Staying at the Art of Animation Resort: Info for the Grown-Ups

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Earlier in the week the lovely and talented Scarlett Litton shared her thoughts on staying at Disney’s new Art of Animation resort with children. I’m here to fill you in on all the pesky, facty, grown-upy stuff that she didn’t cover.

Art of Animation resort map. Click to enlarge.

Here goes:

Pricing

While Disney classifies the Art of Animation as a value-level resort, since most of the resort is suites, the rooms themselves have more in common with the deluxe one bedroom villas or the moderate Fort Wilderness cabins than they do with a regular All Star or Pop Century value room.

As with all WDW hotel rooms, the price at Art of Animation (AoA) varies seasonally, and discounts may apply. My suite, which is the standard room type, on June 2, 2012 was priced at $375. When I’ve told people this, they’ve gasped, “For a value room?” But let’s compare this to a Fort Wilderness cabin that was priced on the same day at a very similar $360 per night. Both the AoA suite and the FW cabins sleep six. The AoA suites are approximately 565 square feet, the FW cabins are approximately 500 square feet. The AoA suites have two full bathrooms, the FW cabins have one. The AoA suites have a kitchenette, the FW cabins have a full kitchen. The cabins have outdoor space, the suites do not. There is an elaborately themed pool at AoA, but a beach area at FW. Depending on your needs, there are pros and cons to each, but they do have a lot in common. And think about both these in comparison to a one bedroom villa at the Boardwalk, also with similar room amenities, for $565 a night, and the AoA suites are looking pretty good.

I stayed in the Mr. Ray building.

Of course, with any Disney room pricing, your milage may vary. Promotions, pin codes, or other discounts could materialize, making a stay at AoA more or less appealing depending on the circumstances.

Lobby & Check-In Area

As Scarlett mentioned, the AoA lobby is bright, clean, and engaging for children. Nearly every child I saw there stopped to look at the character images on the walls and point out his or her favorites. Check-in was efficient and friendly, as you would expect from a Disney resort.

Next to the main check-in area is a group of benches where you could wait for family members. A real sketch artist is there for several hours each day and guests have the opportunity to speak with him or her and purchase drawings.

Off the lobby is a small “business center,” open 24 hours. It contains several computers with Internet access at which you can buy time, like at a cyber cafe. The rates were somewhat steep, but I can see this being a boon for international guests who don’t want to carry a laptop but do need to periodically check in with email. There is also one terminal dedicated to free printing of boarding passes. I was excited to try out this feature, but on the morning of my last day, a boarding pass for my flight was left in an envelope on my door. I’ve stayed at WDW hotels many dozens of times and can’t recall this ever happening before. It was a nice touch.

Additionally, the business center features a departure time screen directly linked to Orlando International Airport. I can see this being helpful during storm season when delays and cancellations are plentiful.

Lobby check in desks.

Artwork in the lobby.

Lobby waiting area and sketch artist desk.

Business center.

Flight information.

Free boarding pass printing.

 

 

The Room Key

AoA is the first Disney resort to use RFID technology in its Key to the World Cards. Instead of inserting your key into the door, you just wave it in front of a touch pad. When I’m at WDW, I keep all my cards in a mesh pouch. I found that I didn’t even need to take my key out of the pouch to have it open the door. This was super convenient for me. I’m sure that in the future the Key cards will also be encoded with FastPass information and all sorts of other happy data. On a macro level, I’m not sure how I feel about this, but the key sure was easy to use.

 

 

The Room Overall

My Finding Nemo suite was functional, clean, and blindingly bright. When my kids were younger, this would have been heaven for them. As a solo adult I found the abundance of color to be overwhelming, but then again, the place isn’t really designed for solo adults.

I had everything I needed in the room: FREE and reliable WiFi, a full length mirror in the master bath, iron and ironing board, fridge and coffee maker, electronics inputs for the TV, and a port on the clock to plug in my iPod.

My one complaint from a usability stand point was that there were not nearly enough outlets in the room. For example, there was a two-plug outlet on each side of the master bed, giving four nearby power options. However, three of those outlets were filled by the clock and the lamps, leaving only one spot for a phone or similar device. When my husband and I travel together, we both like to keep our phones by the bed. Any time I stay at AoA, I’ll be bringing along a power strip.

An additional observation, not exactly a complaint, but not really not a complaint, is that there are no closets in the room, just open hanging racks. I have a feeling that with a full compliment of guests in the room, this could contribute to a cluttered, messy visual. That, combined with all the bright colors, gives you a lot to be distracted by.

The AoA suite buildings are constructed with the room entrances INSIDE the building. This is different from the other value and moderate resorts at Walt Disney World, where you enter your room from the outside. This one element gave a real upscale feel to the place. As a solo female traveler, I felt safer than at other value resorts, and during the day of my trip where it rained, I was drier than I would have been at another Disney value.

An added bonus of the suite construction is that the master bedroom is blissfully quiet. My room was away from the pool, facing into the Cars section. When I closed the master bedroom door, I heard no residual noise from guests passing by in the hallway. I also didn’t hear the showers or toilets of other guests as I have in many of the other Disney hotels. Yay!

Looking from the main room into the master bedroom.

Table/bed.

TV and storage area in main room.

From sitting area to door.

Looking from table into the sitting area. Kitchenette on the right.

TV input connectors.

Master bedroom closet area.

 

 

Beds

The AoA suites include three sleeping surfaces: a queen size bed in the master bedroom, a full sized pullout couch and a full sized Innova table bed.

The queen bed was perfectly serviceable, I got three good nights of sleep. The sheets and pillows were not as soft as at the deluxe resorts, but I wasn’t really expecting them to be. While the linens were fine, the bedspread itself was made of some indestructible plastic blend fabric that I could barely stand to touch it was so hard and petroleum-based. Once the bedspread was folded on the floor, then I was happy.

The sofa bed is a sofa bed. I tested it out for a while and found it to be a newer, fresher version of the other Disney sofa beds. I’m not sure that two adults would be pleased to sleep there for a week, but smaller kids would likely do fine.

The table bed was crazy cool. If I had brought my kids to this resort when they were six years old they would have beat each other to a pulp to get to be the ones to sleep on it. If you have more than one child in your group, be prepared in advance to negotiate a turn-taking strategy.

Master bed.

Table turning into a bed.

The table is a bed.

 

 

Bathrooms

Both bathrooms were spacious. The master bathroom has a roomy walk-in shower. The other bathroom has a tub/shower combo. One bit of warning: the shower curtain in the Nemo rooms is emblazoned with a gigundo picture of Bruce the shark. When I got home and showed a picture of this to my 12-year-old daughter, she visibly shuddered and said she was going to have nightmares. If someone in your party has a fear of sharks, like my daughter does, you may want to stay in one of the other wings of the resort.

The rooms come with Disney H2O “blushing orange” face and bath bar soap, and H2O “blushing orange” shampoo/conditioner. The orange scent is quite pronounced, like you’re perpetually flying over the groves in Soarin’. I enjoyed it, but if you’re scent sensitive, you may want to bring your own bath supplies. One charming surprise was the cutie patootie Mickey-shaped cap on the shampoo bottle. I’m sure someone crafty will start scooping them up and turning them into necklaces to sell on Etsy.

Master bathroom.

Secondary bathroom sink area.

Shower curtain in the secondary bathroom.

Bath supplies.

 

 

Recreation

Art of Animation recreation. Click to enlarge

When the AoA resort is fully operational, there will be three working pools: small “quiet” pools in the Cars and Little Mermaid sections, and the large “Big Blue” feature pool with splash area in the Nemo section. Scarlett already described her family’s great experience at the Big Blue pool, so I won’t repeat except to say that again, if I had brought my children here when they were six years old, we never would have made it to the parks because they’d be so happy spending the day there.

The Big Blue pool area is home to trivia games, dance parties, ball games, hula hooping, and other activities throughout the afternoon, and movies under the stars in the evening. Also nearby are ping pong tables and an ample supply of life vests that guests are free to borrow. A guest laundry room and the Drop Off bar also border the pool area.

Off the lobby, you’ll find the Pixel Play Arcade stocked with dozens of interactive games, open 7:00 am until midnight daily. Even on opening day, the joint was jumping.

BIG Blue pool.

Big Blue pool hours.

Inside the arcade.

 

 

Shopping

There’s one store at the Art of Animation, the Ink & Paint shop, open from 6:00 am until midnight. The stock will be familiar to guests who have stayed at other Disney resorts. There’s a wall filled with travel-size packages of nearly every imaginable toiletry you might have forgotten. There are resort-themed and general Disney-themed merchandise items and a range of other souvenirs.

Ink and Paint shop.

Art of Animation merchandise.

Items you may have forgotten.

 

 

Food

I’ve done an extensive photo tour of the AoA food court over on Disney Food Blog. The short version is that the food court is a quantum leap forward for Disney in terms of healthfulness, flavor, and opportunities for food customization. At every turn there were innovations (for Disney) like create-your-own pasta, yogurt parfait, fruit bowl, salad, etc. Theme park classics like hamburgers and pizza are offered, but they also have Mongolian beef stir-fry, chicken and veggie burgers, tandoori shrimp, and even gluten free cupcakes for dessert.

Pizza and a limited entree menu are available for delivery to your room from 4:00 pm until midnight.

My guess is that Art of Animation will become THE place to stay for vegetarian guests of Walt Disney World. And remember, the AoA is just a hop, skip, and teeny jump away from the Pop Century resort. If you’re staying at the Pop, then it’s well worth heading over to AoA for a meal or two.

Food court seating.

 

Transportation

The Art of Animation theme park transportation is exclusively by bus. Outside the Ink & Paint Shop are the standard queues for buses to each of the parks. The queues are shaded, but it can get hot out there. There is only one bus pick-up area at the resort; buses do not make multiple stops throughout the grounds.

We had gotten reports on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel that AoA would not share bus transportation with another resort. In my four days at AoA, I found that this was mostly true. However, on my way to the Animal Kingdom, the bus did first stop to collect guests at the Pop Century. My hope is that this was just an aberration and that AoA and Pop keep separate bus service.

Cast Members

While Disney cast members are known for their friendliness and enthusiasm, the cast at AoA was over the top friendly and enthusiastic. The were eager to please and seemed genuinely proud of their new home. Best of all, to a person, they all seemed to be having FUN. While I was waiting for my Magical Express pick-up, the traffic in the lobby was light, so the cast members decided to teach each other flash-mob dance steps to “Part of Your World” from Little Mermaid. Their joy was infectious.

However, along with all the good cheer from the cast came some silly scripted language that they seemed to be required to use to enhance the animation and movies theme of the resort. For example, instead of saying goodbye, they said, “Sketch You Later.” Instead of saying, “turn left,” they said, “just keep swimming to the left.” The whole thing seemed forced and obvious. I felt bad for the folks that had to say this stuff.

Overall

For families with young kids, particularly families of five or six people, staying at the Art of Animation is a no-brainer. The room decor and pool themeing are spot on for youngsters. Although technically the room could sleep six adults, given that two of the beds are pull down/out doubles, a group of adults might be more comfortable in two rooms elsewhere.

Looking in to the soon-to-be-opened Cars area.

Currently, the Finding Nemo area of the resort is the only part open. The Cars, Lion King, and Little Mermaid sections will be following in waves throughout the summer of 2012.

So what do you think? What questions do you have about the Art of Animation? Do you think your kids would want to stay here? Do you want to stay here? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on June 7, 2012

49 Responses to “Staying at the Art of Animation Resort: Info for the Grown-Ups”

  • As far as AoA bus stops at the parks for returning to the resort – where are they located? My gripe with Pop is that it’s usually the furthest bus stop…is AoA tacked on past the Pop stops?

    • The had switched up some of the pick up stations at the parks, so AoA wasn’t always after Pop, but it was pretty far out there at every park. In this respect the AoA treatment is on par with the other value resorts.

  • I had a feeling they were going to use RFID for the room keys there since there were rumors last year of Disney switching to wristbands at one point. It would be awesome if they start incorporating the new FastPass system on them too. We’re hoping to stay there next summer, but are planning to visit the resort this year when we’re in the area.

  • We’re staying at Pop Century for a few days in August and really want to go over to AoA to try out the food court! I know it’s not that far (just over the bridge), but could you give me an idea of where the food court is in relation to that bridge that connects the two resorts? How far am I walking? :)

    • by Erin Foster on June 7, 2012, at 6:56 pm EDT

      The main AoA building with the food court is basically straight ahead of the bridge. You have to follow the path around the side of the pool, but just walk straight forward. I’m a terrible judge of distance, but I walked from the food court at Pop to the food court at AoA in under five minutes, and I stopped to take some photos and look around a little. I’d say that the AoA food court is less than 100 yards from the bridge.

  • I have had my boarding passes left on my door at pop before
    I don’t really have a lot of desire to stay here but then again its only me and my 2 daughters so we don’t need a suite

  • This resort looks beautiful, but until I have children, I will probably avoid this resort as I imagine it will be crawling with little tikes…more so than some of the other Disney options. When I stayed at French Quarter, for example, there were times I would be on a park bus that was all adults. There seem to be a lot of adult-only parties at Pop as well. This was a great, thorough review!

  • Great review and I really enjoyed your review on the food blog. I love the healthy choices at the food court. I have two children under the age of eight with allergies to wheat and eggs. Having non modified items off the regular menu will be a nice change for us. Combine that with the many great photo and exploring opportunities and the LM rooms at AoA will be our next resort choice in 2013. Can’t wait! I hope you get a chance to review the Little Mermaid rooms in September. Keep up the great work!

  • by Meredith McCutcheon on June 8, 2012, at 12:46 pm EDT

    AofA looks awesome! I’m sure my kids would MUCH prefer to stay here (as opposed to the Beach Club, where we are going to stay this summer). And I had planned to book at AofA, until I found out that there is only one queen bed and the other two beds are doubles. We have three grown-ups and two children, so we really need at least two queen beds (my kids could never share a bed–too much fighting–and two grown-ups–or even one adult and once child–in a double bed would be a little tight). So, even though there’s more room at AofA, a place like Beach Club actually works better for us (two queens and a daybed). I was really hoping that AofA could have found a way to have two queen beds per suite. They say these suites sleep 6, but that seems a little generous.

  • “Blindingly bright” — That’s a perfect way to describe the rooms. Every time I’ve looked at pictures I’ve thought that there is just too much going on. I wonder if this will over-stimulate children who are already over-stimulated from the parks. Everything is very pretty and I love lots of color, but it would definitely be too much for me. Thanks for your review and your comparison to the cabins. The price at AoA seemed high to me, but when comparing with the cabins, AoA seems like more bang for your buck.

  • What’s the “real” price difference between AoA and FTW cabin?
    I did some spot comparisons. The rack rate at FTW cabins is slightly higher than AoA.
    But when the typical room only discounts come out for passholders, residents, or general public FTW was included at 20 to 25% off and sometime 15% off.
    AoA has been excluded from the discounts recently. AoA was therefore much more expensive than the discounted FTW cabin.

    I would probably just choose to stay at the one with the less expensive rate.

  • I’m wondering whether the shared bus service isn’t part of it’s soft opening. I can’t believe that they would both have shared bus service with nearly 5,000 rooms between the two resorts on a regular basis. That would be a bus crowding nightmare.

  • We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Villas in April & our boarding passes were printed for us & placed at our door the morning of our departure. Since this was our first time staying on property, I did not realize that most other Disney sites do not offer this FANTASTIC service. My 8 year old daughter had decided before we left WDW in April that we would stay at AoA next time… Can’t wait!

  • How long does it take to get to the parks from Art of Animation Lion King resort? We are staying there in September. I was just trying to plan our days or get some sort of agenda together and was curious as to how long we would have to wait on a bus and how long it would take to get from each park back to the hotel? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated. Also, we are trying to plan character meals. There are 4 adults and 2 two year olds (one boy and one girl) going on the trip.

  • Does anyone know the phone number for the front desk? I need to get in touch with someone staying a AoA and for the life of me I can’t find the front desk number. Any help would be awesome. Thanks

  • I don’t understand why the Little Mermaid buildings could not have had queen size beds in the rooms instead of double beds. I had heard that the moderate resorts that had doubles in them now have queen size. Seems to me that would have been the best thing to do, and they would not have taken up much more space in the room.

  • First time traellers to WDW famly of 4 kids age 7&8.Will be staying at the New AoA lion king resorts Sept 25th – Oct 2nd. Booked a character breakfast at Epcot for 8:10 am. What does the transportation system start in the AM.
    So excited can’t wait

  • First time travllers to WDW famly of 4 kids age 7&8.Will be staying at the New AoA lion king resorts Sept 25th – Oct 2nd. Booked a character breakfast at Epcot for 8:10 am. What does the transportation system start in the AM.
    So excited can’t wait

    • There are buses specifically for character meals that start running at 7:00 a.m. However, they do sometimes tinker with this. Be sure to stop by the front desk of the hotel the night before to confirm.

      You may also want to consider taking a cab. You can have the Bell Services desk at AoA call one for you. It should cost in the neighborhood of $10-15, but will possibly save lots of time.

  • Staying at AoA in November. Family of 6 and doing 2 LM rooms. I see alot of people complaining about the distance from the LM rooms to the food court and buses. Certainly the walk can’t be all that far. Any opinions on the distance? Thanks, love the review.

    • I did a Google Earth distance measurement. The center of the Little Mermaid section is almost exactly one quarter of a mile from the center of the main building (food court, etc.). Most healthy adults can easily walk a mile in 20 minutes (often much less), so the max time it would take to walk from the center of LM to the food court is about 5 minutes. This is equal to or less than the amount of time it takes to walk from the outer buildings of the Caribbean Beach resort or Coronado Springs to their food courts. And it’s significantly less distance than you’d walk going from one end of Epcot to the other.

      However, I can see that if you have an elderly or wheelchair bound guest in your party, or a small child that insists on walking, the distance might seem daunting.

  • Your last reply regarding the Little Mermaid rooms & distance to the food court almost answered my question. I am contemplating a stay there in February with a friend so we would need just a standard room which I understand are all located in the LM section. I’m more concerned about the distance from that section to the buses, though.

  • I just stayed there for the first time in December, and I would go back. It was great!

    Great review, but you missed my only (and somewhat petty) complaint (even though you showed a photo of it above). The room safe was ridiculously small. I’ve seen bigger. We were just able to wedge a laptop, iPad, and some small items in it. As shown in your photo, it was tall and not very deep. My wife’s DSLR camera never would’ve fit in it. I ended up locking other valuables (my daughter’s LeapPad and medications) in a suitcase instead. I’m assuming the front desk had other security options, but they weren’t advertised in the room, and they probably would’ve been a hassle. It’s a petty complaint, but it’s the only design flaw I found.

    Also, our WIFI didn’t work immediately, but that was resolved by the following morning (after a call to tech help).

    • I’m planning on doing a post on room safes later this winter. Believe it or not, the AoA safes are among the largest on property. I can’t think of a single resort where a DSLR would fit with an attached lens.

      • I remember the All Star Movies safes being tiny. You really can’t fit a heck of a lot in those! :)

        • Room safes are generally intended to keep “trip killers” safe. ie. passports, credit cards, etc. Stuff that if you lost, you can’t eat or get home.

          Security cables for laptops can be had for $20.
          If you have more items that you would like to secure, look into getting a pacsafe protector.

  • Okay so we are staying at CARS first week in February. What room should I request? I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old (little one still naps). Any suggestions as to which room/floor I should request or what TYPE of request I should make? Will my little one miss all his naps :)? Anyone do garden grocer?

  • Hi
    We have booked the Finding Nemo room from 7 to 14 Feb 2013. However our flight coming in from SFO will only arrive at about 11.30pm. We understand that the magical express will not be operating by then. However, would there still be bus transfer to your hotel at that time?

    Your advice is appreciated please.

  • In the nemo suites would you request a lake view or landscape view for a view of the pool?

  • What kind of food is there available for breakfast items to pick up the night before on your way up to the room? Or would it be best to just come down and have breakfast at the food court. Also, I’m assuming it won’t be complimentary if there is like little milks, and fruit and yogurt.

  • Items for breakfast include fruit, yogurt, orange juice, pastries, bagels. Depending on how early you wake up it might be faster to get to the food court and enjoy a sit down meal before heading out to the parks. If you come around 7, the “traffic” is light. No, nothing complimentary.

  • We took the bus to/from the Studios, just to explore AoA.
    We only explored half of the resort late in the day.
    Wonderful theming!
    Loads of little details for enjoyment and pictures.
    Everyone loved Finding Nemo and Cars!
    (Lion King and Little Mermaid next trip.)
    Ate in the food court.

    Great way to spend a no-park-admission day!

  • Staying at AOA in a few weeks, was going to take my laptop which is 16.5″ will it fit in the wall safe at LM Room? OR am I better leaving it home as I will have no other place to keep it? First time WDW trip! Thanks

  • It won’t fit in the safe.

  • Will stay at AOA in coming Easter holiday. Is the lighting inside the room is bright enough? I also find the Disney room usually too “dim” for me. Or I need to bring a higher Watt extra light bulb (just kidding).

    thanks!

  • by Sally Wolfsberger on March 16, 2013, at 7:43 pm EDT

    Is there an airport shuttle to and from the AoA?

  • What are the hours for the food court? Our plane is arriving late and I was just wondering.

    • The Landscape of Flavors food court is open from 6:00 a.m. until midnight. The full menu will not be available from about 10:00 until 12:00, but you should find that most of the basics are there for a late night meal.

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