Art of Animation Resort is a Walt Disney World Value Resort hotel with family suites and standard rooms themed to Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, and Little Mermaid. This review features room photos, thoughts on the suites, and whether they are worth the money. (Note that all standard rooms are themed to The Little Mermaid, which we review separately here.)
In the sense that it mostly consists of family suites, Art of Animation is a bit of an anomaly as compared to the other Value Resorts. Save for the All Star Music Family Suites, the other Value Resorts are all small standard rooms that cater to parties on a budget who still want on-site perks. Art of Animation is a Value Resort in category, but the family suites push the envelope a bit with the ‘value’ designation. We’ll cover this in detail later in the review, and offer comparisons to some other comparable hotels.
In terms of its theme and style, Art of Animation is pretty much exactly as described above. The main lobby has a strong animation motif, with details that suggest various stages of the animation process. Outside of the main lobby, the artistic process is mostly glossed over. There are some sketches of characters on the sides of the buildings, but other than that, each individual section is more about recreating environments from their respective films than about taking a peak behind the curtain at the underlying process.
Design-wise, I think this was a good decision. Kids are the target audience here, and they probably care more about the animated film itself than taking a look behind the scenes. While the execution of some of these environments, particularly the Cars area, is well-done, it’s worth noting that these are still the “big box” Value Resorts you might be used to at Walt Disney World. Most of the ‘theming’ is window-dressing consisting of oversized characters and objects, and vivid colors on these large, big box hotel buildings.
Because of this, Art of Animation is one of those love it or hate it things. Art of Animation is like the Crocs of Disney resorts. The people who love Art of Animation love it because it just makes them happy. To them, it’s fun, whimsical, and reminds them of the magic of Disney animation.
To the people who dislike Art of Animation, it’s tacky, loud, and abandons traditional means of nuanced Disney theming in favor of something that gets by on clunky looks and characters. Sort of the same idea with Crocs, and any of the above adjectives could be used to describe the footwear.
While I’m not quite as sold on Crocs, I love Art of Animation. In fact, Art of Animation is my pick as the best Value Resort at Walt Disney World. The difference to me between Art of Animation and Crocs (I really can’t believe I’m keeping up this ostensibly absurd comparison) is that Art of Animation visually does work on a certain level, whereas Crocs are universally hideous.
No, Art of Animation doesn’t hit the same high notes thematically as Wilderness Lodge, the Port Orleans Resorts, or BoardWalk Inn, but it does have redeeming qualities and brings something worthwhile to the table. It is not the pinnacle of themed design nor is it something that academics or even fans of themed design will someday devote thoughtful analysis and critique. The short and simple of it for me is that it is a fun resort thematically. That’s it, and in this case that’s enough.
With that said, let’s take a look at the rooms, which some will describe as fun…and others will describe as obnoxious. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and you can be the judge.
First up: Cars. Excuse the fisheye lens here, but I wanted to give you an idea of the layout of the family suite. The door to the left (just barely in the frame) is a full bathroom. Moving around the room, you see the living room, then the main bedroom with its attached bedroom, and on the right is the kitchen table, which converts to a pull-down queen bed.
In total, the room is about 565 square feet, which is just over twice the size of a standard room. The space is used incredibly well in these rooms, so it truly feels like a suite.
A closer look at the main living area. As you can see, it’s heavy on the Cars theming. Great for kids and those who are kids at heart, possibly not ideal for honeymooners.
Same idea in the bathroom. These rooms are themed from top to bottom. Great plus if you have kids, very busy in a general design sense.
Here’s a closer look at the main bedroom.
A look at the outside of the Cars wing. We both agree that the Cars wing is the best in terms of exterior theming. It’s like Cars Land except with skimpier theming, no restaurants, and no attractions. That’s not meant to be a dig–for a value hotel area it’s really cool. Sarah and I disagree in terms of interiors.
I prefer Lion King, whereas she prefers Cars. She actually returned to the Cars wing on girls’ trip with her sister, who also liked the hotel. The less scrutinizing, casual young-person Disney guest perspective on the hotel from her was that it was a really fun and cute hotel.
Layout in The Lion King suites is exactly the same. This table is just inside the door. Here’s how it looks as a table, and how it looks as a bed…
The perfect arrangement if you’ve ever wanted four of your closest friends to sit in chairs around your bed and watch you sleep!
The Lion King rooms are just as over the top as the Cars ones, but I feel like there are fewer clashing pieces of decor, although the color scheme itself does clash more. Pick your poison, I suppose.
What I prefer is that it pretty much is “jungle stuff,” even if that presents a wide array of colors. I just think it’s more harmonious for whatever reason. Then again, maybe I’m just biased towards The Lion King.
Restroom adjacent to the main bathroom–note that it’s a walk-in shower as opposed to a bathtub with shower.
Standalone bathroom with a tub. All of these rooms are consistent in terms of layout, so the Finding Nemo rooms are just like these, except with Nemo stuff. After looking at rooms online, we weren’t wowed by those rooms, but if there’s a Finding Nemo fan in your party, you should look at those rooms. Also, they are the closest ones to the main lobby.
On the exterior, we agree that The Lion King is the weakest. There’s a lot of dead space, and none of it is illuminated at night. Don’t let the photo above fool you–that is a really long exposure and looks better than it would look at night when viewed with the naked eye.
Another thing to take into consideration when booking a room at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the walk. The Finding Nemo suites are closest to the main (Finding Nemo-themed) pool, with The Lion King and Cars wings being about the same distance away, maybe a 5-7 minute walk from the lobby. The Little Mermaid standard rooms are a bit of a hike, maybe 8-12 minutes from the lobby depending upon how quickly you walk.
The Little Mermaid rooms are also disadvantaged in that they do not have internal halls, whereas the suites do have internal halls between the rooms. To this extent, the suites are less like the other Value Resorts and the standard rooms are more like the other Value Resorts.
Disney’s Art of Animation has some excellent amenities. Landscape of Flavors, the food court, is one of the most inspired food courts at any Walt Disney World hotel, and is superior to any other Value Resort. Additional amenities include a play area, arcade, free a jogging trail, WiFi, and movies under the stars.
The biggest amenity of all, though, is that it does not share bus transportation service with any other Walt Disney World hotel. This means that, along with Pop Century, it has the best bus transportation in all of Walt Disney World. Sort of odd that two Value Resorts would share this crown, but whatever, I guess. All guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations.
Above is the main, fittingly named “Big Blue” pool. The Big Blue Pool is the only Value Resort pool to not allow pool-hopping (likely to keep the riffraff from Pop Century out! ;)) and is pretty cool. Disney really hypes up the underwater music, which is a cool touch. I actually prefer the Cars pool, which is quieter and has a neat look with the Cozy Cones nearby.
My biggest issue with Art of Animation is the pricing of the suites. These suites range from about $300/night to about $500/night. Typically, two standard value resort rooms combined will cost you less than a single family suite. Now, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison as there are certainly benefits to the single family suite as opposed to two adjacent single rooms, but that still gives me pause, and makes me question just how much of a value these suites truly are.
Interestingly, though, if Walt Disney World were to re-classify Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in a higher (or its own) tier, I think it would pass for something higher. If you actually like the theme at Art of Animation, it might pass muster as a Deluxe-caliber resort. I still don’t view them as rooms that are worth over $300/night, but if you can score a discounted rate at one, I do think ~$250/night for a party of 6 is reasonable. Everyone’s opinion of value-for-money differs, though.
Transportation, pool, and other amenities are all top-notch, and really the only significant amenity missing as compared to the Deluxes is a nice table service restaurant and a good location in relation to a theme park, and these two things aren’t even something all Deluxes have. We aren’t suggesting that you should compared Art of Animation to a Deluxe when determining whether you should book it (we do not think it’s Deluxe-caliber), just pointing out that the argument could be made.
In terms of theme, price, and category, Art of Animation compares interestingly to Cabana Bay Beach Resort over at Universal Orlando Resort. For those unfamiliar with it, Cabana Bay is very similar in nature, offering both value single rooms and value family suites. Its look is one of a 1950s retro, with a lot of midcentury modern and Googie architecture, and styling drawn from beach and car culture. It’s the kind of style that has become popular in recent years thanks to stores like IKEA and shows like Mad Men.
Cabana Bay has a lower price and a theme that is more adult. What it lacks is the Disney theming and on-site advantages of a Walt Disney World hotel. To many people, this will be an absolute deal-breaker. Our Florida visits focus primarily on Walt Disney World, so staying on-site in a Disney-owned hotel is a must. Your mileage may vary on that, depending upon your priorities in Orlando. I think both hotels have their place, and each will be the ‘clear-cut’ winner for some guests depending upon their vacation plans, design preferences, and budget.
The Art of Animation family suites price-point makes them something we don’t strongly recommend unless you want to be on-site at Walt Disney World, need to sleep 6 people, and the layout of a family suite is desired. In fairness to the Art of Animation suites, maybe viewing them solely in terms of capacity and thus comparing them to two standard rooms at a Value Resort is missing the point.
One bedroom villas might be the more apt comparison, and these compare fairly to those, price-wise. The living area in the suites is totally different than simply doubling a standard room, after all, and the suites are actually larger than two standard rooms combined, even if the total capacity of the suite is only 6, versus 8 between two standard rooms.
Overall, this review was a very long-winded way of saying the Family Suites at Art of Animation and the hotel as a whole are really cool, but also not for everyone’s personal tastes and party size. While we both really enjoy Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, we also have concerns about it and how it compares to similarly-situated options. Hopefully, our playing of devil’s advocate and presentation all of the pros and cons of Art of Animation was helpful to your decision…and didn’t complicate it further. Ultimately, we like Art of Animation and will definitely return here. We will probably stick with The Little Mermaid standard rooms in the future, but if we had a party of 6 and we wanted more of a “resort” type room for our Walt Disney World trip, we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again–especially in the Cars wing.
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Do you think Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is for you? Have you stayed here? Do you want to stay here? Share your thoughts in the comments!