Inside Disney’s Art of Animation Resort where deluxe decor sets a new standard for Walt Disney World value hotels

in Disney, Events, Featured, Hotel, Walt Disney World

Officially opening at the end of May 2012, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort may technically be called a “value” hotel at Walt Disney World, but its exceptional design is closer to that of one of Disney’s deluxe accommodations. By telling the story of animation in stages, from sketches to the final close-up of finished art, this hotel presents guests with an experience that never lacks in originality or character.


Though it’s still more than a month until the “Finding Nemo” wing of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort officially opens, yesterday I had an opportunity to tour the area as well as preview the “Cars” wing that’s to follow in June.

Animation Hall

Animation Hall

It was the approach into this 25th Walt Disney World hotel that instantly impressed, with bold design choices accented by familiar Disney characters. It’s the lobby of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort that will stun all who enter it for the first time, contained along with a gift shop, food court, and video arcade under the building name of Animation Hall.

Video: Tour of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Animation Hall with Imagineer Gary Hoffman

The story presented at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is that of how an animated feature is created. The lobby features archival sketches from the four Disney movies represented in each of the hotel’s wings: “Finding Nemo,” “Cars,” “The Lion King,” and “The Little Mermaid.” These sketches have been blown up and arranged from colorless to colorful spanning the large check-in area, which unto itself is a wonderful world of color.


The usual long check-in desk has been replaced by a rainbow of smaller desks for a more personalized check-in experience.



Sketches extend onto the lobby’s grand chandelier, which also features a personalized (and autographed) sketch from John Lasseter.


Flanking each side of the gift shop are backlit rows of more artwork, beginning the careful color and lighting choices that go into every animated film.

Lobby artwork

The story continues inside the “Ink and Paint” gift shop where shelves are designed as giant paintbrushes and colorful canisters. The shop wasn’t quite done yet during yesterday’s tour, but some of the hotel’s merchandise was on display.

Ink & Paint Shop

Ink & Paint Shop

Ink & Paint Shop

Beyond the colorization of the characters in developing an animated film is background design, artwork from which is prominently featured in the Landscape of Flavors food court. Without being able to sample any of the unique food offerings promised here, I wasn’t able to get a good feel for what this area was all about, other than taking in the artwork.

Landscape of Flavors food court

Landscape of Flavors food court

Landscape of Flavors food court

Landscape of Flavors food court

The final element of Animation Hall is the Pixel Play Arcade, a video game arcade large enough to happily entertain just about every gamer staying at the hotel at any given time. Its theme focuses on the pixels that make up a computer screen, an important element to today’s world of animation.

Pixel Play Arcade

Pixel Play Arcade

Pixel Play Arcade

Pixel Play Arcade

“Finding Nemo” Pool

Stepping outside Animation Hall, guests move from the conceptual stage into what Disney’s Art of Animation Resort General Manager Rick Allen calls the “medium shot,” surrounding a massive pool with larger-than-life characters from the Disney/Pixar film “Finding Nemo.”

Finding Nemo pool

The “Finding Nemo” pool is the main pool for the hotel, accessible for all who stay there, regardless of which movie-themed wing they book. It’s also Disney’s largest pool outside of a water park.

Video: Tour of the “Finding Nemo” pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

The most unique pool feature wasn’t yet available to experience, as the pool wasn’t actually open during this tour, but music along with the sounds of Dory, Nemo, and other “Finding Nemo” characters will be periodically heard underwater in the pool.

Crush, Dory, and Mr. Ray are icons of two the “Finding Nemo” themed buildings, while Squirt, Marlin, Nemo, and friends all appear in various play areas. Squirt’s coral structure houses a tunnel and slide while Marlin and Nemo hide in an anemone among a water play area. Water-squirting jellyfish line a zero-entry into the pool on the side furthest from Animation Hall.

Finding Nemo pool

Finding Nemo pool

Finding Nemo pool

Crush and Dory

Mr. Ray

Squirt play area

Finding Nemo water play area


Family Suites / Rooms

Despite the extravagant decor of Animation Hall and the pool area, hallways leading to the rooms of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort are rather drab. Walking down them was the only time I ever truly felt like I was in a “value” hotel. Of course, that’s a bit ironic considering this is the only Disney hotel of that level that features indoor hallways, which is a perk unto itself.

Finding Nemo wing

All rooms in the “Finding Nemo” wing are family suites, as will be those in the “Cars” and “The Lion King” wings. These rooms feature an entry way with a unique desk that transformers into a bed, a living area, a full bedroom, and two bathrooms, able to comfortably house 6 people.

Video: Tour the “Finding Nemo” family suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

“Finding Nemo” details extend throughout the rooms of the family suite without ever being completely overwhelming.

Finding Nemo family suite

Finding Nemo family suite

Finding Nemo family suite

Finding Nemo family suite

Finding Nemo family suite

Details like the giant porthole bathroom mirror with “Fish are friends” written on it are among the better touches.

Finding Nemo family suite

Finding Nemo family suite

There’s a coziness to each of these rooms, offering families a chance to stay together without ever feeling cramped, but still being able to give everyone their own spaces.


The “Cars” wing of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is still under construction and as such I was only able to stand on the outskirts of Radiator Springs and peek in.

Cars wing

But the level of detail going into this area is only a notch or two below what’s being installed into Cars Land at the Disneyland Resort and there’s definitely a level of authenticity to be found throughout the area.

Video: Preview of the “Cars” wing of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort with Imagineer Ryan Parrish

The “Cars” characters of this section of the hotel are really what bring the design together, looking as if they jumped right off the screen and are about to come to life.

Cars wing

Cars wing

Cars wing


Radiator Springs




Looking into the construction site, the Cozy Cone Motel is shaping up but was blocking the view of the smaller pool behind it, accompanied by Cozy Cone poolside cabanas.

Cozy Cone Motel

Ornament Valley rockwork lines the walls of the area, completing the theme.

Cars wing

At no point during my 2-hour tour of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort did I ever feel I was anywhere but in the midst of Disney magic at work. From the moment guests inside the colorful lobby, it will be clear that this “value” hotel is like no other Disney has created thus far. Some are quick to argue that the $249+ per night price should put it in a category higher than “value,” and I may agree, but that doesn’t mean a stay at the hotel isn’t worth the price paid, particularly if sleeping 6 inside one of the family suites. And when “The Little Mermaid” wing opens in a few months, it will feature standard hotel rooms, offering a more comparable stay to Disney’s other “value” hotels.

Regardless of the price, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort feels like a deluxe hotel dedicated to the characters that visitors to Walt Disney World know and love and should make it to the must-see list of all who come to Orlando for a stay, even if staying at another hotel.

The first wing of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opens on May 31 with three more to follow throughout summer 2012.

More photos from Disney’s Art of Animation Resort:


  1. Clay Matthews

    Honestly, if the experience matches the facilities this looks like it just became the best hotel value in the parks. Spectacular.

  2. Alex Johnston

    Great coverage, but I have to ask. at 10 seconds in on the first video when you are filming the exterior of the resort… what in the world is that creature / character that waves at you?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      It was a stilt-walking fish guy they had at the media reception / hotel preview. There were two of them, in fact. Flip to the end of the photo gallery to see a better photo of one.

  3. Just last month everything was still in construction phases! They have finished a lot in a month! Looks great!

  4. Beeker

    Ehhhh, the photos look great and you’ve done a nice job summarizing and showcasing some of the nicer elements. So, I can appreciate that it’s new, and looks nice. But seems a stretch to say the decor (etc.) is on par with a deluxe resort. I mean, the bold color schemes, the layout of the facilities, the cartoonish (literally!) theming basically define it for what it is: a newer, more refined version of the Pop!

    1. Ricky Brigante

      It just depends on what you’er looking for. This is an extremely fun environment to be in and leaps and bounds better than the other value hotels.

    2. Zot

      Just curious how much time you spend in your hotel room when you’re at Disney. We use it mainly to sleep, have breakfast and change clothes. The rest of the time we’re out playing in one of the theme parks or the pool, so for us the color scheme wouldn’t be an issue. I like the looks of everything and am planning on staying there sometime soon.

  5. OT

    Great review. As a kid these bigger then life characters would have freaked me out serieusly. And as a adult I don´t would like to stay a week in these bright coloured enviroments.

  6. Rachel

    Looks awesome… I thought the rooms were going to have a kitchenette.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      You can briefly see the sink area 48 seconds into the room tour video above. I didn’t get a photo of it, unfortunately.

  7. Jud

    Great report! Thank you! And I LOVE the furniture in the game room!



  8. Shelley murphy

    Staying here in Sept this year. First time to Disney for our family and think we’ve made a great choice, its looks awesome ….Can’t wait :o)

  9. Jess

    We are gonna be there in December for Christmas…are the pools heated 🙂

    1. PrettyLucky

      We are going in January. Did you find out if the pools are heated? Thanks!!

  10. Looks fabulous and definitely will be our choice if we are looking for a value resort next time! Kids would LOVE this one!

  11. Jennifer

    We are planning to stay at the Art of Animation Report in November. We are booking a Little Mermaid room as we are just a family of 4. However, my kids are both boys under the age of 8. Do you think they would mind the mermaid rooms? We spend very little time in the room when we are at Disney. I just think that the resort itself looks incredible and they would have a great time seeing their favorite movies in real life. Your opinion?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I haven’t seen the Mermaid rooms in person, but as a kid I personally would have been excited to stay at Art of Animation in any wing. Heck, even as an adult I am! But that’s me. It depends on what your kids like. If they like The Little Mermaid, they’ll surely like that part of the hotel. It won’t be princess-y, if that’s what you’re worried about. And you can still wander the grounds, explore the other wings, and enjoy the different pool areas.

    2. Jennifer

      If you are staying in November, there is free quick-service dining packages just across the pond at Pop Century. The Little Mermaid rooms have shark-themed bathrooms, but Pop Century has boyish-themed areas too and you can always walk across the bridge to explore the outdoor areas. Oh, and the Little Mermaid is not necessarily for girls only. Sebastion, the prince, Flounder…all great male characters.

  12. Sarah M.

    Any idea if there will be an ice cream shop like they have at POP. I have read about the gelato, but I haven’t heard anything definitive about ice cream. LOL!

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I haven’t heard anything specific about ice cream. They’re going for a bit of a healthier approach to the food court at Art of Animation… but they’ll still have many old favorites as well.

    2. Dan

      Stayed at Art of Animaton Sunday Night(before opening) Ate in Landscape of flavors too Gelato is to die for. Resort theming best for characters. Like walking through the movie.Rooms comfortable and serviceable not at level of luxury of deluxe resort.

  13. Kelly

    We are planning on staying here in November. Do you we have 4 adults and 2 kids under the age of 8. Do you think we could COMFORTABLY fit in here, or would it be better to get one family suite and one std room?


    1. Jennifer

      It just depends on how flexible and organized your family is. Two of the beds must be packed away every day if you want to use the couch or dining table. Are two in your group willing to put the bed away before breakfast is served?

      You have to remember that the standard rooms are quite distant from the suites and that Disney makes NO promises about the closeness of room assignments (POP gave our “guaranteed” handicap room away and we didn’t know until we opened the door to find a toilet that was inaccessible for one in my family). It might easily be a 10 to 20 minute walk between the two rooms. Being that separate can create hassles for wanting a late-night snack if in the standard room, the standard room adults taking the kids to the playground or pool, or meeting to take the bus to the park.

      My personal opinion is that if your family has a personality that can happily deal with close quarters on vacation, to stick with one room.

      I actually find the standard rooms quite spacious, but then again my family grew up with kids sharing beds…then backpacking trips…dorm rooms…etc.

  14. Patty

    how many sq. ft. is the family suites?

  15. Rachel

    The resort is very nice but the only thing that is delux about the resort is the price, it’s much more expensive than the other value.

    1. Nicci

      We were booked at an All Star and just this week changed our reservation to AoA and for our 10 day 9 night stay, it’s only $98 more! As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather spend the extra hundred and stay in a brand new place than one that’s close to 20 years old. Pop Century is right in the middle, it’s a $50 difference more than All Stars and $50 less than AoA.

      Now if you are comparing their family suit prices to All Star’s standard rooms, then yes, they are a lot more, but you can’t compare the 2. Of course a family suit is going to be a lot more than a standard 1 room rental.

  16. Natalie

    How big are the rooms…. we normally stay at the Contemporay for Christmas but this looks like more room, with 2 teenages I am thinking we should move here so we have space…. I am worried about the noise — in the halls while you are sleeping. I understand Pop/Music etc are louder than the deluxe resorts…..

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I’m not sure of the square footage but here’s a video tour of a family suite:

      I’ll have a full room review coming soon. Hall noise isn’t too much of an issue, but pool area noise is.

    2. Jennifer

      My family stayed at the Pop Century in mid-December in 2011 and had no problems with noise. The noise in the atrium of the Contemporary rivals the food court at Pop when it is at its busiest though. If you are still concerned about noise, ask for a top room away from the pool.

      Other benefits of switching: AoA and POP have much wider selections of food. There are also lots of paths for jogging and exploring since the two hotels are connected. Both perks for teenage boys.

      Downsides to switching: The value resorts have MUCH longer lines for Disney transportation. The bus line can be over an hour long if leaving at park-closing.

  17. jean Stoll

    Im planning to stay on Little mermaid rooms in September 24th.

    Im getting concerned as I cannot follow up the progress of the construction.

    Is safe to book rooms just after the starting date as Im planning?

    Is anyone of you aware about developments of this construction?


    1. Ricky Brigante

      The construction will be complete when opening date comes around. You don’t need to worry about that.

  18. Shannon

    We are planning a trip for the end of November and this is our first Disney trip. Do you know if the pools are heated?

  19. Lauren

    Is there a reason I cant not book a Little Mermaid room? I have googled for a way to do so and cant book it anywhere!

  20. Amy Phillips

    My daughter and I just got a deal on a room in the Little Mermaid section for this weekend on opening day of this area! We are SO excited does anyone know if there is anything special planned to “open” this area on Saturday? Thanks!

  21. kelly

    cars family suites are they equipped with washer/dryers?

  22. Aviva

    How much are the rooms? I want to know both standard and suite prices, please. Thanks!

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