Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort is getting a reimagining and will soon become Pixar Place Hotel. This post shares concept art, details about the changes, and our commentary about why this is good news despite our disdain for PPH, Pixar Pier, and the prior Toy Story Hotels. (Updated October 23, 2023.)
Pixar Place Hotel will evoke the inspiration and humor that goes into every Pixar film, while celebrating the artistic process. Showcasing early sketches to finished design, the art and decor will highlight vibrant Pixar stories, revealing some never-before-seen artwork. Disney announced the new name at last fall’s D23 Expo and has been sharing details over the course of 2023.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, this 15-story high-rise hotel overlooks Disney California Adventure and work has been visibly occurring on the transformation, outside and inside, over the course of the last year. Guests should already see touches of Pixar popping up here and there at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel right now, with more to come…
Disneyland Resort has now announced that the property will officially open as Pixar Place Hotel on January 30, 2024. With that, it’ll become the first fully Pixar-themed hotel in the United States.
Today, we’re giving you a glimpse of rooms inspired by Pixar stories, menu items to look forward to when Great Maple opens soon, plus what you can enjoy on your Disneyland Resort vacation at Paradise Pier/Pixar Place Hotel right now…
You may have already noticed the hotel’s exterior has a bright new look, as they’ve managed to repaint it from yellow to white over the course of the last year since this project was first announced. Last we saw, windows were being replaced and renovations were occurring inside guest rooms.
In addition to that, the common areas around the lobby–save for the atrium–are now mostly in finished form. Below is a look at one of the seating areas, which will become one of the lounges that’s discussed below.
Other work has occurred at a snail’s pace on the inside, as the still-operational Paradise Pier Hotel continues to greet guests during this transition. (Meanwhile, the new tower has shot up over at Disneyland Hotel during the same time and is now open. Guess that’s the DVC difference!)
We’ve popped into Paradise Pier/Pixar Place Hotel several times over the last several months to see the reimagining firsthand, and have been largely underwhelmed. Sure, it’s better than what was there before, but that’s an exceedingly low bar. If anything, it’s remarkable that it’s taken so long to improve so little. (The slow pace would be more forgivable if Paradise Pier Hotel weren’t open during the transformation, but guests are paying–often full price–to stay in an under-construction hotel.)
The Pixar Place Hotel lobby will continue to evolve over the next few months and will begin to blend Pixar imagery with the hotel’s current setting. When the transformation is complete, images from Pixar films will be at the front desk.
In Winter 2023, as guests enter the hotel lobby, they will be greeted by the Pixar Lamp playfully balancing atop its ball. A whimsical, colorful character-inspired mobile will hang above, welcoming guests to the new, reimagined lobby atrium.
The mobile will depict the beginning stages of Pixar filmmaking, when animators create the characters’ designs with their most basic shapes and colors. The characters you’ll see are at the beginning of their journey, just as the guests who step into the lobby begin their own story at the Disneyland Resort.
In fairness to Pixar Place Hotel, this new atrium does look like a marked improvement as compared to what was here before. Hopefully it looks just as good in person as it does in this concept art, and no longer looks like a shopping mall straight out of 1995.
Now, let’s give you a colorful peek inside one of the guest rooms. From pillows inspired by the Pixar Ball to lighting reminiscent of the Pixar Lamp, there will be nods to the iconic animation studio throughout these comfortable and contemporary accommodations.
Some of the art was even created by Pixar Animation Studios artists especially for Pixar Place Hotel. The headboards will consist of concept art from a variety of Pixar features, including The Incredibles, Toy Story 3, and more movies that are arranged in order from warm to cool colors, sharing the importance of color to the tone of a scene.
Guests can now splish and splash at an all-new water play area inspired by “Finding Nemo” where the fish and his friends frolic alongside families. Recently opened for guests of Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, this rooftop deck features Pixel Pool, which is lined with relaxing loungers, along with Nemo’s Cove pop-jet splash pad, and Crush’s Surfin’ Slide, a 186-foot-long water slide inspired by the coolest sea turtle in the ocean.
On the rooftop deck, you can also gather with friends on comfy couches surrounding fire pits inspired by some of Pixar’s more hot-headed characters, including Jack-Jack from Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and Anger from Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
Near the Pixel Pool is a family play court with activities inspired by Pixar’s famous short films. Interactive games and imaginative free play celebrate favorite friends from “La Luna,” “Bao,” “For the Birds,” and “Burrow.”
When it’s time to relax, guests of Pixar Place Hotel may enjoy food and drinks under the lovestruck umbrellas from “The Blue Umbrella.” By night, the pool deck is the ideal spot to take in amazing views of the Disneyland park fireworks, and lounge by cozy character-inspired firepits with family and friends.
The adjacent play court and pool bar will open later in Fall 2023.
Pixar Place Hotel will welcome the team from Southern California local favorite Great Maple, which will open a flagship restaurant on the first floor and operate other food and beverage locations throughout the hotel. This modern American eatery specializes in upscale comfort food with a twist, serving fresh takes on American classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Opening in November 2023, Great Maple Restaurant will bring its innovative menu of upscale comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This modern American eatery will serve a robust selection of dishes made from scratch daily including the Cajun Shrimp & Cheddar Biscuit Benedict, Soda Pop-Braised Baby Back Ribs, Charred Cauliflower Hummus, Maple Pecan-Crusted Salmon, Market Fish, a variety of inspired salads, and my favorite, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Maple Bacon Doughnuts.
A few weeks after the ground-floor flagship eatery opens, more culinary delights also operated by Great Maple will open. A new grab-and-go coffee shop in the lobby called Sketch Pad Café will serve assorted pastries accompanied by a selection of coffee and tea. Plus, an all-new menu will debut at the rooftop pool bar to be named Small Bytes, serving up salads, wraps, assorted cheese plates and more which you can enjoy with signature beverages.
Normally, I’d take issue with Disney outsourcing all resort food & beverage to a third party. Not when it’s this hotel. Most of the food I’ve had at Paradise Pier Hotel has been nasty, and its dining scene has been sad for a long time. This is basically a third party hotel with Pixar decorations, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how Club Level and character dining are handled (or are eliminated).
Back in the lobby, browse through the new gift shop STOR-E, featuring Pixar-themed apparel and toys, plus more Disneyland Resort souvenirs and sundries.
There’s also a new and expanded fitness center that recently opened, offering treadmills, free weights and more complimentary for hotel guests. This has a new mural of Mike and Sulley running on a treadmill, inspired by Pixar’s Monsters University.
This should be easily reconciled for anyone who has ever heard the phrase, “making lemonade out of lemons.” (Which should be everyone.)
Let’s be brutally honest: Paradise Pier Hotel is awful. For its supposed caliber, PPH is the worst Disney hotel in the world. It’s not even a remotely close call, either. Our posts about hotels near Disneyland frequently include a similar refrain, that Paradise Pier Hotel is essentially just light Disney branding on an otherwise generic third party hotel that charges an astronomical premium for said branding.
That’s because it is. Paradise Pier Hotel is an old third party hotel. Disney bought the Pan Pacific in 1995 ahead of its construction of Disney’s California Adventure, and then tried to give it the Disneyland Hotel treatment, except with it paying tribute to the original Paradise Pier instead of Walt Disney’s Disneyland. (I don’t think it’s controversial to say Walt is more beloved with fans than DCA 1.0.)
There are a ton of great off-site hotels that are closer to Disneyland, cost less money, and are objectively better than Paradise Pier Hotel. (As you can see in our Disneyland Area Hotel Rankings & Reviews, there are over three-dozen off-site hotels we prefer to PPH.)
Time has passed it by, and with the hotel development boom in Anaheim, it’s impossible to recommend PPH over the many superior alternatives. We haven’t the slightest idea why so many Disneyland fans defend this hotel; it must be nostalgia or the allure of all things Disney–even bad things. (Sorry, but this is the company that gave us Chicken Little. They’re hardly infallible.)
In other words, Paradise Pier Hotel is a lemon. It has little redeeming quality, and pretty much nowhere to go but up. Bringing in a fresh theme, reimagined spaces, and amenities that can be expected of a modern hotel will breathe new life into these aging towers. It probably won’t suddenly be Disneyland Hotel–and certainly not Grand Californian Hotel–caliber, but there’s zero chance it gets worse.
By contrast, Toy Story Hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort was a brand new build. Imagineering had a blank slate, and they chose to create something that could easily have a backstory of “abandoned prison repurposed to become colorful daycare center!” (at least on the exterior). There was no retrofit–they simply went that route with Toy Story Hotel by choice. That was the opposite of making lemonade out of lemons–whatever that is. Maybe making lemonade out of lemon layer cake (I guess?).
Honestly, part of this is also that I hold Oriental Land Co., the owner and operator of Tokyo Disney Resort, to a higher standard than Disney. This might be difficult for fans of the U.S. parks to hear, but OLC is like the Disney of the 90s, not today’s company. The slate of ambitious projects announced in the last few years should bear that out, as should the parks themselves.
The lone exception to that has been value and mid-range hotel development. First there was Celebration Hotel, which felt like a cash grab, and then Toy Story Hotel, which looks like the most risk-averse and creatively unambitious design. I’m sorry to those who like it, but Toy Story is such low-hanging fruit with so much untapped potential for imaginative and immersive areas. We’ve been settling for middling when we could easily have mind-blowing.
Ultimately, that’s why I’m somewhat optimistic about Paradise Place Hotel becoming Pixar Place Hotel. Not because I think this is a great idea that I’d want to see built from the ground up. Quite the contrary. Because the current property is so underwhelming and lacking as compared to more recent construction that it will unquestionably be an improvement, and quite a dramatic one at that.
Above all else, when it comes to Disney projects, I’m a realist. Not everything can be an E-Ticket, blockbuster land, or AAA Four Diamond Award Winner. Some additions are role players, capacity adders, or retrofits that are ambitious given their real world constraints. You can’t have a park filled with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance–some flat rides are needed to round out the slate. Likewise, not every property can be Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa–rounding out the resort portfolio with a new & improved Pixar Place Hotel makes complete sense.
What do you think of this news about Disneyland Resort? Are you excited that Paradise Pier Hotel is getting a Pixar reimagining? Or do you think PPH is already perfect, and cannot conceivably be improved? Will this cause you to give the much-maligned resort a second look? How do you feel about Paradise Pier Hotel vs. off-site third party accommodations? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!