Disney’s newest resort, Art of Animation opened to the public last week, and this weekend, I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from one of the floor supervisors and got lots of photos. By the way — they are currently running group tours at the resort in the morning. While it likely won’t be the nearly 2 hour in-depth look I got, if you’re going to be visiting soon and they are offered, I would encourage you to take advantage.
|Bright colors and large icons welcome you inside.
When fully finished, this $350 million dollar resort that has been three years in the making will feature 4 distinct wings – family suites modeled after Finding Nemo, Cars and Lion King, and standard rooms based on Little Mermaid. Currently, only the Finding Nemo portion of the resort is open to the public. The next section, Cars, opens June 18th, followed by Lion King, and then Little Mermaid.
Upon entering the lobby, the first thing you notice is this huge wall that features actual sketches from animators of the four films the resort is known for.
The sketches are set up in such a way that they run right to left –
From early concept drawings (fish are friends, not food)…
To finished color. You really do see the progression and transformation. Even the floor underneath is set up the same way, though you might not notice. It starts out gray/black as you enter, and ends in full color at the other end of the wall. And if you’re wondering if the film animators had a hand in putting all this together, the answer is yes. They played a very big role in deciding how things around the resort should be laid out, and their influence is seen everywhere, not just in the lobby.
Speaking of the lobby, instead of one long check-in desk, cast members work at open stations that allow them to freely walk around and better interact with guests – especially children. It’s getting rave reviews so far. Oh, and see all the colors on the wall? Those represent all the colors an animator uses. And, in keeping with the theme of the resort, cast members who work the front desk aren’t called cast members, but rather “concept artists.”
This interesting chandelier hangs in the lobby and “draws” people to it (see what I did there)? It features 18 animator drawings from each represented film except Lion King, which has 17.
When John Lasseter was at the resort several weeks ago, he even personally signed one of the drawings.
The gift shop, cleverly named the “Ink and Paint Shop” features a good assortment of Disney items, including exclusive Art of Animation merchandise.
Like the other value resorts, there is one main food court for all the buildings. This one just happens to be much, much larger.
There are four generously sized seating areas like this one. Artwork on the walls are again drawings and paintings done by animators who worked on the films.
The wide open space means guests aren’t on top of one another. Because Art of Animation is focused on the environment, you’ll find other nice features used here as well, such as real silverware instead of plastic, and the floor tiles are recycled concrete.
Unlike the food courts at other value resorts, this one features various stations with food items you can’t find anywhere else. From the surf and surf burger to the Mongolian beef, there’s something for everyone.
With so many choices, you might just have trouble deciding – no worries. Large refrigerators hold an assortment of beverages plus prepared foods such as fruit cups, sushi and sandwiches.
After you’ve checked in and maybe walked around a little, it’s time to head to your room.
Follow the EAC (Eastern Australian Current) to your room. Another difference between Art of Animation and Disney’s other value resorts is that the Finding Nemo, Cars, and Lion King Family Suites will all have interior corridors, just like what you see in a Disney deluxe resort. The Little Mermaid rooms will have exterior entrances. Oh, and if this hallway looks dark to you, it’s not my camera — the hallways are purposely dark because you’re supposed to be in the ocean. When the Cars section opens in a couple of weeks, the hallways will be much brighter and lighter, because it mimics Route 66 and the desert. That same attention to will carry over to the Lion King and Little Mermaid sections as well.
Here you see the table and chairs and seating area from the doorway, and the master bedroom in the background. The furniture is laminate meant to (hopefully) withstand years of abuse from guests. Instead of key cards that go into a key reader, Art of Animation uses cards with an RFID chip built into them (Disney’s already using that technology on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy). Simply wave your card in front of the door and it opens. This RFID card also controls the in-room safe and access to the pool. Disney has recently announced they intend to convert all rooms at all their properties to this same technology by the end of next year.
The master bedroom features a queen bed while the sofa folds out into a double bed and the Inova table bed also folds out into a double, allowing up to 6 guests to stay in one room! By the way, there are two hidden Mickeys on that bedspread, but I’m not telling you where.
This master bathroom was really nice, and the shower was large enough for even my 6’6″ frame. Notice the lights above the mirror? They are again a nautical design, to fit with the ocean/sea theme.
The second bathroom features this awesome shower curtain, perfect for a lawyer’s office. It’s sold in the Ink and Paint gift shop. Nice features include lights that go on automatically as you walk in (perfect for a child that may need to use the restroom in the middle of the night and can’t find the light switch) and pocket doors that slide open and closed. So, you can slide the pocket door closed for the shower/toilet but keep the area for the sink open to allow another person to brush their teeth/get ready.
The kitchenette includes a microwave and over sized fridge -great for a gallon of milk and other perishables. You’ve also got your coffee maker, sink and a few plastic cups and plates.
|Yes, Virginia, that table does turn into a bed.
I bet you thought I wasn’t going to show you the table bed, right? I wouldn’t do that to you. It’s remarkably easy to use. Slide the chairs out of the way, grasp the table from the top and pull down. It folds out quickly and easily. Our awesome guide, Jacob, did it in about 15 seconds, total. It folds into a double bed, complete with overhead nightlights which can be dimmed or turned off. I was told all of the beds in the rooms are “firm”, though I didn’t lay down on any.
Because this is the “Finding Nemo” section of the resort, Imagineers were really striving to make guests feel like they were Nemo, traveling under the sea. To that end, there are numerous details large and small, like the HUGE icons on the buildings.
And, plants were purposely selected to mimic the type of vegetation you might see if you were swimming under the ocean, including the way it moves as it blows in the wind, similar to how sea vegetation is affected by ocean current. You might also notice that in some areas, shale is used instead of mulch.
While Art of Animation will have 3 pools when fully open, the largest of these is the “Big Blue Pool” by Finding Nemo. It is the largest pool on property outside of the water parks, even bigger than Yacht and Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay by 12 feet. The maximum depth is four feet, so I can get wet up to my thighs, yay. The pool has some other great features too — go underwater, and you may hear sounds from Finding Nemo, such as Mr. Ray, or Marlin. The water play area for kids features a soft rubber landing area. To encourage kids who might be scared of the water to use the pool, the water play area is designed to get kids wet in stages. As they walk up to Pearl the Octopus, she “inks” and sprays water. From there, they can move over to the jellyfish sprayers which drip water from overhead, before finally using the zero entry to climb into the water.
Oh, and here’s a fun fact. See how some of the palm trees around the pool in the photos are bent? After Hurricane Charlie hit Central Florida in 2006, those trees were damaged and were due to be destroyed, so Disney World took them and has been taking care of them all this time, waiting to use them somewhere on property. Finally, the opportunity arose to use them at Art of Animation Resort. So, most of the trees around the Nemo pool are curved or bent in some manner, and that’s why.
This play area includes a really soft and cushioned recycled rubber material. And yes, that’s me on the right hand side of the picture slouching. The Lion King section won’t have a pool, but will have the largest play area on property, when it opens.
From the depths of the ocean, we move onto Ornament Valley and Radiator Springs, along Route 66. You can really see the transformation from ocean life to desert.
The Sheriff and Doc Hudson greet you out front. You can see one side of the Finding Nemo wing in the background, but even though the buildings are so close to one another, the great design makes it seem worlds away.
The sidewalk looks just like Route 66, and leads you straight to your rooms at the “Cozy Cone Motel.” At night, the neon signs will all light up, which will look very impressive. Here you can see Filmore, and Ramone, who was under a spray tent because workers discovered a chip in the paint, so the entire car was going to be repainted in preparation for opening day. Off to the left, not pictured here, is Luigi’s Tires. The cones you see in the background are actually pool cabanas. No word yet on whether they will be offered at an additional cost or available first come first serve.
Lastly, as you can see, whenever Disney builds a new resort, they try to incorporate new features, things that guests have asked for and things they believe will make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. So, I wanted to share with you a few more of those things.
First is covered parking. No more waiting in the broiling hot sun for your bus. Speaking of bus service, I was told that right now, Art of Animation is in fact sharing buses with Pop Century (though the buses I saw pull up were all empty), but that as more of the resort opened, they would be getting their own independent bus transportation.
Within the business center – which was very nice by the way – is a screen that lists all the flight times for airlines at Orlando International Airport and updates regularly throughout the day.
And finally, airline check-in for guests is nothing new at Disney resorts, but at Art of Animation, it’s inside. Drop off your bags and print out your boarding passes and go enjoy the resort or parks some more before you have to leave to return home.
Thanks for joining me on this photo tour! As other sections open, you can rest assured that I’ll be there to get more photos and report back.