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.
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The usual long check-in desk has been replaced by a rainbow of smaller desks for a more personalized check-in experience.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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
Details like the giant porthole bathroom mirror with “Fish are friends” written on it are among the better touches.
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.
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.
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.
Ornament Valley rockwork lines the walls of the area, completing the theme.
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: