by Jackie Perrin
The newest — and arguably most colorful — hotel to debut at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort brightens the Hollywood Studios and Epcot neighborhood scenes with bright, bold and endearing images, along with a spectacular main pool, innovative dining options and space-stretching family suites.
Opened in 2012, the 864-room, 1,120-suite Disney value-category resort spans 87 acres and features both wet and dry playgrounds, a fun-filled animation-themed arcade, convenient access to ESPN Wide World of Sports and a bridge to the similarly sprawling Pop Century Resort nearby. Situated on Hourglass Lake, the resort occupies land originally intended to be the “Later Years” phase of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, a pop-culture-themed, value-priced property that debuted in 2003.
At the “Finding Nemo”-themed Big Blue Pool — the largest water playground on Disney resort property — kids can make waves with Mr. Ray and pose and play with a host of similarly massive soft sculpture characters. At the Schoolyard Sprayground nearby, little ones can splash safely along with Nemo and friends, and at the adjacent Righteous Reef dry playground, they can slide, climb and crawl through tunnels while supervised by the loveable toddler turtle, Squirt.
After a busy day at the parks, families can dive in to a daily dance party extravaganza, watch a Disney movie on an inflatable screen and play fun-filled games, ranging from Splashin’ Sebastian to Beach Ball Blast. When thirst and hunger call, guests can order up a Frozen Orange Burst and from the Drop Off Pool Bar, or arrange for delivery of an in-room feast of pizza, pasta, grilled fish or stir-fry. At The Landscape of Flavors Food Court, five stations serve up a variety of innovative fare, from Tandoori Shrimp to Create Your Own Pasta, and a fresh beverage bar features made-to-order lemonade, limeade, fruit smoothies and specialty tea and coffee drinks.
Our Editor Loves
- Value-priced suites
- Big Blue Pool -- Disney's largest resort pool
- Themed accommodations including
- Theme Park
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Accommodations are located in four neighborhoods of three-story buildings, each adorned with larger-than-life images playing homage to a range of Disney and Disney Pixar films, including "Cars," "Finding Nemo," "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King." Inside, guests will find amazing attention to colorful details, from cozy cone lighting accessories and Bruce the shark shower curtains to ornate hot pink seashell-accented mirrors fit for a mermaid princess.
Destined to delight children, highly themed Family Suites (1,120 total) sleep up to six and are located exclusively in the "Cars," "Finding Nemo" and "The Lion King" sections. At 565-square-feet, suites are slightly larger than two standard rooms and feature two bathrooms, a master bedroom with a queen bed, and a living area with a kitchenette, a full-size sofa bed and an InnovaTableBed -- a dining table which seats four and conveniently converts into a Murphy bed. Kitchenettes contain a microwave, a mini-fridge and a coffee maker, and are stocked with disposable paper goods.
Unlike accommodations at other Disney Value resorts, suites at Disney's Art of Animation are accessible via internal walkways, which, depending on your outlook and desire for privacy, might be a plus or minus.
Standard rooms (864 total) measure around 277square feet and are situated solely in "The Little Mermaid" section. Typical in configuration but not in character, these accommodations contain two double beds or a king size bed and sleep up to four guests. King size beds are available upon request, but are not guaranteed. DÃ©cor and furnishings match the aquatic theme, with starfish-print linens, clamshell-shaped headboards and hot-pink mirrors with seashell accents. Standard rooms contain a single vanity positioned outside the bathroom and a mini-fridge. Coffee makers are not available. There is a small surcharge per person, per night for more than two adults in a standard room, although more than a couple will likely be more comfortable in a Family Suite. Unlike suites in other sections, rooms in "The Little Mermaid" neighborhood are accessed via exterior corridors. They are also furthest from Animation Hall dining and activities.
Connecting rooms, complimentary bed rails, Pack 'N Plays and free Wi-Fi are available.
With regard to room location, many families might favor suites in the "Finding Nemo" section for their close proximity to the Big Blue Pool. The downside of this location is the noise factor, although the resort does maintain quiet hours beginning at 11 p.m. If your kids are light sleepers and pool proximity is important to you, request an upper, non-pool-facing accommodation. Suites in "The Lion King" section, which lacks a pool, are also convenient to the Big Blue Pool. For families seeking a more sedate swimming experience and a super-charged theme, suites in the "Cars" section deliver a fully immersive in-room animation experience, along with easy access to the adorably themed Cozy Cone pool, featuring complimentary traffic cone-shaped cabanas.
This is a little weird doing this review. This is because I did not interact with anyone from the hotel section of the resort. On our way to the resort, I got a text that the room was ready. We went straight to the room and used my phone to open the door. I never saw housekeeping, but the room was clean every time we returned from the parks. We left without any issues. We plan to go back within the next five years. Photos represent the Cars Suite,Building 1. It is the closest Cars building to the bus stops and food court.
I’ve stayed in different Disney Resorts but this one takes the cake! I felt that this had much more magic than the other resorts because it’s full of different Disney characters, including Nemo, Simba, Ariel and Lightning McQueen. The staff were so kind and helpful. The food court was lovely and had a great selection. My parents were tired of eating burgers and fries and loved the salad bar. We stayed at the Lion King suites and I must say, the beds were so comfy (yes, even the sofa bed). It fits a family of 6 perfectly! The only drawback is that this is a value resort, so the walk from the parks to the AoA bus stop is longer (only a few steps but I was so tired that I felt like it was miles away).
Big Blue Pool
The largest pool at any Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Art of Animation Resort's "Finding Nemo"-themed Big Blue Pool has about 310,000 gallons of liquid cool, with kid-friendly features like zero entry (Big Blue Pool is the only Disney Value Resort pool to offer this amenity) and colossal soft sculpture characters to pose with and play, from giant jellyfish to a massive Mr. Ray. An underwater sound system broadcasts showtunes and comments from favorite film characters. Beginning around 1 p.m., the party heats up on the pool deck. Planned activities range from Splashin' Sebastian and Mater Bingo to Beach Ball Blast, and pool celebrations, dance parties and arts and craft time are offered daily. When the sun goes down, guests can watch favorite Disney films on an inflatable screen. Check the monthly recreation schedule for details. Access to the pool is controlled by key card entry.
Schoolyard Sprayground and Squirt's Righteous Reef Playground
Adjacent to the Big Blue Pool, this kid-friendly wet playground offers younger children a safe area to splash and play with Nemo and friends. Nearby, in the Finding Nemo Courtyard, Squirt's Righteous Reef Playground is a dry play area featuring slides, tunnels and plenty of climbing opportunities.
Cozy Cone Pool
In the center of the "Cars" section, you'll find a smaller "Cars"-themed Cozy Cone pool, complete with charming Cozy Cone cabanas offering complimentary shaded refuge for families.
Flippin' Fins Pool
Located in "The Little Mermaid" section, this quiet pool offers a refreshing escape from The Big Blue Pool crowds.
At each pool, a restroom contains space for changing, as well as rental lockers, and laundry facilities are nearby. Life jackets are available on the pool decks. Towels aren't provided on the pool deck, so bring some from your room. Swim diapers are required for non-potty trained children and can be purchased at Ink and Paint Shop, along with sunscreen, souvenirs and infant and toddler essentials. Lifeguard hours may vary by season. Check the onsite pool boards for details.
In "The Lion King" section, happy hyenas Banzai, Shenzi and Ed watch over the Elephant Graveyard, a soft-sided play spot featuring giant faux pachyderm bones.
Pixel Play Arcade
Mom and Dad can take a load off on cushy cubes, designed to resemble "pixels," while kids rev up the fun and games at this sizable arcade, located in Animation Hall. Check the monthly schedule for hours.
Learn to sketch your favorite Disney characters with a resident animator when you sign up for a drawing class, offered multiple times daily. Meet in the children's area near the Front Desk.
Landscape of Flavors Food Court
Bright, airy and showcasing enhanced food and beverage options that are currently unique to the resort, this animation-themed food court features five food stations along with a market, a gelato counter and fresh smoothie and beverage stations. A center island offers beverage and condiment dispensers, as well as microwaves and toaster ovens. For dinner, kids' picks include a turkey sandwich or create-your-own salad (Salad & Sandwich Station), a chicken or fish platter (Tandoor Grill), cheese pizza or whole wheat spaghetti and meatballs (Pizza & Pasta Station), macaroni and cheese or a chicken burger (Burgers Station). At the Burgers Station, a traditional beef burger is available for kids by special request.
Kids' meals come with a choice of two packaged side items (grapes, mini carrots, apple slices, pudding or gelatin) and a drink (mini water bottle, juice box or milk.) French fries (and even double French fries!), cookies and soft drinks may be substituted. For adults, the Tandoor Grill (World Flavors) features fresh and vegetarian selections. Additional choices for adults include Create-Your-Own-Pasta (Pizza & Pasta Station) and a Create Your Own Burger (Burgers Station). Virtuous options like Tandoori Acorn Squash (World Flavors) will please nutrition-conscious parents, while an appealing array of made-to-order smoothies will help fill in the gaps for kids in need of a vitamin infusion. For breakfast, kids will get a kick out of mini buckwheat waffles shaped to resemble animated characters. A number of create-your-own items, from yogurt parfaits to fruit bowls and cereal mixtures, are also available.
A Grab and Go Market offers a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages by the bottle, as well as mini bottles of water by the case. Besides fresh fruit and tempting individual desserts, families will be pleased to find specialty items like fresh sushi, a Fruit and Cheese Tray and a Kids Snack Pack -- the latter comes with yogurt, a cheese stick, snack crackers, fresh fruit and a dessert, such as marshmallows topped with chocolate sauce.
Beverage stations offering fresh smoothies, as well as organic teas, gourmet coffee drinks and fresh lemonade and limeade provide refreshing variety. A gelato counter features around a dozen flavors of the frozen treat.
One unique feature of Landscape of Flavors is a resort-focused commitment to the environment. Guests dine on real plates and use silverware, versus the paper and plastic ware available at other Disney resort food courts. Food Court flooring is made from all recyclable materials. Food Court hours are 6 a.m. to midnight and may vary by station.
Pop Century Resort Food Court
Expand your dining options by taking the Generation Gap Bridge to the Food Court at Disney's Pop Century Resort, located on the other side of Hourglass Lake.
If you're too tired to trek to the Food Court, Pop Art Pizza Delivery will deliver a variety of pizzas to your accommodation, along with salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, dessert, beer, wine and soft drinks. Stir-fry beef and broccoli, vegetable lasagna and grilled salmon are also available. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight. A delivery fee and service charge will be applied.
Drop-Off Pool Bar
At this spirited watering hole, you can order beer, wine and frozen alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks (try the Banana Cabana or the Frozen Orange Burst). Next to the bar, there's a convenient self-service beverage station for guests who have purchased a refillable mug.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Families looking for a fully immersive Disney experience should look no further than this well-run, impressively designed resort. Parents of young children will appreciate the peace of mind made possible by suite sleeping arrangements designed to allow for flow and family togetherness. Groups of all shapes and sizes will enjoy reasonable rates, along with all of the privileges of an onsite Walt Disney World Resort stay, including early-entry and late-stay theme park privileges, onsite airline check-in service, the ability to make FASTPASS+ reservations 60 days in advance and complimentary airport and theme park transportation.
From housekeepers who fashion linens into favorite animated characters to chefs who will customize dishes to your dietary needs to gift shop greeters who go out of their way to make your day a great one, staff at this Disney resort are truly top-notch. The resort is the only Disney Value category property to offer a Business Center and each day, kids can submit their own creations for consideration in a Sketch Artist of the Day contest. In Animation Hall, drawing classes offered by a live artist and a gallery of exclusive sketches set the stage for an animation-themed getaway. Ink and Paint Gift Shop features Art of Animation guestroom dÃ©cor to purchase and enjoy at home, from Bruce ("Finding Nemo") and Timon and Pumba ("The Lion King") shower curtains to Cozy Cone ("Cars") lamps. At the time of checkout, you can make a donation to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, dedicated to preserving the planet through environmentally based initiatives.
Resort Airline Check-in
Skip the lines at the airport when you check your luggage and check into your flight at this staffed kiosk, located outside Animation Hall, near the Drop-Off Pool Bar. The service is available to those flying domestically on participating carriers. Hours are 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Laundry facilities are located near the pools and are open 24 hours a day.
Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the entire property, including guestrooms, pools and dining areas.
Follow a 1.38-mile trail for fun and fitness. Check with the Front Desk for a map.
Kids Nite Out, an independent agency, provides in-room resort childcare. A four-hour minimum and a caregiver transportation fee are required.
The Art of Smart Timing
When traveling to Walt Disney World, it's best to avoid peak travel periods. Generally, these times include holidays and the summer months -- in other words, any time schools are out of session. If you do opt to visit in summertime, pack sunscreen, hydrate frequently and, unless you want to squander your souvenir money on ponchos at the parks, don't forget your raingear. Fortunately for travelers on a budget, the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World theme parks (Value Season) tend to coordinate with dates when crowds are the lightest. If your kids aren't in school yet, September is a great time to visit. Another prime time is early December, when crowds are low and the theme parks are decked out in holiday dÃ©cor.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO): Free roundtrip airport transportation via motor coach is available to guests (advance reservation required; limited hours) via Disney's Magical Express. By car, take the South Exit Road from Orlando International Airport to SR 417 Toll Road (GreeneWay) West and follow signs to World Wide of Sports/Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
Free transportation to and from all Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney is provided by bus. A covered bus stop is located just outside Animation Hall. Bus service to the theme parks is direct, as the resort does not share service with other Disney resorts. Ponchos and sunscreen are a world traveler's friend, and for kids, activities, such as bubbles, will help to ease the wait. For those traveling with children under 3, a stroller is a must. Detailed directions to area shopping, medical centers and theme parks are available. Stop at the Front Desk to pick up a brochure.
For Mom and Dad
Grab a lounge chair, order an alcohol-free Frozen Orange Crush and a round of appetizers (try the Sweet and Spicy Tropical Crab Cakes) and enjoy a poolside movie screening. Alternatively, send older kids off to the arcade while you enjoy an informative hour-long resort tour.