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Keane's September/October 2012 "This Is Too Good To Pass Up" Trip Report - Part 2


The text of this trip report was posted to the Usenet group rec.arts.disney.parks on October 21, 2012. This is an expanded version with pictures. If you are reading this someplace else than rec.arts.disney.parks, or on my site keanespics.com, it was copied without my permission.

Wheel Well Motel
Lightning and Sally at the Wheel Well Motel...
Who: Me, Keane. Disney Junkie and obviously a glutton for punishment...
     Mom, aka "Miss Marie". Mobility impaired. Memory impaired, too.
     Jenny. Fellow Disney Junkie, and du...kind enough to help.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
What: An opportunistic trip to Walt Disney World.
Where: Walt Disney World, Art of Animation Resort, Little Mermaid Room.
Why: D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, D23's 2012 Sip & Scream, and a dinner in Great Movie Ride.
When: September 29 thru October 6, 2012

All Disclaimers from Part 1 still apply.
Thank you.

Sidebar: Art of Animation Resort, Walt Disney World. (Abbreviated "AoA".)

Art of Animation (as of this trip report) is the newest resort at Walt Disney World. I've seen concept art of this resort for a couple of years now, but until you're in the middle of it, you don't really get what Disney was trying to do.

(The concept art starts at the AoA logo...)

There are ten buildings, split up into four already well-established themes. Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

Cars and Little Mermaid have three buildings, Finding Nemo and Lion King have two.
Cars, Finding Nemo and Lion King are Family Suite buildings, Little Mermaid has single value rooms.
Cars, Finding Nemo and Little Mermaid have pools, Lion King does not.

I will first say, the themeing is brilliant, both indoors and out. When you get right down to it, it is themed no differently than say, All-Star Movies. But the big difference is the detail put into the theme, and the interiors of the rooms are themed as well. In All-Stars, all the buildings are pretty much the same, and they threw themeing at it.

At Art of Animation, they were able to make the buildings part of the theme, since the family suite buildings have interior corridors with windows and walls instead of outdoor railings facing the courtyards. Little Mermaid buildings are more like a traditional value building. Because they are.

The doors are RFID, all you have to do is touch your room key to the sensor and lock clicks open.

The interior of the Mermaid rooms are grand, for a value. The mirror above the table have fish looking at you like you're Ariel. A picture of Eric and his dog on the wall. The lights are integrated into the headboard of a seashell. You walk to the bathroom, and Ariel is your shower curtain, only when moved aside do you find that the shower surround is Ariel's grotto with all her thingamabobs. (Keep the bathroom door closed at night, otherwise if you even get close to the doorway, the fan will go on. And it stays on a long time.)

But, I have to add, it's still a value room. The rooms are small, as is the table, and the chairs are made of hard plastic. Getting a handicap room might be worth it to get a king size bed and more usable floor space, something not available at AoA as a non-handicap option. Just sayin'. Let your conscience be your guide... HAhahahaha....

The rooms have HDTV's with a dedicated (hidden) panel for HDMI, VGA and composite ports, complete with two outlets at 90 degree angles in case your power bricks are weird. Half of the storage space in the TV stand/dresser is taken up by the fridge, leaving you only three not very large drawers for storage, and things can get behind the drawers. The cabinet door to the fridge has no sound padding, so if you aren't careful, it's very easy to let the door slam shut. Loudly. And all of your local neighbors will also hear the door slam shut. Also note that the fridge in the cabinet is not a dedicated affair, but just a fridge put inside a cabinet. So just because you close the cabinet door, does not guarantee you closed the fridge door.

Oh, I must mention coffee makers are not standard equipment for value rooms. The closest place for real coffee might be Epcot.

Jenny thinks the resort (and includes Pop Century) is more noisy than the All-Stars, in terms of hearing other doors slam, children crying, toilets flushing, etc.

Wifi is your only option. There were times I would have paid for a wired connection had it been an option. I had a strong connection, and it wasn't bad all the time, but when it was, it got tiring real quick.

Worse, was cell phone reception. Like there was none. Text messages would fail, unless the phone was right next to the window. I was dependent on it one day, and it failed miserably. I started relying on the house phone. (I would eventually find that putting my phone right up against the window and using my Bluetooth earpiece worked, but that was only my phone. Jenny had to leave the room to make a call. Mom's just failed in the room, period. She could sometimes call out, but not have a conversation.

It only went downhill from there.

AoA Map
Overhead map of Art of Animation (left of Hourglass lake) and Pop Century (on the right). The Lobby/Food Court is in orange, the bus stops in green. Buildings 7, 8 and 9 in blue, which are the Little Mermaid Rooms at AoA. The red dot is where our rooms were.
If you look at the map, Animation Hall is the center of the three family suite hotel sections, but Little Mermaid is stuck off to the side like an afterthought. At Pop Century, there are three identical sets of buildings that point toward the main complex (identical to AoA's family suites, but rotated 180 degrees). However at Pop, buildings 7, 8 and 9 curve toward the lobby. At AoA, buildings 7, 8 and 9 curve away from the lobby, making the distances to the food court and the bus stops longer.

This makes for some pretty darn long unprotected walks to and from the bus stops, not appreciated when it's hot with a Florida sun or raining. For the first time in years, it was more convenient to drive to the parks, rather than take the bus. Without Mom and her scooter, of course, but after a while, we drove Mom and her walker to the food court. It was faster and easier than the walk with the scooter.

If you really look at the numbers, there are 1120 suites in 7 buildings that are in close proximity to Animation Hall, and 864 value rooms concentrated into 3 buildings over 1/4 mile away. As heartless as this sounds, they should turn Pop/AoA into a single bus loop with two other pickup points (near buildings 7, 8 and 9 in both resorts) like the moderates, with buses dedicated to individual resorts during opening and closing, like Port Orleans. (Yes, I have advocated for bus stops in the back of the All-Stars, too.)

Then there was Landscape of Flavors, the only food venue at AoA. Before we got there, Jenny and I were excited about the menu. However, it lost something in execution.

Breakfasts were consistently bad. Worse was the food layout, where there are four crowded food stations (six all together), so if you needed food from two different stations, the food you got first would be cold before you got food from the second. There are two lines to three of the stations, and one could have 10 guests in it, and the other two. Maybe there should be one line that splits into two like in Tangerine Cafe, rather than two lines to two identical food stations.

Too much ice was added to the smoothies, so they were flavorless. (They were one of the things on the menu that looked really good.) The CM's had no knowledge of the menus above their head, and had no way easy way of seeing them. This is especially true with kid's meals. Perhaps a copy of the menu behind the counter would be a good idea. All the CM's assume you're on the dining plan, so they consistently misinform you on what really comes with the meal.

The restaurant itself is LOUD. The place seems to be designed to reflect the noise back onto you, especially when there are screaming kids present. (That is, most of the time.) They should talk to Jason Surrell to have a carpet wall put up, and banners or signs hanging from the ceiling.

We could also discuss the garbage disposal areas of the restaurant. Since they use real plates and silverware, everything has to be sorted out. Dishes, silverware, etc. The slot for garbage is so small, it is impossible to scrape off a plate into it. A total failure of a system. Since they have a number of CM's that do nothing but empty this area of dirty plates, a better option probably would have been to bus the table and use one of those tray conveyors that take the trays backstage to be cleaned up.

Also when I was there, the landscaping was still being completed. The day I got there, there was a large patch of unfinished dirt in front of building 9, but by the end of the next day, it had been sodded over. I saw numerous crews with a manager type discussing the landscaping. All the plants are new. All the trees are still being supported by 2x4's.

I met up with a CM who was sweeping small rocks back into their place next to the walk, where people kicked them off the landscaping. I asked him if this was going to be a daily thing, and he replied it's an hourly thing. I told him he should send the designers a nasty note, and he replied that he'd rather come in on his day off and sprinkle cement dust on it. I told him I wouldn't tell anyone. Wait. What was that first rule again?

In summary, Art of Animation is a brilliantly themed resort, which fails in execution in many places. Perhaps some of the problems will be smoothed over in the coming years, but I can't recommend staying in the Little Mermaid section due to the distance from Animation Hall and the non-existent cell phone service, and in general the Landscape of Flavors food court has to be one of the worst counter service resort restaurants on property...

Art of Animation, Animation Hall

Art of Animation, Animation Hall
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Room 9618 (handicap) and Room 9619 Little Mermaid Room Interiors

Room 9618
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Room 9619
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Landscape of Flavors

Landscape of Flavors Food Court
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Resort Exteriors

Little Mermaid Exteriors
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Lion King Exteriors
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Finding Nemo Exteriors
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Cars Exteriors
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End Sept 2012 Trip Report - Part 2.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

  • 11/08/2012 - Page Added
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2