This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six “Secrets” of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Originally conceived to be the second half of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Art of Animation opened in May of 2012 and was centered around four of Disney’s most popular animated movies: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars. Labeled a value resort but containing theming that even Disney’s deluxe hotels have a hard time competing with, “AoA” brought with it a completely new experience for guests from check-in to dining to everything else. This is my favorite Disney hotel, and I have stayed in all four wings. The staff of the Saturday Six has put together six “secrets” of the resort that you should check out on your next stay…
# 6 – Signed Sketches on Animation Hall’s Chandelier
Your Art of Animation experience begins in Animation Hall. This is the main check in lobby and also connects to the Ink & Paint Shop (the resort’s gift shop), Pixel Play Arcade, and Landscape of Flavors (the food court). At the end of the lobby and in front of the Ink & Paint Shop is an amazing structure that looks like it is exploding with drawings. If you look closely, four of these drawings have a little something special – signatures. There is a Cars sketch by John Lasseter, a drawing of the turtle Crush by Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, a picture of Ariel and Prince Eric signed by Little Mermaid co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements, and a drawing of Ariel, herself, that is signed by her voice actor, Jodie Benson.
# 5 – Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC in Landscape of Flavors
A special-diet-friendly bakery, Erin McKenna’s NYC was the one place on property where vegans or guests with food allergies could have great tasting desserts like the rest of us. Despite losing its counter service location next to T-REX, Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC items will continue to be available in select Disney resorts, including Art of Animation at Landscape of Flavors.
Another little secret of Landscape of Flavors? This is the only food court on property where you get real plates and actual silverware. It may not sound like much, but in a vacation filled with paper cups and disposable plates and utensils, having the real deal feels special. It will take us another article altogether to go over the unique food items available (see the breakfast menu and the lunch/dinner menu), including the popular surf & surf burger and Tandoori Portuguese sausage.
# 4 – Hidden Mickeys Everywhere
It wouldn’t be Disney without Hidden Mickeys, and they are pretty much everywhere: Animation Hall… Landscape of Flavors… various decorations outside… the carpets inside the main buildings… throughout the rooms…well, you get the idea. Not only are there Hidden Mickeys, but there are also several hidden Lightning McQueens. Keep your eyes open in Landscape of Flavors and along the outside of the Cars buildings to spot these.
# 3 – Generation Gap Bridge to Pop Century
We mentioned above that Art of Animation was originally going to be the second half of Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Pop Century has wings that are themed to the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s and 1950s. A second half of Pop Century was going to be themed around the 1900s through the 1940s. Good luck with that one! Regardless, Art of Animation’s replacement of the now-jettisoned “Legendary Years” of Pop Century allows AoA guests to walk across Generation Gap Bridge and experience some of the cool things that Pop has to offer. I love walking through the Pop Century lobby and seeing all the various toys, magazine covers, and other items from the latter half of the twentieth century. It’s a true blast from the past seeing things like the Sega Dreamcast and 8-track tapes. There are plenty of photo-ops outside with the larger-than-life props and a food court that has some interesting items, including tie-dye cheesecake and The King Cupcake.
What is The King Cupcake? I’m glad you asked. In honor of “the King” Elvis Pressley, The King cupcake contains several of his favorite foods in one snack. You have a chocolate cake cupcake that is “filled” with banana custard inside, has peanut butter icing, is drizzled with chocolate, and has candied bacon sprinkled on top. An unbelievable snack, and I only put the quotes around filled because I have had several of these, and at best I’ve had what would be considered a small dollop.
RunDisney fans take note, this is also the area in which Art of Animation and Pop Century share a jogging trail. Be sure to read Krissy Murphy’s article on running around Hourglass Lake for more information.
# 2 – The Details Within the Cars Area
Let me state up front that I will never learn my lesson. Just as I stayed on-site for years at Universal before trying the Royal Pacific Resort, I had been to AoA several times before finally trying out the Cars wing. In fact, I had stayed at Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo wings several times. I finally broke down and booked a family suite at Cars, and I have to admit, I don’t think I’ll be going back to the others. The theming in all of the resort’s suites is off the charts, but I really like how well the Cars brand works within a hotel environment. My favorite parts of the room include the dressers that resemble auto mechanic tool chests and a fold out couch that looks like the back seat of a classic automobile.
The recreation of Radiator Springs may not completely match the jaw-dropping Cars Land out in Disneyland, but you know what? It’s pretty good. And at night all the neon comes on at the Cozy Cone and Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and several of the cars, themselves, have lighting elements. There are great photo ops with every main character from the movie, and the Cozy Cone pool is fantastic. The Big Blue pool gets all the attention (see #1 below), and the Little Mermaid’s pool is generally packed, but the Cozy Cone pool is generally much quieter and has free cabanas in the shape of Cozy Cones! The theming around this entire pool area has to be seen to be believed, from the hilarious “Knights of Combustion” signs to the incredible faux postcards in the window of the Cozy Cone.
# 1 – The Big Blue Pool is the Largest Pool on Disney Property and It Plays Music Underwater
People who go on vacation with their families know one thing: no matter how many parks you go to, no matter how many ADRs you book at the best restaurants, no matter how many toys and t-shirts you buy in the gift shops, the one thing your kids are probably going to want to do more than anything else is play in the pool. The main pool of AoA is The Big Blue, and it is elaborately themed to Findng Nemo. This is the biggest pool on Disney property, and that’s saying something. There are always activities going on for the kids throughout the day, as well as a separate spray yard and a reef-themed play area. The whole area is bonkers, in a good way, and we haven’t even mentioned one of the neatest tricks up Disney’s sleeve….this pool plays music underwater. Throughout the pool there are speakers underwater that play Finding Nemo music along with dialog from characters such as Crush. Personally I like to grab a drink at the Drop Off (the cleverly named pool-side bar) and play a game of ping pong while the little ones enjoy the pool.
So there you have it: Six “Secrets” of the Art of Animation Resort. See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we will look at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.