A HUGE BUMPER GUIDE WITH LOTS OF TIPS FOR DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION RESORT.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in Orlando, Florida, is currently the newest Disney Value Resort within the Walt Disney World Property Area.
Inspired by Pixar Films and with themes from the popular Disney Movies ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Cars’. This Disney resort is perfectly themed for children of all ages and for us big kids at heart.
We thoroughly enjoyed a week long stay in one of the Finding Nemo Family Suites earlier this year, along with a couple of nights in The Little Mermaid Rooms. Its rather quite special staying on-site in a Disney Property and having that added bonus of staying within the ‘Disney Bubble’, so even when you leave the Disney Parks at the end of the day you’re not really leaving the ‘Disney Magic’.
If you are thinking of staying at Disney’s Art of Animation on your next Orlando vacation, or you have already booked….here is everything you need to know about this bright, cheerful and incredibly themed, family friendly resort.
This block is where you will find most of your amenities – Reception/Front Desk, Shopping, Food Court, Drawing Classes, Games Arcade, Business Centre, Mail Drop Off, ATM, Resort Airline Check in, DVC Centre, Currency Exchange, etc. Just outside from here is also where you will find your Disney Transportation Bus Stops to take you to the Disney Parks.
Each section recreating each respective Disney Movie to theming perfection…from giant statues to the smallest detailing.
The Resort is then separated into the 4 different Themed Sections:
Tip! – When booking a room at Art of Animation you will more than likely book your ‘themed section’ there and then, especially if you are booking direct with Disney. If there is a particular theme that your party would like to stay in make sure you book it in advance.
There are 10 Guest Room Blocks at this resort in total, (3 in Cars, 2 in Finding Nemo, 2 in The Lion King and 3 in The Little Mermaid). Each block has been built in a ‘T Shape’ and its worth noting that each block does have its own elevators.
The Resort is split into Family Suite Blocks (Cars, Finding Nemo and The Lion King) and regular Hotel Room Blocks (The Little Mermaid). The Family Suite blocks are closer to the Reception/Food Court/Transportation areas.
Cars is a section by itself to the right of reception with its own separate pool (it’s often the quietest pool).
Finding Nemo is the closest Section to Animation Hall (Main Reception/Food Court Hall/Transportation Buses), its literally right by it and many rooms over look the Big Blue Pool (ours did).
The Lion King section is located between the Finding Nemo area and The Little Mermaid area. You will walk past one block of the Finding Nemo Section to get to it.
The Little Mermaid section is the furthest from Animation Hall, it does have its own pool though. You walk past one Finding Nemo block and through the Lion King Section to reach The Little Mermaid area.
CARS SECTION (Blocks 1, 2 and 3). The CARS section was my personal favourite, the theming here is incredible! You really do feel like you are walking through Radiator Springs and this area certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the Disney Hollywood Studios Park, yet here it is at a Resort. With all the favourites from Cars including Lightning McQueen and Mater, plus rarer seen cars that you won’t find in the Orlando Disney Parks – there are so many photo opportunities for any Cars fan. The Cars themselves don’t move or talk but the Cars Soundtrack is pumped out as you walk round which really does set the tone to perfection. There is a pool here which has cone shaped private cabanas available on a first come first served basis, and it has to be one of the coolest pools I’ve seen.
Tip! – Even if you aren’t staying in the Cars Section be sure to visit this area at sundown, the colours, the cars, the lighting…its amazing to see Radiator Springs all lit up.
FINDING NEMO SECTION (Blocks 4 and 5). Our kids love FINDING NEMO and this was the section where we stayed, its such a bright, fun and colourful area. It is also the area that’s the most easily accessible for the resort amenities and its all centred around the ‘Big Blue Pool’. Here you will find statues of your Finding Nemo favourites such as Nemo, Dory and Crush. There is also a mini playground, and there is a great splash pool to keep the little ones entertained (and a huge welcome on a hot Floridian day). For the adults you will find the ‘Drop Off Pool Bar’ here too.
Tip! – Don’t forget to look up for the Seagulls they may just have something to say!
Tip! – If you prefer a quieter room but still want the accessibility of the Finding Nemo area (as this part of the resort is often the loudest/busiest), then ask for a room facing away from the pool or just on a higher floor. We were on the 4th floor overlooking the ‘Big Blue Pool’ and it was really quiet.
THE LION KING SECTION (Blocks 6 and 10). THE LION KING. Full of lush green foliage, I really love how the landscapes of the Art of Animation Resort changes to compliment each theme, from the grass, to the flowers, the detailing is incredible. Here you will have some great photo ops in front of the Lion King favourites such as Simba, Timon and Pumba, plus a few hyenas and Scar. The music will transport you to the African Pride Land (and remain fixed in your head), there is also a mini playground for the children here too.
THE LITTLE MERMAID SECTION (Blocks 7, 8 and 9). The furthest Section from the main amenities but for any LITTLE MERMAID fan it is totally adorable. This area felt very similar in style to the Disney All Star Movies Resort the way the rooms are laid out and positioned, quite like a Motel style. The rooms here are the least expensive and there are no suites in this section, just regular hotel style rooms. There’s a third resort pool right here under the watchful eye of a giant Ursula, King Triton and of course Ariel herself. A fun and colourful section that our children just loved, with lots of photo spots.
The Family Suites reside in three differently Themed Sections – Cars, Finding Nemo and The Lion King.
Each of these 3 sections have the same room/suite layout with the decoration varying according to the ‘theme’. Each suite will sleep up to 6 people and there’s 2 bathrooms (one with a shower and one with a bath). There is a separate bedroom with a Queen size bed which has its own TV unit and this room has the ensuite shower bathroom. The suite provides a lounge/living space area with a pull out (double) sofa bed, relaxing chair and TV unit. A kitchenette area comprising of a microwave, coffee machine, sink and mini fridge. There is also a dining area as you walk into the suite which has a table with 4 chairs. The table is actually a murphy bed, so you just pull it down to become a double bed, it was really easy and light to do. There’s a small hanging space in the living room for clothes and a hanging space in the bedroom for clothes.
All of these suites have internal doors to the corridors – there are no external doors from any of the suites as far as I am aware. The corridors did have vending machines and ice machines, plus the elevators.
THE LITTLE MERMAID rooms are the ‘Disney Value’ rooms. They are much smaller in size and they are the furthest away from the main Reception area/Food Courts and Transportation, which is certainly something to consider with small children, especially if you don’t take a stroller/pushchair. It can be quite a walk to the reception in a morning and even more so in the evenings after a long day in the parks. You have to walk past part of the Finding Nemo Section and through the Lion King Section to get to the Little Mermaid Section. However if you are just using your own car there is a car park right by the King Triton block and part of the Ariel block of this area.
These rooms all have external doors, like a Motel Style (and are similar to the Disney All-Stars Resorts), so when you walk out of your room you walk straight outside, there are no internal corridors but they do have elevators in each block. I think the Little Mermaid Section is a great choice to experience all that Art of Animation has to offer without paying the higher price points of a suite.
The Rooms inside consist of 1 main room with 2 Double Beds and one separate bathroom. There is a TV Unit with a mini fridge, and a small circular table with 2 chairs. There was no microwave or coffee machine in this room.
Tip! – My advice if you are staying in the Little Mermaid Section would be to a request a room closest to the Lion King Section to cut your walking distance a little and maybe one on the ground floor. If you have a car then maybe consider requesting the King Triton Block or the car park side of the Ariel Block, although even if you are in the Ursula block it really isn’t far to the car park at all. The back of the Ursula block overlooks the Hourglass Lake and new Disney SkyLiner (which was our view).
All rooms throughout the Art of Animation resort regardless of suite or room, provides an in-room hairdryer, iron, ironing board, safe, towels and Disney bathroom toiletries.
Disney’s Art of Animation is classed as a ‘Value’ Resort (Disney Resorts come in 3 different categories – Value, Moderate and Deluxe) with pricing and amenities generally reflective of this. However the Family Suites here at Art of Animation are anything but ‘value pricing’.
The Little Mermaid Section of the Resort is where the ‘Value’ Resort bases its category from – this section as mentioned above is the furthest away from the Reception/Transportation areas and the rooms are more on par with the other Disney Value Resorts in regards to size and layout. So as guessed these rooms are your cheapest option for sure. They sleep up to 4 people.
The Family Suites (Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King) aren’t really ‘Value Resort’ prices. I know when we were booked we could have stayed in a Disney Moderate Resort for less money and even some of the Deluxe Resorts weren’t that much more in price. However we wanted the extra space, the separate bedroom layout and the Finding Nemo theming and really that’s what you are paying for here. These Family Suites are generous and spacious and a great option if members of your party want a little more privacy as you can close the bedroom door, plus there are 2 bathrooms so its a great option for all-adult parties too. Equally it worked for us with young children as once they were asleep at night we still had a little space to move around in and unwind watching some TV without us all being in one big room trying to keep quiet as not to wake anyone. For us those separate/extra spaces compared to us all staying in one big room made the cost worthwhile, particularly when staying for a week or more.
There are 3 pools throughout the resort that guests are free to use, regardless of which section you are staying in. Saying that it would be quite a walk from the Little Mermaid Section to use the Cars pool or vice versa.
The 3 pools are situated in the Little Mermaid Section, the Finding Nemo Section and what we found to be the quietest pool in the Cars Section.
All pools are gated so you will need your magic bands to enter them. Each pool provides pool towels and are actively lifeguarded (within pool hours), there were also plenty of sun loungers around the pools too.
The Big Blue Pool – The Big Blue Pool is pretty incredible! Its the largest Disney Resort Pool and themed around Finding Nemo which will be no surprise then that its found in the Finding Nemo Section. This was by far the busiest pool at the resort and it has a great location just by Animation Hall. There are underwater speakers with Disney Music and Characters talking, plus a splash zone for the kids. There is also a pool bar here which neither of the other 2 pools have.
Fin Flippin’ Pool – Located in the Little Mermaid Section, a decent sized pool surrounded by all things Ariel and friends.
Crazy Cone Pool – Located in the Cars section which is a great pool in itself. There are several cone shaped cabana huts which are available for free and on a first come first served basis. This may be very welcomed in the Summer months especially if you are planning a pool day for the family.
MENUS – I personally think Art of Animation has one of the best food courts and we were really pleasantly surprised with the food offerings. Very happy it wasn’t all pizza and burgers! Whilst there is a pizza section (the pizza got a thumbs up from us), and your standard chicken nuggets, burgers (including a plant based burger), french fries, etc, all readily available. It was great to see other options too such as build your own salad, build your own pasta, fish dishes and some Asian food offerings which were all delicious. For breakfast there is a french toast shop and you can also create your own omelet.
KIDS MENUS – Our children loved the food here and the kids menus always had a good variety with healthy options.
BAKERY and GRAB AND GO – Also don’t forget the bakery section for all the adorable and delicious Disney cupcakes, some of them almost look too good to eat. Plus there are many ‘grab and go’ type food fridges offering items like sandwiches, fruit, cereals, pre made salads, etc. Ideal if you are on your way to the parks and literally want to grab some food and head out.
DRINK STATIONS – There are 3 drink station areas to refill your drinks, with waters, sodas and ice. Some had hot drinks too.
TAKEOUT & SEATING – You can request to ‘take out’ your food and take it back to your room to eat which we did quite a few nights. This works great if you are in the family suites which come with a dining table but if you are staying in the Little Mermaid Section it may be easier to just eat in the food court to be honest. We found there to be plenty of seating available, even at busy times. There is also a little area just outside the food court with tables and chairs if you prefer to eat outside. This area is also overlooking the ‘Big Blue Pool’.
DISNEY DINING PLAN – If you are using the Disney Dining Plan there is a board in the food court describing what is included with your meals. Each meal will use a counter service credit per person and includes a drink (an alcoholic one if you are 21 and over). The kids came with a snack and drink too.
There is no table service restaurant at this resort.
DISNEY MERCHANDISE – There is a great and vast selection of Disney and Disney Park merchandise at the resort Shop which is called the Ink and Paint Shop. Toys, Stationary, Disney Ears, Disney Pins can all be found here, along with art work and a selected offering of clothing.
SNACKS – A variety of packaged snacks are also available to purchase here to save you having to queue in the food court. You can also purchase some of these snacks using your Disney Dining Plan Snack Credits.
TRAVEL/TOILETRY/BABY ESSENTIALS – Basic travel and toiletry essentials available here too such as diapers, kids pull-ups, toothpaste, wipes, basic medication such as allergy relief, headache tablets, etc if you run out or have forgotten anything.
SHOP LOCATION – The shop is located just after reception and just before the Food Court. Also if you use Disney transportation when you return from the Disney Parks the transportation will drop you off just outside the shop.
Check In Time: 3:00pm
Check Out Time: 11:00am
Online Check In: Available through the ‘My Disney Experience App’ – you will receive a text when your room is ready and if you already have your magic bands you can bypass reception and go straight to your room.
Tip! – RECEPTION – We did find the reception to be very busy from about 10am right through until the evening, so do allow yourself extra time if you need to ask anything or you are checking out at the reception desk.
Tip! – LOADING BAY – There is a loading bay as you pull up to Animation Hall for you to unload your car as you arrive/load as you leave. Equally each ‘Themed Section’ car park also had their own loading bays which was helpful. There are luggage trolleys available too, if you see one, grab one as they were definitely in demand.
Tip! – MAGIC BANDS – Get Reception to double check your Magic Bands work before they give them to you. Ours didn’t and when we got to our room we couldn’t get in so then had to walk all the way back to reception and queue up again to get them reactivated. Double check that your Disney Park tickets have been activated on your magic bands as well before you leave reception so that you don’t have any problems on your first day in the parks.
Tip! – CHECK OUT QUEUE – Ask about how to check out when you are checking in – if you leave a credit card on file then you may not need to queue up to check out. We didn’t know this and wasted quite a bit of time queuing up to check out only to be told we hadn’t needed to as we had a card on file.
Tip! – HOUSEKEEPING – HOW TO RECEIVE A GIFT CARD / SERVICE YOUR WAY – You can now opt-out of housekeeping in exchange for a gift card! If you don’t require housekeeping let Reception know on Check In (or just after) and they will give you a credit voucher to use on Disney Merchandise at the resort shops or park shops. It currently works out at $10 per day credit – they subtract 1 nights stay of $10 out of your total. So for example if you are staying 3 nights you would receive a $20 credit voucher, if you are staying 7 nights you will receive a $60 credit voucher. If you decline housekeeping it may well be worth the saving. The offer is only available to those guests currently staying at value and moderate resorts, so Art of Animation is included in this. We declined housekeeping and were able to use the credit voucher on merchandise in the parks. The credit voucher will be emailed to you with a barcode on, you can just show your phone when you pay for merchandise and the cashier will just scan your phone, so no need to print the voucher. If you need fresh towels, toiletries, coffee sachets, etc during your stay just dial housekeeping from your in-room phone, tell them what you need and they will deliver it to your room, including clean sheets (although you would have to change the bedding yourself).
If you would like to store your bags at the resort either before your room is available so you can head off to the Disney Parks, or likewise on check out, to enjoy a day at the parks and then collect them later in the day. Bell Services will store your luggage for you which is located just outside Animation Hall where the main car loading bay is. When we were there Bell Services was always busy so leave yourself extra time when you collect your luggage so you don’t miss your flight.
As with many Disney Resorts, Art of Animation has its own Arcade/Games Room. Whilst we didn’t use this it was popular. It was also a decent size and had a great selection of games to play on.
During your stay you are able to take drawing classes with a Disney Animator, which are free of charge. These lessons run daily in the lobby area (within the TV/waiting area section) at 10am, 2pm and 5pm (times may change so always check before attending). Our children who are aged 7 and 4 loved this. There were kids of all ages at the class we attended plus a number of adults too. You are free to take one class or as many as you like and each lesson you will learn how to draw a popular Disney Character. When our children attended they drew Simba from the Lion King. I sat with them but didn’t participate but wish I had now as it was a lot of fun and a great experience. (Pencils, Paper and Clipboards are provided during the lesson).
Each night by the Big Blue Pool (Finding Nemo Section) there will be a Movie playing, which you are welcome to watch. When we were there they turned the sun loungers around so people could lie back and watch a Disney movie by the pool and under the stars. There will be a schedule up of what Movies will be playing on which nights.
Even though you are on holiday/vacation its still hard to escape doing the laundry unfortunately! Each section of the resort has its own laundry facilities so don’t worry about dragging your laundry around the resort. I used the laundry facilities about 3 times during our stay, twice at the Finding Nemo Section and once at the Little Mermaid Section and all 3 times I had no problems at all. I did find around meal times the laundry facilities got busier, especially the Finding Nemo ones but there are plenty of washing machines and driers, so its just a case of waiting for one to become available if they are full.
The facilities were simple to use too. You swipe your debit/credit card to use the washing machines and dryers and it cost $3 per load per machine. Detergent and Fabric Softener is available within the laundry rooms to purchase as a ‘single use packet’ from a detergent vending machine, and this cost $1 each packet. You can also sometimes buy detergents from the Disney Shop as well.
Disney does provide a payable dry cleaning service and valet laundry service is also available. Just call housekeeping from your in-room telephone to arrange, or for more information.
If you are on the Disney Dining Plan then you can pick up your Resort Refillable Mugs from the Ink and Paint Gift Shop. Each mug will contain a micro-chip which allows you to refill your mug with sodas, water, hot drinks, etc from the Food Court as much as you like. It also works at other Disney Resorts if you visit them too. The refillable mugs do not work in any of the Disney Parks though. If you are not participating in the Disney Dining Plan you can still purchase a refillable resort mug. There are set prices for set numbers of days available but the Ink and Paint Gift shop will have all the information and will be able to assist you with this. We found the refillable mugs to be great, we loved ours! I will have a video and blog post all about our experience of the Disney Dining Plan and whether we felt it was worth the money coming very soon!
REFILLABLE MUGS/DISNEY DINING PLAN
If you are on the Disney Dining Plan then you can pick up your Resort Refillable Mugs from the Ink and Paint Gift Shop. Each mug will contain a micro-chip which allows you to refill your mug with sodas, water, hot drinks, etc from the Food Court as much as you like. It also works at other Disney Resorts if you visit them too.
The refillable mugs do not work in any of the Disney Parks though. If you are not participating in the Disney Dining Plan you can still purchase a refillable resort mug. There are set prices for set numbers of days available but the Ink and Paint Gift shop will have all the information and will be able to assist you with this.
We found the refillable mugs to be great, we loved ours!
I will have a video and blog post all about our experience of the Disney Dining Plan and whether we felt it was worth the money coming very soon!
One great feature of staying at Art of Animation is that the resort has its own dedicated Bus Service to the Disney Parks and Disney Springs. Some resorts share buses which can make it harder (and longer) to use the bus service, whereas with Art of Animation at least you know in a morning the bus won’t be full when it arrives at the resort. Although you may still have a queue at park opening times/higher volume seasons, etc, so always leave yourself plenty of time. We got caught out quite a few times with buses not arriving for quite a long time (40 minutes one morning). So whilst for us, Disney Transportation proved to be a bit hit or miss, its still great to have the option there to use it.
Another huge bonus is the new SkyLiner Disney Transportation system which is due to open late 2019/2020. This will add enormous value to the Art of Animation Resort. It will mean you can simply walk over to the Skyliner Station located on the bridge that separates Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort (over Hourglass Lake), Finding Nemo will be the closest area to this station. You will then be able to ride the Gondola/SkyLiner straight to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from the resort and back – what a fantastic way to travel to the parks!
Each ‘Themed Section’ does have its own Car Park. One thing to note is that Disney now charges for parking overnight at all Disney resorts, which is pretty annoying as it does add up, especially if you are staying for a week or more. Currently the charge is $15 per night of your stay at this resort. It does still give you Free Parking at the Disney Parks, including the Water Parks, and Disney Springs is free to park at anyway. So if you prefer to take your own car into the Parks or like us use it for days the buses looked really busy, then this is an option.
The biggest advice I can give is to ‘always always always’ allow and leave plenty of time for transportation whether you are using Disney’s own Transportation or you are driving yourself. Disney is huge! Distances are great, especially noticeable if you are coming from the UK/Europe. Getting from A to B will more than likely take a lot longer than you think. Always bare this in mind if you have dining reservations and fastpasses booked. You need to allow time for buses, walking from bus stops, bag searches, queuing to get into the parks, etc. I would say to give yourself an hour to commute from the resort to any Disney Park. We often waited more than half an hour for Disney Buses, so please always allow extra time, especially at park opening times and in busier seasons. Much better to get there earlier than planned, than to miss any reservation or fastpass because of underestimating distances/transportation times and/or delays.
If you have a meal planned at another Disney Resort or you just want to have a look around some of the other Disney Resort properties then the best way to be honest is if you have your own car. You can park for free at any of the other Disney Resorts for up to 3 hours, which would give you plenty of time for dining and for having a good nosey around. If you are using the Disney Transportation then from Art of Animation you would need to take the Magic Kingdom bus to the Disney Ticket and Transportation Centre and get a Disney bus from there to the resort of choice. Some resorts are on the Monorail (Polynesian, Contemporary and the Grand Floridan) so you can hop on a Monorail for those from there. If you don’t have a car then another option is to take an Uber or a Disney Minnie Van (the latter you can now book on the Lfyt App or call (407) 828 3500 to book.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort is very close to Art of Animation, its just across Hourglass Lake and just a very short walk (5 minutes) across the bridge. Its definitely worth an afternoon of exploring. We went over for lunch at their Food Court (which was also delicious) and it was great fun having a walk around the resort seeing the incredible theming.
Tip! – A great tip when leaving the parks at night. If the Art of Animation Bus queue is long and you see the Pop Century Bus queue isn’t, then jump on the Pop Century Bus and just walk over the bridge back to Art of Animation instead to save you time.
We absolutely loved our stay here and our children in particular loved the theming, there is just so much of the resort to explore. Its such a bright, big, fun and colourful resort that brings a smile to your face – from the rainbow reception, to the illustrations and art work on the walls, to the incredible attention to detail with the landscapes. It feels like each themed area is its own little world. You are definitely still in the ‘Disney Bubble’ staying here, there is no mistaking that, which may or may not be your ‘thing’ or preference. Compared to say Disney’s Port Orleans Resort which is still Disney but a little more ‘subtle’ Disney, Art of Animation is Disney in more of a ‘loud and proud’ way.
If you are trying to decide which Disney Value resort to stay in I personally do think Art of Animation is the best Disney value resort (with Pop Century a close second). The fact that there are family suites here, fantastic pools, with an equally fantastic food court, drawing lessons available, plus very easy access to Pop Century. Add to that the new SkyLiner transportation system I do think its a great family friendly resort that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend or stay at again. We had a ball!