SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION Resort

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION Resort! We here at the SAT SIX love staying on-site at Walt Disney World. Each of Disney’s resorts have that certain something that keep us coming back despite the fact that it often makes much more fiscal sense to stay off property. Whether its enjoying Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Clubs, having a monorail station inside the Contemporary, or even getting some beignets and walking around the gorgeous grounds of Port Orleans French Quarter, each member of our family has a favorite Disney hotel. If we had to pick just one though… one Disney hotel that fit all of our needs… it would be Art of Animation.

Overview of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

From the pools, to the food court, to the size of the rooms, this is one hotel that brings its A-game at every level. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of the resort, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Animation Hall

Your Art of Animation experience begins in Animation Hall. This is the main check in lobby and also connects to the Ink & Paint Shop (the resort’s gift shop), Pixel Play Arcade, and Landscape of Flavors (the food court). The check-in area has colorful and vibrant lighting on one side, while the other side features hand drawn artwork. The artwork itself actually tells a “story,” in that when you first step into the building you are looking at black and white concept drawings. As you walk down the lobby, the artwork begins to become more refined and distinctive. By the end of the lobby the drawings are fully realized versions of the Disney characters we’ve come to know and love. All of the artwork is based around the four main areas of the resort, which are themed to The Little MermaidLion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars.

As for the check-in “desk,” unlike most of Disney’s hotels, there isn’t just one long desk where guests are called to the next available Cast Member. Instead the area is broken up into a bunch of smaller desks, which allows the Cast Members to come out and greet you, making the entire experience much more personable.

Various check-in desks in the lobby of Animation Hall. (photo by Brandon Glover)
A sketch of Lightning McQueen at the beginning of Animation Hall’s lobby. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Further down the lobby is this version of Lightning McQueen. AS you can see at this point in the design process he has the number “57” on his side instead of the “95” we generally see him with. This is because at one point in the creative process, Lightning’s number was 57 to reference the year that Cars director John Lasseter was born. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The end of the lobby has finished artwork with drawings that should be recognizable to any Disney fan. (photo by Brandon Glover)
It’s fitting that a resort based on animation has an opportunity for guests to learn how to draw. (photo by Brandon Glover)

At the end of the lobby, and in front of the Ink & Paint Shop, is an amazing structure that looks like it is exploding with drawings. If you look closely, several of these drawings have a little something special – signatures. There is a drawing of the turtle Crush autographed by Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, , one of Lightning McQueen signed by Cars director John Lasseter, and a picture of Ariel and Prince Eric signed by Little Mermaid co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements. Its more than just directors though, as you’ll see artwork signed by others involved in the creation of these beloved animated classics.

Chandelier in Animation Hall. (photo by Brandon Glover)
A drawing of Ariel signed by Jodie Benson, the voice actor who played her in The Little Mermaid. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This drawing of Ursula was signed by her voice actor Pat Carroll.
Jay Ward, the actual Cars Legacy Guardian, has his John Hancock on a storyboard featuring the moment where Snotrod wakes up the tired Mac. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
This Cars drawing is signed by Josh Cooley. Note that it was a storyboard done early in the production of the movie, where Lightning is still numbered 57 instead of what would eventual be 95.
Robert Baird, the writer behind Big Hero 6 and Monsters University has autographed a storyboard featuring an angry Chick Hicks bound and determined not to finish behind The King again.

Jerome Ranft is a character sculptor for Pixar and brother of the late Joe Ranft (screenwriter with credits that include some of our favorite animated films including Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.) Jerome signed a drawing featuring Mater cow tipping. Jerome and Joe also worked on some of the larger than life sculptures we see in the Big Blue Pool area in the Finding Nemo section of AOA.

In a wonderful touch, Joe Ranft actually drew Mater in this artwork that his brother Jermone signed.

 

# 5 – Hidden Mickeys

It wouldn’t be Disney without Hidden Mickeys, and they are pretty much everywhere at Art of Animation: Animation Hall… Landscape of Flavors… various decorations outside… the carpets inside the main buildings… throughout the rooms…well, you get the idea. Not only are there Hidden Mickeys, but there are also several hidden Lightning McQueens. Keep your eyes open in Landscape of Flavors and along the outside of the Cars buildings to spot these.

Hidden Mickey on a fish outside the Big Blue Pool.
Hidden Mickey in carpet at Nemo wing.
Look in the top right section of this picture for a hidden Mickey on a bench in Animation Hall.
Hidden Mickey in the middle of this tree in the Lion King section of Landscape of Flavors food court.
Hidden Mickey made out of tires in the carpeting inside the Cars area.
Coffee table inside the Cars rooms features a large Map. (photo by Laurel Stewart)
Close up on coffee table reveals a Hidden Mickey in the artwork.
A hidden Lightning McQueen on the Cars buildings.

 

# 4 – WDW’s Radiator Springs is FILLED with details

As a huge fan of Pixar’s original Cars film, I am still insanely jealous of the Cars Land built in Disney California Adventure. There were rumors and innuendo that we in Florida would get something similar, but its been over five years later and WDW is about to get a dressed up Lightning McQueen meet-and-greet and that’s it. Thankfully Art of Animation brought us a poor man’s version of Radiator Springs, and you know what? It’s actually great. There are a ton of neat photo-ops with all the fan favorite vehicles in the series such as Lightning McQueen, Sally, Mater, and Luigi. Throughout the entire area there are seemingly a million little details for the fans, and best of all the entire area takes on new life when the sun goes down with various uses of neon. Our family also loves the Cozy Cone pool area as it is always less crowded than the other pools at the resort and offers the use of free cone-shaped cabanas (first come, first served.)

The Wheel Well Hotel is one of the three Cars themed buildings. (photo by Fred Hazelton)
Lightning McQueen.
One of the stickers on McQueen is for Leak Less Adult Drip Pans, as Larry the Cable Guy – the voice of Mater would say, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.“
Mater’s license plate is A-113, and easter egg you’ll see in many Disney and Pixar films as its referencing a Cal Arts classroom number which produced a whole bunch of legendary animators.
Fillmore’s license plate is the birthday of George Carlin, the comedian who voiced the character. Carlin passed away in 2008, two years after the first Cars film.
Luigi’s plate is an interesting one. With 44.5-10.8 it has the quick joke that it appears to be based on the metric system, which makes sense since Luigi is clearly Italian. However, it appears the reference goes even deeper than that, with the numbers actually referring to the GPS coordinates for a Ferrari manufacturing plant in Maranello, Italy. That is next level bananas. Incredible!
The area for Luigi’s tires has a cute reference for Toy Story fans.
AoA’s Radiator Springs at night.
Sarge’s Surplus Hut at night. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
The iconic Cozy Cone sign. Both this sign and Sarge’s Surplus Hut have moving neon, making them really pop. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
The Cozy Cone pool area at night.
Wonderful sign outside the Cozy Cone pool area.
Detail seen inside the window of the Cozy Cone.
From the Cars film, this was Lightning McQueen’s alarm clock when he stayed at the Cozy Cone.

 

# 3 – The Rooms: SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES

While The Little Mermaid section of Art of Animation is your standard Disney value hotel room (think of a room at Pop Century except with a ton of great details for fans of the animated film,) the Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars sections are filled with family suites. With an actual “living room” area, a small kitchen area, and a separated master bedroom, these suites allow our family to spend much more time together without wanting to kill each other testing the patience of mom and dad after watching the 6th consecutive episode of Paw Patrol. For some reason, many Disney hotel rooms are getting away from anything too “Disney” but Art of Animation embraces it and has you completely immersed. A mechanic’s tool box is the theme used for the dressers in the Cars rooms. A “tree stump” is an ottoman feature in the Lion King rooms. All the little things are thought of, and it is like being in the world of the cartoons. If I had my druthers, half the rooms at WDW would have this level of theming. Give me some Country Bears at Wilderness Lodge. I’ll take some more Three Caballeros references in my Coronado Springs room please. How about some Aristocats references in my Grand Flo room. I’ll take anything!

The living room area of a Cars suite. (photo by Laurel Stewart)
This table converts into a bed for a great space saving feature. (photo by Laurel Stewart)
Area of a Lion King suite.
Area inside a Finding Nemo suite. One thing that was fantastic was the detail in the bed covers, but those are all completely gone and replaced with the same white linens that are on every other Disney bed. RIP. (photo by Erin Foster)
Inside a Finding Nemo suite. (photo by Erin Foster)

 

# 2 – The Big Blue Pool

People who go on vacation with their families know one thing: no matter how many parks you go to, no matter how many ADRs you book at the best restaurants, no matter how many toys and t-shirts you buy in the gift shops, the one thing your kids are probably going to want to do more than anything else is play in the pool. The main pool of AoA is The Big Blue, and it is elaborately themed to the world of Findng Nemo. This is the biggest pool on Disney property, and that’s saying something. There are always activities going on for the kids throughout the day, as well as a separate spray yard and a reef-themed play area. The whole area is bonkers, in a good way, and we haven’t even mentioned one of the neatest tricks up Disney’s sleeve….this pool plays music underwater. Throughout the pool there are speakers underwater that play Finding Nemo music along with dialog from characters such as Crush. Personally I like to grab a drink at the Drop Off (AoA’s cleverly named pool-side bar) and play a game of ping pong while the little ones enjoy the pool.

The Big Blue Pool. (photo by Fred Hazelton)
Crush and Dory. (photo by Fred Hazelton)
“When are we going to the pool?!!”
The Drop Off pool bar.
Banana Cabana and Kona Longboard draught. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 1 – Landscape of Flavors

Featuring hands-down the best food options at any of Disney’s Value Resorts, the Landscape of Flavors food court has several other bells and whistles that separate it from the pack. The four seating areas are themed to the four animated films of the resort, each with pleasant artwork. The food itself is served on actual plates instead of paper plates, and instead of the usual plastic forks and knives you get to use real silverware. Small differences like that can make a big difference in the overall dining atmosphere. It also helps to have a much wider selection than your standard burgers and chicken strips, with many options that will appeal to those with dining allergies or happen to be vegetarian or vegan. We are big fans of the create-your-own-pasta station (which includes several types of pasta, sauces, meat, and a whole bunch of fresh veggies to top it with) along with the plant-based vegan burger option.

Lion King seating area.
Little Mermaid seating area.
ACTUAL SILVERWARE at a Disney Value Resort. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Tandoori Boneless Chicken Thighs with Naan Bread, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Grilled Plant-Based Burger, topped with Daiya cheddar-style cheese, on a brioche bun, with fries and house-made chips. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Jumbo slice of pepperoni pizza with two breadsticks. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Some lunch/dinner options at Landscape of Flavors including a Chicken Parmesan plate in the middle. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

 

HONORABLE MENTION – The Skyliner is coming!

The Disney Skyliner will be making a stop at Art of Animation, making a stay at this resort even more attractive in the coming years. The Skyliner station will be located right in between Art of Animation and Pop Century on Generation Gap bridge.

Disney Skyliner concept art. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
The design of the Skyliner station fits right in line with the aesthetic of Art of Animation. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Skyliner concept art. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Map of the Disney Skyliner transportation system. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Shot of the Disney Skyliner station in relation to Art of Animation. (photo taken by @bioreconstruct on August 31, 2018)
The Skyliner station sits right in the middle of Hourglass Lake. Art of Animation is on the left, and Pop Century is on the right. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Close up of the Disney Skyliner station. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION Resort! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

Staying at Art of Animation: Resort info for the grown ups (by Erin Foster)

Lily’s Best Week Ever (including a stop at Art of Animation)

WORST IDEA EVER: Disney Value Resorts BAR CRAWL

Special Thanks to our spirit animal Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Erin “Bananas” Foster, Dynamite Daisy Lauren, Jammin’ Julia Mascardo, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, stats nerd Fred Hazelton, crazy cat lady – and our Fearless Leader – Laurel Stewart, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

Someone told you there was a better theme park blog than the SATURDAY SIX?

5 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION Resort

  • September 1, 2018 at 9:26 am
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    Landscape of Flavors has, hands-down, the most unique breakfast offering on property: the spinach, cauliflower, and paneer on naan. It doesn’t sound “breakfast-y” at first glance, but it works incredibly well as a change of pace from standard breakfast foods. (It would be tough to have it made vegan, as the spinach and cheese are cooked together, but if things are a little slow, they might be able to grab a scoop of plain spinach from the back. The station draws a lot of traffic, though.)

    Reply
    • September 1, 2018 at 10:48 am
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      Gah, also forgot that the naan is brushed with melted butter as it comes out of the tandoor.

      Reply
  • September 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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    We have stayed in all categories of WDW resort from the Grand Floridian to the All Stars. We were disappointed with the Grand Floridian rooms as they were just rooms which could have been anywhere (except for the view) with no or little theming. The public areas were amazing but not really Disney themed. We, as a family, preferred the theming of the All Stars as the Disney theming is everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Floridian is a fabulous hotel but if you want Disney theming that is “in your face” and all around, the best resorts are the value resorts. I guess it might depend on the ages of the members of your party and what you really want from your accommodation but our young daughters much preferred wandering through the grounds of the All Stars Resorts looking for colourful statues of familiar characters than sitting in a beautiful lounge listing to a live band or pianist and sipping mocktails.

    Reply
  • September 2, 2018 at 10:12 am
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    Is there a water slide at the big blue pool? I’m assuming no as this is technically classified as a value resort. Let me know✨!

    Reply
    • September 2, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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      There are no slides at the Big Blue Pool or at the nearby Cars or Little Mermaid pools.

      Reply

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