Photos & Review: Contemporary’s Hit & Miss Makeover

Contemporary Resort’s overhauled “Incredibles Injection” guest rooms have started to debut and it has debuted up its lobby reimagining. This review share photos and our thoughts on Walt Disney World’s latest hotel upgrades, how they compare to the old ones, and other recent redesigns to Deluxe Resorts.

Let’s start by quickly recapping what’s happening with Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This was actually the first Deluxe Resort to reopen at Walt Disney World last summer, with many guests being relocated to it since their chosen hotels were closed. That became even more common as resort reopenings were delayed due to lack of demand or refurbishment projects elsewhere.

As other Deluxe Resorts came back online, Walt Disney World quietly began moving guests from the Contemporary to other resorts for stays early this year through Fall 2021. Then came the official announcement from Walt Disney World that the A-Frame Tower of Disney’s Contemporary Resort would take its guest rooms out of commission in phases for room overhauls. That announcement was followed up with confirmation of the long-rumored Incredibles Injection, plus an overhaul to the lobby inspired by Walt Disney World history.

The target date for completion of these projects at Disney’s Contemporary Resort was late last month, shortly before the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. We began to suspect work might be behind schedule about a month ago, noticing a sudden spike in construction contractor vehicles and workers around the resort. Inside the Grand Canyon Concourse, there was much more visible activity than in any of the prior months, suggesting a race against the clock.

Even though the lobby is finished and some (many? most?) of the Incredibles rooms have reopened, construction continues. In addition to hearing and seeing this for ourselves, we’ve also been told stories by several others who have stayed at the Contemporary in the last two weeks and have heard construction at early/late hours, been directly adjacent to work-in-progress rooms, or even found themselves assigned to a room that hasn’t been totally completed. Just something to consider if you’ve booked one of these non-discounted rooms for $802 per night (and up) in the coming weeks.

You can tell we’re off to a great start already!

Per Walt Disney World, the Incredibles-inspired guest rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort feature characters including Jack-Jack, Frozone, and Edna Mode, plus a Monorail motif and retro-modern aesthetic evoking Tomorrowland.

That’s more or less accurate. While Walt Disney World indicated the rooms would feature a “dash of something Incredible,” that was probably just an irresistible pun. If anything, these are Incredibles rooms with a dash of retro-modern and monorails.

Walt Disney World offered a pretty thorough photo tour of the Incredibles rooms back when they were announced, so this wasn’t exactly our first exposure to the redesign.

Upon seeing the sneak peek images, we were cautiously optimistic.

My take at the time was that these aren’t my favorite rooms ever, but the preview photos made them look like a Disney-meets-contemporary room design.

These photos made the new rooms appear bright and airy, and balance an array of colors without looking overly busy. The swooping lines and stylization are clean and evoke a mid-century modern aesthetic. The integration of characters is a bit more than I’d like to see, but it’s fairly tasteful and at least some of those details are “hidden.” Again, this is all from the photos posted by Walt Disney World.

After seeing the Incredibles rooms in person, I’m a little less positive.

While the rooms are lighter and brighter with a crisp look and mid-century modern aesthetic, they also look cheap.

Whereas other new rooms have used a variety of textures and higher-end finishings to convey quality alongside the character infusions, the new rooms at the Contemporary are really lacking in that regard.

From the flooring to the furniture to the surfaces, these rooms simply feel and look lower end. I’m not saying they’re Pop Century quality, but they’re also not on par with the Riviera or Polynesian, which thread the character-meets-quality needle far better than the Contemporary.

Although a lot of the character components are hidden, I don’t think those do these rooms any favors. There’s a sense that the details have been reserved for these stickers (or whatever they are).

That would be more forgivable in a cheaper room–or in a pricey room like this where there’s actual sophistication and quality elsewhere. For rooms being sold at luxury price-points, they don’t look like it. There’s simply no polish.

My ultimate problem with the Incredibles rooms is that a lot of the stylization is one-dimensional. The look falls flat, because it is flat.

The rooms are also lacking in subtlety, and are arguably tacky.

I’m not against integrating characters into Walt Disney World hotel rooms, even on the higher end. That’s one of Disney’s few options for differentiating itself from real world competitors, and justifying ever-increasing price points.

However, my view is that characters either need to be subtle and cleverly-integrated aspects of otherwise upscale designs or over-the-top character themed rooms. This is in no man’s land, between those two extremes in a way that’s neither going to appeal to people who want sophistication nor full character immersion.

The new rooms at the Contemporary also feel smaller. At first I thought this was all in my head–it’s the same space, just redesigned. And that’s largely true.

However, this archway has been added in front of the balcony for some reason, and it presumably does eat up a bit of space.

On a positive note, I think most guests are going to view the bathrooms as an upgrade.

The sinks are more practical, the visually-busy design has been decluttered, the mirror is fun–even the ceiling looks better.

There are versions of this bathroom with walk-in showers and bathtubs. I’m unsure of the allocation, but that’s pretty consistent with other hotel rooms around Walt Disney World.

I’d personally prefer less overtly Incredibles art, but perhaps that’s just me. Otherwise, we’d call these bathrooms a nice upgrade over their predecessor.

Above is the old room and current Garden Wing room until those are similarly renovated. I’m not going to claim this was anything special–it could’ve passed for a generic Hilton or Hyatt–but I thought it was perfectly fine.

I assume Walt Disney World has survey data indicating that guests want lighter, brighter rooms that are more “Disney,” so I’m not going to question the motivation for making the change. Nevertheless, I think the execution misses the mark. I’d add that none of this even addresses the biggest issue with the Contemporary, which is the cluttered, dated and discordant Grand Canyon Concourse.

Moving outside the guest room, there’s also new artwork and carpet in guest corridors that features the Incredibles.

This mostly looks fine; I don’t have strong opinions on it one way or the other.

One thing I really do like is this art across from the elevators in the hallway.

The team behind the redesign should’ve put this at the center of their mood board or whatever. It’s exactly what I envision as the perfect Incredibles-inspired mid-century modern redesign of the Contemporary–something subtle that weaves the characters into tasteful and appropriate design styles.

Continuing on that positive note, let’s head down to the lobby.

This has seen its own refresh with a new collection of modern art pieces as well as historical, behind-the-scenes photographs of Disney’s Contemporary Resort in development and under construction.

If you compare before and after photos, nothing significant has changed to the layout of the lobby. The space has been opened up a bit and there’s new decor and furniture, but that’s about it.

And yet, this makes a world of difference.

The Contemporary’s new lobby looks exceptional.

Our hope prior to seeing the finished product was that the Contemporary would emulate Disneyland Hotel, as the latter’s use of nostalgia and mid-century modern stylization is pitch-perfect.

That’s exactly what Walt Disney World has done.

The Contemporary Resort’s lobby now has personality. Instead of looking like a vaguely modern design from the last decade, it now is imbued with a sharp mid-century modern style.

That style is further punctuated with Mary Blair-designed visuals that not only offer a nod to the history of Walt Disney World, but just flat out look fantastic. The art really makes the lobby pop, and is a great first impression for guests to what was previously a very subdued space.

This marriage of a timeless modern aesthetic along with distinctly Disney art and decor makes for a winning combination. This is the perfect rebuttal to all of the talk about how the Contemporary is a conceptually-flawed hotel (a variation of the Tomorrowland problem) that cannot be “fixed.” Yes, it can–and here’s how!

The furniture, lighting, concept art, historic photos–all of it–is perfect. I cannot say enough positive things about what Disney did here.

So much of this is relatively simple and not a dramatic departure from what was here before, but it makes such a stronger first impression. (Even though we visit Contemporary regularly–including a couple of weeks before the lobby renovations began–I had to consult photos of the old lobby to refresh my recollection as to how it looked. Suffice to say, very forgettable.)

I also love that Mary Blair is featured so prominently in this design. Her art is truly what makes the difference, and it’s a testament that–even decades later–her unique unique creative style and visual identity can still resonate.

My sincere hope is that the lobby is simply a trial run for grandiose plans for the Grand Canyon Concourse. (Maybe Disney wants to see how regular guests react to this before proceeding?)

My ultimate opinion on the Contemporary’s overhaul is complicated and unsettled. It’s nice that the hotel is seeing long overdue love, and the lobby looks absolutely fantastic. If it really is a preview of what’s to come in the Grand Canyon Concourse, this will be a fantastic overhaul on balance. If such an overhaul comes to fruition, I can completely forgive and overlook all other components of this project. Unfortunately, there’s not yet any indication Disney intends to do anything with the Grand Canyon Concourse, which continues to befuddle me since that’s so overdue.

As for the Incredibles rooms, they’re okay. I’m not bothered by the character integration in theory, but I do think the execution is sloppy and doesn’t really excel at either of the things it’s presumably trying to do. As a character-themed room, it feels weak and uninspired. As an upscale hotel room, it’s over the top and unsophisticated. Maybe–hopefully–the target audience (whoever that is) will disagree with my perspective, though. I guess we shall see.

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What do you think of the new Incredibles-inspired rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Are these appropriately luxurious and/or character-centric? Disappointed that nothing was announced for the Grand Canyon Concourse? Still hopeful that the GCC will receive an overhaul akin to the lobby? Or do you fear that it’ll get one more in line with the Incredibles room? Have you stayed at the Contemporary in the last few years? Do you think the resort is dated and tired, or still has a contemporary atmosphere? Think the Grand Canyon Concourse, guest rooms, or both need(ed) an overhaul? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!

52 Responses to “Photos & Review: Contemporary’s Hit & Miss Makeover”
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