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Walt Disney World Resort - On-site Resorts - Art of Animation Resort

AoA sign
I stayed in a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation in September 2012, two weeks after the official opening of the Little Mermaid Section.
Note: The pictures here and in my Sept/Oct 2012 Trip Report are identical. The trip report has more of a personal view of Art of Animation (mostly in part 2, but is really scattered through the report), this page has more of an analytical view.

As of my writing this (October 2012), Disney's Art of Animation Value Resort is the newest resort on Disney World property. It is the sort-of-a sister resort to Pop Century.

In the late 90's, Disney was planning on adding about 5500 more value rooms to their growing number of on-site hotels, with two new resorts. Pop Century, the Classic Years, and Pop Century, the Legendary Years. It was to be similar to the All-Stars, except they would cram almost the same number of rooms into two resorts instead of three. (8 more rooms per floor per building, with four floor buildings instead of the three at All-Stars.)

But then came September 11, 2001, and tourism stopped. Pop Century, the Classic Years, was to have opened in 2001. Its opening was postponed twice, and eventually opened on December 14, 2003.

All construction ceased on the Legendary Years, and for years, sat empty and unfinished in plain sight across Hourglass Lake.

But in January 2010, work started on the site again. In May 2010, Disney announced the creation of a new resort, the Art of Animation, which would still be based around a value hotel, but feature Family Suites. They would be much like a 1-Bedroom villa, but without the kitchen, with two bathrooms and the ability to sleep 6. (Right. More likely four. Let me also add, that if you have four people in a regular value room, y'all better like each other exceptionally well.)

They would take the prior construction of the Legendary Years, and use it as the foundation for the new resort. Art of Animation would take four already-well established themes as its source: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. Because of the amount of construction already done on buildings 7, 8 and 9, they would open as normal value rooms, but buildings 1-6 and 10 would be converted to family suites.

Art of Animation concept art, presented at D23's Destination D:WDW 40th
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400px Map
Map of Disney's Art of Animation Resort. Click on the map for a larger view... Map ©Disney
(There is a discussion of resort types (and amenities to each) on the general Walt Disney World Resorts page. There is also a discussion on lodging which leads to room types on my Walt Disney World Overview page.)

Art of Animation opened in two phases. The 1120 Family Suites in the 7 buildings that surround Animation Hall opened in May 2012. The 864 Little Mermaid rooms (in 3 buildings) on September 15, 2012. I would stay there September 29 for a week...

Room numbers are four digits, and breaks down as follows:

BFNN

where B is the building number (building 10 starts with a 0),
F is the floor. 1-4 are in Pop Century, 5-8 (where 5 is the first floor, 6 is the second, etc.) is in Art of Animation.
NN is the room number on that floor.

One of my rooms was Room 9618. Building 9, second floor in Art of Animation, room 18. Note that all of Pop Century and Art of Animation share the same room number space, probably an artifact from the original plans, concept and software.

There are several other shared features. If you look at an overhead map (one is below), the main resort building and buildings 1-6 and 10 are identical between the two resorts, just turned 180 degrees from each other. Buildings 7,8 and 9 are a different matter, however, which we will get to later.

The breakdown of the Resort itself is as follows:

Art of Animation, Animation Hall

The Main Complex is known as Animation Hall. It holds Registration, Ink and Paint (the resort gift shop), Pixel Play Arcade (the resort game room) and Landscape of Flavors (the counter service and only restaurant on property). The bus stops are just outside the front entrance.

My main complaint about the All-Stars registration has been fixed here. Registration, guest services, etc, are in a very large comfortable area, missing the contrasty and loud colors that adorn Sports and Music. The backlit concept art brightens the area, and the indirect lighting makes for a more friendly atmosphere.

Art of Animation, Animation Hall
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Landscape of Flavors

Landscape of Flavors is the solitary restaurant choice at Art of Animation. It has very good looking menu choices on paper, and we actually looked forward to eating there.

However, it lost something in execution between looking at the menu on a web site, and actually being served those items.

First, however, let me say that Landscape of Flavors is very well themed. It is loosely grouped into four main seating areas (each area themed to the main themes of the resort), the food court area, with three beverage islands.

There are a few problems with the restaurant.

The restaurant is loud. Granted, you could have a thousand guests in the restaurant at any one time, but Disney should have installed more sound absorbing material.

The food court is divided into five "stations", each station serving a particular kind of food, depending on whether breakfast, lunch or dinner was being served. If you're going to get something from two different stations, you really do need two people to do it. Since the lines move so slowly, the food received from one station will be cold by the time you get food from the second station.

Anyway, you can read many of my specific complaints on my AoA page from my trip report. There are other reports of my food court experiences in the trip report, like my dinner adventure where I had to wait for them to overcook my fish...

Landscape of Flavors Food Court
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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.

Little Mermaid Rooms

I stayed in the Little Mermaid section (Buildings 7,8,9) and had a few problems.

The only net connection available is via wifi. Well no, you aren't paying $9.95/day for it, it does come with the room. But there are times it was pretty slow...

Cell phone reception was non-existent in the rooms. If you needed to make a call, you had to leave the room. Even if you had to send a text message, you had to hold the phone right next to the window or it would fail. That's unacceptable these days.

The really bad part of being in the Mermaid section, was the walk to/from Animation Hall and the room. If you look at the map on the right, buildings 7, 8 and 9 curve toward the bus stops at Pop Century. At Art of Animation, they follow the lake, which takes them a considerable amount of distance away. So if you stay at a value room at Art of Animation, you will have a considerable walk from the room to the bus stops or food court. There are no close value rooms, only suites.

Before you say I'm whining, whether you follow the parking lot (shortest route to the bus stops) or through Lion King (shortest route to the food court) there are long stretches of unprotected walkway, where you get broiled in the hot Florida sun, or soaked in the drenching Florida rain. If you have a car, you will learn to use it.

If Art of Animation has anything going for it, it's the themeing. It is far more immersive than the All-Star resorts. Since the family suite buildings have indoor corridors, the building faces can become part of the theme, rather than having outdoor corridors and railings with themeing thrown onto them like the other value buildings. (Note the Mermaid section is pretty much a typical value type environment, but with much more attention to detail in the pool/courtyard area.)

The key cards are RFID, and only need to be touched to the lock on the doors to get a green light. I found if you keep it on an outside pocket of your wallet, you could just touch your wallet to the door lock to unlock the door.

The themes themselves extend into the rooms. Everything in my room was Little Mermaid/Under the Sea, from the bed coverings to the Ariel shower curtain. (Move the shower curtain aside to reveal her grotto...)

There are widescreen HDTV's with a dedicated I/O panel (HDMI, VGA and composite). In the same TV stand is a refrigerator, leaving space for three not-too-big drawers.

Also of note, coffee makers are not standard amenities at value rooms. I brought my own.

Room 9618 (handicap) and Room 9619 Little Mermaid Room Interiors

Room 9618
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Room 9619
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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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Conclusion:

There are a lot of problems at this resort, more so than any other Disney resort I've stayed at. Of course, Art of Animation was a brand new resort when I stayed there, so I'd cut them a little slack until the staff gets into the routine and Disney starts working out the unexpected or behind schedule problems. The landscaping wasn't even finished when I was there. (There was a large section bare dirt in front of building 9 when I arrived, but it was covered by sod the next day. Still, this part of the resort had already been open two weeks.)

The guest population of Art of Animation did, after all, almost double two weeks prior to my arrival. So there's a lot of new staff, and a new area of the resort that hasn't been inhabited before.

Still this isn't a new operation for Disney. Pop Century is an almost identical resort, which I assume runs more smoothly than Art of Animation.

And I still hate the walk from Animation Hall to the Mermaid section...
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Revisions:
  • 11/14/2012 - Page added
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2