July 2012: Disney’s newest resort debuted, and it comes with one important note: It’s an economy resort. That’s not a criticism, it’s a reality check: You won’t get the same amenities and service you can expect at upscale resorts on Disney property.
However, if you compare it to Disney’s other economy resorts (The All-Star resorts), it’s Disney’s luxury economy resort. (Yeah, that’s an oxymoron, but it sounds better than calling the All-Star properties Disney’s cheap economy resorts.) Art of Animation doesn’t completely escape its economy roots, however. In all low-end properties, Disney builds ugly, boxy buildings that are identical. It then hides the ugliness by adding giant fiberglass statues by doors and on the sides, paints the boxy buildings bright colors, and then adds giant cool things from first floor to roof.
In Art of Animation, one ugly building entrance sparkles when a 30-foot Crush (sea turtle from Finding Nemo) swims overhead. And a plain wall of windows and concrete looks more appealing when painted blue-green and embedded with fiberglass schools of fish.
Based on four Disney blockbuster movies – The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Cars – the resort looks incredible in still photos, and children can’t wait to stay in a town inhabited by talking cars or go under the sea with Ariel (the little mermaid) or Nemo. Of all the Disney resorts, Art of Animation is the No. 1 choice for families who want to dive into the complete Disney experience, especially since it’s the only all-suite economy resort in the lineup.
This may come as a shock, but brace the kids: The cars don’t talk, Nemo doesn’t swim, and the lions don’t roar. The resort, instead, is almost an artistic, 3-D rendition of a movie photo. The Nemo section, for example, is home to the large central swimming pool flanked by fiberglass jellyfish and a sea anemone with Nemo inside. In the Cars section, each building entrance resembles a business from the movie’s hometown, Radiator Springs. Fiberglas reproductions of Cars’ most famous characters sit in the middle of desert-like plants.
Art of Animation has a food-court style dining area and no sit-down restaurant. While it offers an assortment of healthy and non-healthy food items that can change, guests longing for a sit-down dinner one night must travel to another resort.
In another upgrade compared to Disney’s other economy resorts, more attention was paid to the rooms’ theming. Lion King rooms sport the bright African-style colors, and trim on furniture could be giraffes or even Zazu, the bird who keeps the film’s royal traditions. It’s important to note that they’re the Disney version created just for this resort; that’s not done in the other economy resorts that tend to have themed furnishings but nothing specifically Disney.
The resort also doesn’t have to compete on price with Disney’s other economy resorts, and with a price hovering around $250 per night depending on season, it’s arguably more expensive. Art of Animation rooms sleep up to six; other economy resorts sleep up to four. However, with prices starting at $85 per night for the smaller-roomed resorts, guests could sleep eight by booking two rooms for $190. But again, comparing a suite that has additional amenities, such as limited cooking, with two hotels rooms isn’t fair. (Note: Art of Animation commands top dollar right now without seasonal variations based on high demand. Disney could well tinker with the per-night price over time.)
Who should stay here
Families with kids who love Disney movies, especially if on a budget. For those hoping to really absorb all things Disney, it’s the best resort on property at any price.
Who shouldn’t stay here
Adults traveling without kids will find quickly they’re not alone, and “going for a quiet swim” won’t happen. If a bathrobe and other upgrades appeal to you, look elsewhere. Also, it seems ideal to surround yourself with Disney movies when sitting at a home computer and booking a vacation. But when you spend full days in theme parks celebrating the same movies, a less themed hotel might look pretty good by the third day of an Orlando vacation.
Only bus transportation connects guests with other Disney properties and parks, and some will require transfers to another bus, monorail, or boat.
Questions to ask when booking
The obvious one: Which movie section of the resort do you want to stay in? But also request something closer to bus transportation and the restaurant if you expect to be using those often.
For more photos and information, visit the Disney World website.