9 July 2014

Disney's Art of Animation Resort EXPERIENCE & REVIEW

Last Summer i was lucky enough to stay in the newest Walt Disney World Resort called Disney's Art of Animation Resort, on property. It's considered one of Disney's Value resorts, along with Disney's All Star Music, Movies and Sport, Disney's Pop Century and The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort. Here, you have the choice of staying in a standard room; with two double beds or one king size bed, sleeping up to four, or in the new style suites; one queen size bed, 1 double sized table bed and 1 double size sleeper sofa, sleeping up to six. Like many of the value resorts, Art of Animation has four themed buildings: the Little Mermaid, the Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. The Little Mermaid is made up of only standard rooms, but the other three themes has the suites available. My family and i stayed in the Little Mermaid standard room.

If you couldn't tell by it's title, Disney's Art of Animation resort is illustration/animation/art themed, and as you can see from the images above and below there's artwork everywhere. Outside, when you're driving up, there's a display of what looks like paintings of the four themes. Displayed above is Lightning Mcqueen, Ariel and Nemo, and these go all along the main building. Each of the buildings has it's own artwork linking it's theme, as you'll see later on in the post.

The lobby is probably one of my favourites of all the Disney resorts i've been lucky enough to stay at; the walls are coved with sketchy, sometimes unfinished, illustrations and i love that laid back feel. It feels like you're really going back to Disney's roots. You can see some of your favourite characters, and some you might know already know. Behind the check-in desks is a long, colourful wall of light that is always lit up. It's so bright and welcoming, and definitely wows you when you first walk in. You can also find benches, covered in drawings, in the lobby too if you need somewhere to sit while the rest of your family checks-in, etc. There are always people around here if you need help with anything to do with your stay; you can find out more information about bookings and tickets here, if you have any problems with your room or if you want to find out the opening times of the parks that day, they'll do their best to help you out.

Off of the lobby you'll find the Pixel Play Arcade, full of classic games to entertain you in the evenings or perhaps on a rainy day, as well as the Ink and Paint Shop. In the shop, you can find all sorts of Disney gifts, kitchenware, clothes and nick-nacks, as well as food and drinks. A fun addition is in the Ink and Paint Shop you can find a little white board that, every day, gets new trivia questions and fun Disney facts. Honestly though, apart from the Art of Animation logo-ed items, most of the things found in this shop can be found all around the theme parks so most of it isn't anything special. However, it is nice to buy a resort themed mug, t-shirt or some sort of memorabilia to remind you of your stay.

The dining in the Art of Animation is all in the Landscape of Flavours, as well as the optional in-room pizza delivery service. It's a quick service eatery, with a selection of choices from fresh fruit to burgers. Here you can also find the refill station for your Disney mugs, if you so wish to purchase them for your stay. The easiest option here is using the refrigerators which are full of cold drinks; such as chocolate milk, water and your favourite fizzy drinks, as well as fresh fruit, salads, sushi, pre-made children's snack trays, pre-made cheese and fruit snack trays, yoghurts and cakes. These are easily taken out by yourself and can be taken straight to the cash register. If you're looking for something more substantial, for breakfast you have all your usual options; including make-your-own yoghurt parfait and blend of cereals, french toast, vegetarian breakfast options, traditional breakfast platters with eggs, sausages, bacon, etc, pancakes, steak and eggs, omelettes and the famous Mickey waffles. This is all served between 6am and 11am.

For Lunch and Dinner there's a wide variety of food options available to you, but in four made categories: salads and cold sandwiches, Tandoori and Mongolian, Italian or burgers and hot sandwiches, and this is all served after 11am. In the salads and cold sandwiches menu you can choose from a variety, including a caprese sandwich, turkey sandwich - both served with 'chips', or crisps depending on where you're from - as well as the build your own salad bar. Here, the lovely cast members will build you a salad depending on what you'd like to fill it. It all varies in price but to give you an idea the caprese sandwich retails for $8.99 and the build-your-own salad for $9.99, both plus tax. On the Tandoori/Mongolian station you can have anything from Tandoori Portuguese Sausage, Tandoori Acorn Squash - both served with naan bread and sides - Mongolian Grill Fish or Mongolian Grill Beef Stir Fry - both served with a choice of rice and a side. The Tandoori options range in price from $8.49 to $10.99 and the Mongolian at about $12 (plus tax). This station is a lot more exotic than you'll find in many other Disney resorts, so it's nice to see a little variation. The Italian station is home to all your favourites: a choice of pizzas, a meatball sandwich, and a create-your-own pasta bar. Here you can also pick up large pizza sizes, perfect for sharing and these cost around $14 to $16 without tax. The individual pizzas are around $10 and the pasta dishes about $11. The pasta bar gives you the freedom to choose exactly what you want to eat; starting with your pasta type, you can choose from Campanelle, Bow Tie or Multi Grain Linguine. You can choose a sauce from pesto, alfredo or marinara and then you can choose what's going in it, from shrimp, chicken or sausage to mushrooms, roasted red peppers or olives. Lastly, there's the hot sandwich dishes; which can include a surf and turf burger, a build-your-own custom burger, or a pastrami cheeseburger. These can be bought from $9 to around $11, plus tax. When it comes to building your burger, it comes with a 1/3 lb Angus beef burger and then you can choose from a range of cheeses including cheddar, pepperjack or provolone, and other options include bacon, pickles cajon remoulade.

Available all day is a selection of treats including build-your-own smoothies, ice cream and a range of coffees and soft drinks, including Iced French Vanilla Mocha and All Natural Pomegranate Lemonade. There's also a pastry case open all day filled with everything from cupcakes, including gluten free, and rice crispy treats, to muffins and cinnamon roles.

When i was visiting, the food court was always buzzing. So you should expect a bit of a wait for food, similarly to other Disney dining locations, especially in peak times. Something to point out is that you should bare in mind that if you're going for the build your own, or fresh dishes then you will have to wait a little longer as they're cooked especially for you, but i would say that that is a nice touch and it's refreshing to know it hasn't been sitting around for a long time. I think it's great to see such a variety of food types in one location, as usually on Disney property each each restaurant, quick service, etc is specific to a certain type of food.

Another interesting addition to this dining experience is that it's the first value resort dining location to offer real silverware, which is a lovely touch. It probably should be noted that although the majority of the rooms at this resort do have microwaves there is a distinct lack of microwaveable food available, with really only popcorn to choose from. So, if you're wanting to stay in a suite and use the microwave facility you'd probably need to head off property to a nearby supermarket to stock up.

So, once you're done in the food court if you walk out of the main doors towards to the resort rooms you'll come upon the Finding Nemo rooms. Something that's  very traditional with the Disney value resorts, if you've never visited before, are their gigantic statues of characters and props themed towards to the block. Here, as you can see below, are Crush and Mr Ray, and in the swimming pool there's also a sea anemone with Nemo hiding inside.

They're pretty spectacular, and great for theming and to really get you into the atmosphere. I don't have any pictures of this, bizarrely, but the Finding Nemo section is the home to the main swimming pool of the resort, and the largest pool on Walt Disney World property, called The Big Blue Pool. It's perfectly themed with the rest of the section, and holds 308, 527 gallons of water. It has unique underwater speakers playing familiar favourite Disney tracks, and you can swim past Nemo, Dory and a school of jellyfish. There's the Schoolyard Sprayground for little ones featuring jets and gushing water, as well as Squirt's Righteous Reef for those that prefer to stay dry while playing. This pool also boasts The Drop Off pool bar that serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and snacks.

The Lion King block is the only segment without it's own designated pool, but it is right in-between the Finding Nemo 'Big Blue Pool' and the slightly smaller Little Mermaid pool. I would say, however, that the Lion King is one of the most brilliantly themed. As you can see from the images above, there are life size figures perched in appropriate spots, such as Rafiki, Scar and Mufasa up on the pride rock, not to mention Simba, Timone and Pumba depicted in the famous crossing the log scene. You really are immersed in the film, and there's even the Boneyard where the hyenas watch over an eery tunnel and bouncy, sponge flooring allowing children to run around and play. The one thing i do feel about the Lion King block is that it's more of a through path than a real section, you have to walk through here to get to the Little Mermaid from the main lobby or vice versa to the Lobby, or the food court. Nevertheless, it's my favourite theme and it does play host to the new family suites.

The Little Mermaid block is the only one made up entirely of standard rooms. So here you do get the feel of a few more adult parties, young couples or those without larger families or smaller children. The biggest con of these rooms is that they are the furthest away from the lobby, food court and Big Blue Pool. However, it does have it's own smaller pool and it's not an awful walk either. This where my family and i actually stayed, and i have to say that i enjoyed my time here. The theming is just as wonderful as the rest of the resort, with some of Ariels who-sits and what-sits lining the walkway up to the section. You walk by a treasure trove full of jewels, a large, golden smoking pipe as well as a dinglehopper too.

These rooms are the only ones i can talk about as i haven't stayed in any of the others, but the rooms here in the Little Mermaid section are honestly very standard Disney rooms. They're spacious, clean and have everything you need. They boast two his 'n' hers sinks, hanging space, a mini fridge, a safe box, table and chairs, a small bath/shower room and plenty of personality.

Last is Cars, home to Lightning Mcqueen, Sir Tow Mater and the Sheriff, along with plenty of their friends. They're life size figures of your favourites from the movie and most are available for pictures, and getting up close and personal. As i mentioned earlier, the Cars segment has it's own pool too named the 'Cozy Cone Pool'. This is by far the quietest of the three available pools, so if you're looking for something a little more calm then head here. This swimming area is circled by large, orange traffic cones fondly named the Cozy Cone Cabanas. These are small, shaded seating areas that just add to the more laid back feel of this smaller pool.

Something else that's kinda special about this resort is that just over a the lake, a short walk away via Generation Gap Bridge, is Art of Animation's sister resort called Pop Century. It's set up is very similar to that of Art of Animation, but it's theming is classic and famous fads from the 1950's to the 1990's. Each building is themed towards a different era, decorated with everything from Yo-Yos to Rubiks Cubes, and rollerblades to juke boxes. It's a lovely experience being able to walk to another resort, try out their food court and take in the sights.

If you're not up to walking across the lake to the Pop Century, then just walking around Art of Animation is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or an evening. Every building has so much to offer, at the end of each block is a large notebook with a large animation of some of your favourite characters. Along the way, there's also little trivia boards giving you facts about the movies hosted in the resort. You might even spot some wildlife friends along the way, as i spotted bunnies and birds along my route.

Art of Animation has a multitude of amenities that you, and your family, can take advantage of as part of your stay. Following on from walking around the resort, you also have the opportunity of taking a jog on the 1.38 mile scenic trail along the outside of the resort. Another great amenity is something called Movies Under the Stars. It's pretty self explanatory, but in the evenings a large screen is erected in the Lion King section of the resort and each night a different Disney film is played. There are seats available and you can bring your own drinks and dinner, snacks and you can come and go as you like. Brave, The Little Mermaid and Tangled have all been known to be shown here.

Some of the more convenient amenities include complimentary WIFI, free parking, laundry services and of course, the Disney buses. The buses can take you from the front of the resort directly to any number of Disney locations, including Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Once at any of these spots you can get another bus to any of the other Disney resorts. They're completely free and super easy to navigate your way around. Another great benefit of staying not only at Art of Animation, but most of the Disney resorts, is the merchandise delivery and pickup service. Basically if you purchase things inside the parks or Downtown Disney, you can choose to have your buys sent straight to your resort, meaning you don't have to carry it around all day.

There are so many great facilities available to you while staying on Disney property. I feel like i've stuffed an awful lot of information in this post, and i'm sure there's plenty more i could tell but anything else i'm sure you can find out if you choose to stay here.


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