by Crystal – June 1, 2021
This is a review of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort based on my personal experience as a paying customer. I have not been compensated for writing this blog post.
My daughter is a Disney Super Fan and, to be candid, I think I enjoy Walt Disney World almost as much as she does. Because my husband has a hard time breaking away, it has become a little tradition of sorts for the two of us to visit together over a long weekend. On our most recent trip, we decided that one of our mother-daughter bucket list items is to stay at all the WDW Resort Hotels at least once. I have a feeling that we’ll be working on that one for a while! While there certainly are cheaper options in the Orlando area, we absolutely love the theming, the convenience of Disney Transportation, and the fun little touches that really add to the experience – hidden Mickeys anyone?! So far, we’ve made it to Wilderness Lodge, Art of Animation, and Riviera. Next up will be Walt Disney World Dolphin! So be sure to check back for future reviews. If a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t in your immediate future and you’re in need of an afternoon diversion, check out our Tips for a Magical Disney Staycation!
I tend to prefer a more toned-down and quiet resort stay, so Art of Animation was not high up on my list. For my 10-year-old, AoA has it all: dazzling lobby lights, over-the-top theming, the Big Blue Pool, and, to top it all off, Disney Skyliner transportation. Before this trip, I had never looked closely at AoA because I always book when Disney runs a sale. Disney usually offers a better discount percentage on Deluxe resorts. AoA is a value resort, and it’s also the most expensive value resort, so if I was inclined to book a value resort to save cash, I would tend to gravitate toward one of the cheaper options. After staying here and talking to some folks about the other value resort options, POP Century is definitely on the list. We tried to book it for our next trip, but couldn’t find any availability. I digress… But my daughter did her research and gave me the hard sell. I figured, what the heck, she’ll only be 10 once. Long story short, we both loved our stay at this property
Before we dive in, I want to share that this is more a write up of what we loved about this resort as well as our overall impressions, so I don’t get into the nitty gritty details about the accommodations, etc. However, If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve included a few helpful links to resources that we love. I’ve organized the highlights of our stay in the order of what we loved the most. If you’re on the fence about booking this resort, I hope you find our feedback helpful.
Theming for the Win
The aptly named Art of Animation is all about Disney animation, and this is where the resort quite literally shines. As much as I enjoyed staying at the Wilderness Lodge and Riviera resorts, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed upon arrival at both. It took me a day or so to warm up, not so with AoA. We arrived at the hotel via Disney’s soon-to-be discontinued Magical Express after dark. The exterior was beautiful at night, and the dazzling lobby lights are knock your socks off cool. My daughter really loved what she calls the “first drafts” in the lobby, also known as Animation Hall, and the fantastic Storyboard Chandelier that features sketches and drawings from a few of Disney’s best-loved animated feature films. We found ourselves strolling through it each night after 10:00 PM when there weren’t many people around just to take it all in and snap a few unobstructed photos.
The rest of the resort is divided up into areas that include characters from four different Disney animated films: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo. Each section features larger than life iconic film characters in massive statue form and the building exteriors are adorned with colorful murals depicting scenes and characters from the movies. As with the lobby, we walked the trail around the property every day (as if we needed to do more walking outside of the parks!) just to take pictures and admire the scenery. If I had to rate each area for cool factor, the Cars area was definitely our favorite, especially at night. If we stay here again, the Cars suites would be my pick. If you’d like a virtual walking tour of the property, we really like this one by PCDev on YouTube. Judging by the Christmas décor in the lobby, it looks like this video was made around the time we were there.
The Disney Skyliner
Art of Animation offers two forms of transportation to get around The World: the bus and the Disney Skyliner gondola system, which opened in the fall of 2019. Bus transportation is available to all the parks. Guests can also take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios and Epcot with a pit stop at the Caribbean station. We took the bus to and from the Magic Kingdom. Buses arrived every 15-20 minutes or so and the transit time was about the same. AoA has its own bus route, so we did not have to stop at any other hotels along the way.
We took the Skyliner round trip to/from Epcot. The lines were a little long, but the Skyliner was a major draw for us this trip and we were prepared to deal with the crowds just for the sake of the experience. It’s our humble opinion that the flight is worth the wait! Things may change, but when we were there you could take a ride in the gondolas even if you weren’t staying at one of the Skyliner resorts (Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation, Pop Century and Riviera). If a Skyliner bar/restaurant crawl sounds like fun (we think so), we recommend The Ultimate Walt Disney World Skyliner Crawl by All Ears. It’s great, even if you’re just going along for a virtual ride.
Art of Animation and Pop Century share a boarding station and the lines in the morning and just before Epcot opened were quite long. We experienced even longer lines at park close. There were virtually no lines in the middle of the day. We arrived approximately 30 minutes before the Skyliner opened in the morning to get in the queue and that put us at around 10th in line. Granted, this was during COVID and park capacity was limited. The gondolas slow down but they don’t completely stop for loading, so the lines move at a steady pace.
If you’re afraid of heights like me or are nervous about using the gondolas, you should know that the cables sometimes pause temporarily. At one point we were stopped for several minutes. I wish I had kept track of the time for a more accurate report but it seemed to last a long time. The gondolas also swing back and forth on a windy day. We experienced this first-hand, too and it was a little nerve wracking. My daughter’s piece of advice in these scenarios is to “remain calm and remember that you are at ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’”. We tried it, and it worked!
Photo Credit: russell102/Depositphotos.com
Ziggy Knows Disney published an excellent article covering just about everything you could want to know about the Disney Skyliner . You can read it here.
The Art of Animation Family Suites
We stayed in a Nemo Suite. The rooms are spacious with two full-size bathrooms, and the colorful details are so much fun! We booked here because the Nemo suites were the most convenient to Animation Hall (the lobby), the Ink & Paint Shop, Landscape of Flavors, the Big Blue Pool, and the transportation options, although the Cars Suites were a close second in proximity. If you opt for Little Mermaid rooms, just know these are standard rooms, not suites, and be prepared to walk a long way. It’s not really all that far, but when you’re hot and tired after a long day in the parks, I can see the allure of a room closer to the lobby. The Little Mermaid rooms are also motel-style rooms with exterior doors. I personally don’t like to stay in motels when I travel, especially without my husband, so for just my daughter and me, it would be a dealbreaker if we couldn’t get a family suite with an interior entry. IMO, if you’re traveling with kids and need extra space, these highly themed suites are a great value. It’s like sprinkling a little extra pixie dust on your vacation and a second full bathroom is always a good idea. My daughter was over-the-moon happy with our room.
This was a short trip, so I didn’t take a ton of photos of the rooms and I can’t bear to film myself talking on camera. Baby steps! There are some great video tours out there though. Here are a few that we like:
- Cars Suite Tour by Here With The Ears
- Lion King Suite Tour by The Leffersons
- Finding Nemo Suites and Little Mermaid Room Tours by WDW News Today
Three of the four resort areas (Little Mermaid, Cars, and Finding Nemo) have pools. The Cozy Cone pool at Radiator Springs in the Cars area is really cool, especially when it’s lit up at night. It would be fun to hole up in one of the cone cabanas for a few hours. We didn’t have time for much more than a quick dip this trip, but they’re free – first come first served! We also enjoyed swimming in the Big Blue Pool in the Finding Nemo Area. Fun fact, it’s the largest pool in Walt Disney World! It’s also the only salt water pool in WDW. People always say that you can hear music underwater in the Big Blue Pool. We tested that theory and didn’t hear anything, but we really enjoyed the fun atmosphere. We especially loved the seagulls that scream “MINE, MINE, MINE”.
Overall, we thought the service was outstanding. Everyone was incredibly friendly. Right now, if you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll say, “I want to be a Disney Cast Member.” One of the hotel managers was even kind enough to talk to my daughter about what it’s like to make a career as a cast member. He walked her through his 20+ year career and spoke to her all about the opportunities for advancement and the pros and cons of each role. She asked him all kinds of questions. Thankfully, it was during one of our late-night strolls through the lobby, so we weren’t disturbing any other guests or holding up a line, but I’ll bet he had a million other things to do.
We visited during the COVID-19 pandemic, so this is an area where I feel like we didn’t really get the full experience. Since capacity was limited, the menu was also limited and the restaurant was only accepting mobile orders for pickup. As an aside, once we got the hang of mobile ordering via the app, we found it to be super convenient. I hope this option stays around post-COVID.
Landscape of Flavors is the only restaurant on-site and is a counter service restaurant set up like an indoor food court. It usually has different “stations” that serve dishes inspired by flavors from around the world. I’ve read many reviews and, generally speaking, it is well-loved. Adults especially enjoy the variety in the menu and the departure from typical food court fare. The complaints I’ve consistently come across are that there can be long wait times for food and that the timing of food arrival for eating together can be a little complicated if you’re part of a large group and everyone wants to pick up food from different food stations.
Perhaps it was mobile ordering or maybe the reduced capacity, but we found service to be very efficient and we never really had to wait a long time for our food. During our stay, they were serving up the basics – chicken strips, hamburgers, pizza and pasta. Nothing special, but enjoyable and a little easier on the wallet than eating at the parks. Two Thumbs up to the Character-Shaped Waffles and the Mermaid Tail Cupcake, which was (almost) too cute to eat.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed staying at this property. The theming is colorful and fun; the suites are spacious. There are certainly fancier accommodations in WDW, but you really can’t beat the whimsical atmosphere, especially for a shorter stay or when you’re not going to spend a ton of time in your room. It was worth it just to see my daughter on cloud nine. There aren’t many dining options, but the food was decent and we generally eat most of our meals in the parks anyway, so this wouldn’t deter us from staying again. The Ink & Paint Shop on-site has just about anything you might need in a pinch. There’s no fitness center, but we enjoyed walking the trails around the property to admire the grounds. We absolutely loved taking the Disney Skyliner to the parks, and this would be a major draw for us to come back to this property or for any of the resorts on the Skyliner route. The kids will love the incredible theming, to be sure, but there is a lot to love about this property for adults, too, including the extra space and the price tag. I would definitely book here again.
We’d love to hear all about your own stay at Disney’s Art of Animation resort hotel. Drop us a line in comments!
Until next time,