. And the Little Mermaid section in September. The Little Mermaid buildings will feature standard rooms. All of the rest will be suites. In addition, the suites will have indoor hallways leading to the rooms rather than balconies.
As you approach the resort and Animation Hall, the four movie themes of the resort tower above the sidewalk on giant pieces of “paper.”
The bus stop is also located just outside of Animation Hall – and I have some fantastic news for you. Unlike the other value resorts, the pick-up and drop-off area is covered. Guests are protected from the sun and rain while waiting to go to the parks. Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed that Disney will retrofit the other value resorts with this necessity.
Since I know I will be asked… The Art of Animation Resort does NOT share buses with Pop Century.
Entering Animation Hall through the porte-cochère, guests are greeted by a huge wall of sketches. These include characters from Cars, Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King. If you study the drawings from right to left, you will notice the characters change as you move along. On the right side of the wall, the characters are depicted in their early, concept stage. As you move along, they begin to take on more familiar personas, until finally, we see the personalities we have fallen in love with.
The floor also helps tell the story of animation. Near the porte-cochère entrance, the floor is decorated with broad, sweeping swaths of color. This represents the strokes of a brush and the early years of animation. As you proceed through the room, the swaths turn into large squares, then smaller squares. This represents the transformation from hand-painted cels to computer graphics and pixels.
Opposite the animation wall are the check-in desks. However, instead of an expansive, single counter that stretches from one side of the room to the other, multiple podiums have been lines up. This allows the cast members to actually come from behind the podium and stand next to you as they provide resort information. I have to admit, I was a little dubious when I first heard about this new, informal method of registration, but when I actually tried it, I liked it a lot. The cast member was able to provide me with casual professionalism.
Behind the podiums the wall is awash with color.
Also in the check-in area is a children’s waiting area. An artistic, round room with a spiral bench gives kids a fun spot to hang out while mom and dad take care of vacation details.
Every Disney resort must have a video arcade and Art of Animation is no exception. Pixel Play Arcade can be found in Animation Hall and is a fun place to practice some hand-eye coordination. Another nice thing about this facility is seating. For the first time in a Disney arcade, cushioned benches (that look like giant pixels) are offered and allow mom and dad to rest while the younger set is mesmerized by flashing lights.
Landscape of Flavors is the Art of Animation Resort food court. Disney also learned their lesson from mistakes they made at the All Star Resorts. Here, the ordering area is much larger and better lit than at previous venues. In addition, the food court features an open kitchen. So while waiting in line, you can see the cleanliness of the facility and your food’s preparation.
Several tandori ovens were installed and the chefs of the Sanaa Restaurant (Animal Kingdom Lodge) were on hand to help with the menu. I have eaten here several times and I have been more than pleased. Although the basics like pizza and hamburgers are available, more upscale offerings like Mongolian Grill Beef Stir Fry and Tandori Portuguese Sausage can also be ordered. To see the complete menu, click here.
There is plenty of seating in four minimally themed areas. My only complaint with the dining rooms is that there are no soft surfaces or carpet to absorb the sound. It can get a little noisy in here.
To see a movie of the resort entrance and Animation Hall, check out this video.
Just outside of Animation Hall is the Finding Nemo Section of the resort and the hotel’s largest swimming pool. Guests in this area are made to feel they are the size of Nemo and are surrounded by fish, coral, and other marine life. Another unique attribute of this pool is the underwater speakers, so when you’re swimming below the surface, you can hear your favorite Disney melodies.
A very imaginative children’s splash area (Schoolyard Sprayground) features a number of Nemo’s classmates spouting water. This is a great spot for little ones to cool down on hot days. A dry play area (Righteous Reef Playground) is also on hand and offers several slides and tunnels for kids to explore. Please note: Do not let your children drink the water in the splash area. It is recycled and nearby signs inform you of this fact. When I visited the other day, parents had given their kids plastic bottles and they were filling them via the spouting fish. The last thing you need while on vacation is a sick child.
The Drop Off is the spot for mom and dad to find a refreshing libation. This is also the location to refill your refillable mugs when poolside.
Crush and Mr. Ray greet guests as they enter the two Finding Nemo buildings. Other fish can be seen swimming in the gardens and along the sides of the buildings. It all adds up to a lot of underwater fun.
To see more of the Finding Nemo swimming pool, take a look at the following video.
The guest rooms of the Finding Nemo section are all one-bedroom suites. When entering, you’re in the dining room. A special Murphy bed table makes up the bulk of the furniture in this room. One person can easily open and close this bed as it has counterweights. Two end tables flank the bed.
Off of the dining room is a bathroom. A single sink is available in the outer room and a toilet and shower can be found in a secondary room. The mirror is framed within a giant porthole and the shower curtain sports Dory, Bruce, Anchor, and Chum.
The living room has a convertible sofa, coffee table, pole lamp, chair, chest of drawers, and an open closet. Also in the living room is a kitchenette that features a sink, microwave, mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, plastic cups & cutlery and paper plates & bowls.
The bedroom has a double bed, chest of drawers, a TV, open closet, and nightstands. The headboard is designed to look like coral and the lamps resemble sea urchins.
The master bath is decorated similarly to the guest bath, however, it does not have a separate water closet. It also has a large stall shower while the guest bath has a tub/shower.
The attention to detail in the Finding Nemo guest suite is amazing and I’m certain many people, especially children, will fall in love with the Finding Nemo rooms – however, I am not one of them. For me, the bright blues and oranges are too intense and make it impossible for me to relax. Also, the plastic dining room chairs and plastic coffee table reek of cheap. I really think Disney could have made some better choices in the color scheme and furniture.
To see a video of the room, click on the picture below.
Your journey to the Cars section of the resort begins with a trip down Route 66. Two giant billboards welcome you to Radiator Springs and Ornament Valley. Along the road, all of your old friends are on hand to greet you. With the use of creative landscaping and a wonderful pallet of colors, it’s easy to forget you’re in Florida and not in the American Southwest. For those of you who remember Burma-Shave advertisements, you’re in for a treat.
At the heart of the Cars section of the resort is the Cozy Cone Motel. This is the entrance to the swimming pool. When you visit, be sure to take a look at the postcards in the window. For any of you who are my age and remember long “driving” vacations, these will bring back memories. Inside this building are coin-operated washers and dryers.
The Cozy Cone Pool is substantially smaller than the Big Blue Pool over at the Finding Nemo section of the resort. Although children are welcome here, they would probably be happier swimming with Nemo and his friends.
One of the best features of the Cozy Cone Pool is the Cozy Cone Cabanas. Each of these houses a table and four chairs – the perfect spot for shade and a game of cards. These cabanas cannot be reserved and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Sarge’s Supply Hut cleverly houses pool equipment and is a storage facility for other resort paraphernalia.
Sarge’s nemesis, Fillmore is also on hand. Be sure to read some of Filmore’s bumper stickers. They’re a hoot!
The Cars section of the resort has three guest buildings. Mater, Luigi & Guido, and Lightning & Sally each anchor one of the entrances.
To see a video of the Cars section of the Art of Animation Resort, check out the video below.
As I mentioned earlier, I was not enamored with the Finding Nemo guest rooms. That was not the case with the Cars rooms. I fell in love with the imaginative décor found here. The colors were more subdued and the furniture a little more sturdy. The floor plan and accoutrements of the Finding Nemo and Cars rooms is identical. It is only the theming that changes.
Let’s start in the dining room. Once again, a table/retractable bed makes up the bulk of the furnishings here. On the table are the logos for the many businesses of Radiator Springs. When the Murphy bed is open, a picture of Mater sleeping can be seen. The end tables are designed to look like auto tool cases.
The guest bath is designed to look like a carwash. The brightly lit mirror is hilarious and the shower curtain has Red giving Lightning a much needed shower. I have been told by a reader that these shower curtains are for sale at the Ink & Paint shop. However, they were not available during my visit.
I love the living room. The convertible sofa looks like the backseat of a 1950’s car. It’s fantastic. The coffee table has a map of Route 66 passing through Carburetor County. If you study it carefully, you’ll find many interesting places like Tailfin Pass and Tire Flats. You might also find a hidden Mickey. Note: The coffee table is made out of particle board and is very heavy. It will take two people to move it out of the way when opening the bed.
The chest of drawers, open closet, and kitchenette all resemble auto tool chests.
The bedroom is a little more subdued than the living and dining rooms. The theme here is Cozy Cone Motel. The carpet, headboard, and lamps all sport these cute little orange safety markers. The chest of drawers is designed to look like a piece of furniture you might encounter on a 1950’s road trip.
Another cute detail used in this room is old style postcards embedded in the furniture.
The bathroom continues the car wash theme found in the guest bath.
Another thing I like about this room is the pictures hanging on the wall. Scenes from the movie appear to be painted on canvas and have an expensive look about them.
If you’d like to see a video of a Cars guest room, click on the picture below.
I know most of you don’t watch TV to any extent when you visit Walt Disney World. But for those of you who do, I have good news. Disney recently contracted with Direct TV and their station selection is greatly improved and expanded. Now when you can’t sleep in the middle of the night, there is something besides Stacy to watch.
Between the Finding Nemo section and the Cars section, for me, Cars wins hands down. I feel the detailing is better and the atmosphere a little less “in your face.” However, if you have kids, you might want to consider the Finding Nemo section as it is closer to the pool they’re going to want to use.
I already have my reservations for the opening of The Lion King section of the resort. You can rest assured I will have more pictures and videos soon after.
Hi Everyone. This is Jack with an update.
Disney is touting the Big Blue Pool at the Art of Animation Resort as Walt Disney World’s largest “resort” swimming pool. This pool holds 308,527 gallons of water. However, Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach holds 795,000 gallons of water. Disney considers Stormalong Bay as a “collection” of pools, even though they are all connected to one another via small swim-ways.
The previous post in this blog was Golden Oak.
The next post in this blog is What Would Walt Do?.