We continue our look around “Disney’s art of ANIMATION resort,” after first taking a considerable look at the Disney Skyliner construction, and what the new transportation service may mean for Walt Disney World as a whole, and Pop Century and Art of Animation in particular. It’s probably too early to declare whether the Skyliner is a positive or a negative for the resorts, particularly after considering even bigger price increases compared to other options in the same category, but taking a look around the resort now may offer some insight into whether it’s the right choice for an upcoming stay.
Four major sections comprise Disney’s Art of Animation, each themed to a major intellectual property. Does anybody remember the good old days when Disney would theme its resorts to original ideas, like “trees” or “the water in the tropics?” Apparently nothing is sacred to the Chapek regime.
My favorite section of the resort is themed to Radiator Springs from the Cars franchise and I couldn’t help but think that I’d rather hang out here than Toy Story Land. If you crawl underneath one of the vehicles or hide behind some of the tires, then there’s probably more protection from the elements, too.
It “feels” like I’m actually visiting Radiator Springs, much more than Toy Story Land transports me to Andy’s Backyard.
The comparison is meaningless, of course.
Other than to highlight the whimsy of the Cars section of the resort, which any fan of the series will love. You could probably pose with Mater here, post it on Instagram with California Adventure as the location, and pretend like you went to Cars Land.
It’s basically two vacations for the price of one.
It doesn’t actually matter what you do. Only what people think you do matters.
Having recently returned from California myself(?), the Cars section of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is on par with the “feel” of the Land.
It might not be quite that close.
But you can almost stay right in the middle of Cars Land at Art of Animation. It’s a really cool area.
The Cozy Cone Motel pool is probably the best part, though I’m not sure how many registers you’ll find at the check-in desk. The small pool is just about what you would expect to see behind a roadside motel, in this case complete with traffic cone cabanas.
Perhaps unfortunately, accommodations in the Cars section are all suites, with prices the same as the Lion King suites on the opposite side.
That means rack rate prices start at $428 for a weeknight during Value season, all the way up to $750 a night during Christmas.
Because of the high demand and/or lack of supply for the suites that you’ll find here, when room-only discounts are offered, the suites are typically discounted at the same rate as standard Value rooms, which is typically 10% or 15%. That’s compared to a 20% or 25% discount for Deluxe rooms, some of which see similar rack rates.
In other words, after discount, staying at a Deluxe Resort may be about the same price as staying at a suite at Art of Animation. Despite the high prices, Art of Animation is still a Value Resort, which means no slides at the pools or table service restaurants or lounges, among other things.
The good news is that anyone can visit Art of Animation and enjoy a walk through the resort.
If you’re staying in another section of the resort, you can also head over here to use the pool.
Dave over at yourfirstvisit.net has a great walk-through of the Cars Suites in this post if you’d like a look inside.
Animation is a big part of the theme of the resort, of course, as we see some line drawings around the buildings.
At the end of each building, you’ll see the colorized version.
Here’s Nemo on the other side.
And the finished product. This is probably still a better art class than what they’re currently doing over at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Speaking of fish, the Finding Nemo section is centrally located in the middle of the resort with the resort’s feature Big Blue Pool located in between the two buildings. The Big Blue Pool is slated to be closed for refurbishment in “Fall 2020,” which you may want to take into consideration if you’re planning a stay here from around September of next year through the end of November or so.
Because of the preferred location, Finding Nemo suites run about $20 more per night than Lion King or Cars suites, on average. The Finding Nemo suites will also be the most convenient to the Skyliner station, as well as the resort’s main lobby, quick service, bar, and bus stop.
My face when I see that everything is returning to the menu at a Food and Wine Festival kiosk.
It may or may not be child endangerment to let the kids run around this playground area in Florida in July. You can feel the heat coming off of it.
Sliding into the DMs just right.
It will be interesting to see how much, if any, general congestion increases at the resorts serviced by the Skyliner. While I’ll take every opportunity to refer to the cabins as swinging metal dumpsters of destruction, I’m looking forward to trying them out. The Art of Animation/Pop Century station is at the end of the line and you wonder if people joy-riding will be required to disembark and get back in line in order to head in the opposite direction. If that’s true, there’s probably no reason not to stretch your legs a bit and walk around the resort.
The dining and drinking opportunities probably aren’t worth seeking out, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the progressive Skyliner Bar Crawl becomes a thing much like the Monorail Crawl around the Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian Resorts. The Skyliner will stop at the Riviera Resort, which opens in December and features a signature restaurant on the roof that will also serve as a character breakfast. That will be a big draw. Caribbean Beach Resort is also connected, though I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to visit Sebastian’s Bistro or the Banana Cabana. After making a couple of stops for drinks here or there, you can return to Epcot for some $40 beers in the Canada Pavilion. What a life.
One thing is probably for sure, though – these walkways around the lake are going to be a lot busier come September 29th as people use them to head back and forth from the Skyliner station. For the last 5+ years, seeing someone else walking along here might be cause for a jump scare akin to Disney calling you to tell you that your reservation has been moved from Pop Century to the All-Star Sports in the middle of Pop Warner Week. There’s always Universal.
The seagulls looking out atop the dock with the starfish clinging to the beams may be my favorite set piece at the resort.
Here’s mom and dad about to remind you that you can’t buy the thing that you want because you had seventeen cents to spend on this vacation and you already spent it on stupid stuff that you didn’t really want within 20 minutes of arriving at the first Park on the first day of the trip.
Purely from the standpoint of walking through, the Lion King section is my least favorite.
I’ve always attributed that to relatively little going on. There’s a few oversized figurines, but it doesn’t “feel” like it’s a cohesive area and it’s the only section of the resort without a pool.
For the sake of peace and quiet, that might be a good thing, and the subdued color palette is definitely less in your face than the Finding Nemo section.
My face when I see that everything is new to the menu at a Food and Wine Festival kiosk.
Italy looking down at the graveyard that is my bank account after the Food and Wine Festival.
“Beeeeee preeeeeepaaaaaaaaaared!” – Me, talking to my stomach before taking the first bite of food from the Italy kiosk at the Food and Wine Festival.
Random person: “Oh, is that item that you are eating from the Italy Kiosk tasty?”
Me: “Oh, it’s to die for.”
My face every time I hear someone at Epcot saying they’re excited to try something from the Italy Kiosk at the Food and Wine Festival.
Me, tricking the boys into trying the food at the Italy Kiosk “because it’s actually really good this year.”
The Little Mermaid section of the resort is where you’ll find all of the standard rooms.
I have a full review of what might be the brightest rooms on property in this post.
When the Little Mermaid section opened back in 2012, they were the highest-priced Value rooms on property, coming in a few dollars more than Pop Century and a few dollars more than that over the All-Stars. In 2020, the disparity will be even greater. After taxes, on the cheapest weeknight of the year, a room at one of the All-Stars would set you back $112. On the same night, the cheapest room at Pop Century, the resort located just across the bridge from Art of Animation, would set you back $154, or $42 more. A Little Mermaid room on the least expensive night of the year costs another $26, for a total of $180. That’s $68 more per night than the All-Stars, or 60.7% more money.
Somewhat interestingly, perhaps, that pricing gap actually goes down when rates are higher during busier times, at least as a percentage. For example, on the most expensive night of the year around Christmas, a room at the All-Stars runs $241, while a room at Pop Century costs $304 and a Little Mermaid room costs $330. On that night, the Little Mermaid room is “only” 36.9% more expensive than a similar room at the All-Stars, even if it’s still almost $90 a night more expensive.
We’re probably overdue for a good comparison of the various Value resorts, but you can pull up my review of Pop Century here. Above is a picture of the refurbished rooms over there. For my needs, Pop Century is my personal choice with the sleek new rooms and the fact that it’s much less likely that every middle school cheer squad and football team in the country will be staying there with a total of one chaperone accompanying them. With kids who love The Little Mermaid, it may be worth paying more to stay in those accommodations, but the rooms are much louder, far less sleek, and the amenities inside the room are both dated and lower quality. And it’s more expensive. If you’re staying at the Pop Century, your room may also be closer to the Art of Animation’s lobby than the Little Mermaid rooms, too. The pools are potentially better at Art of Animation, which may also help sway your decision in favor of the resort section under the sea.
Art of Animation is also a dog-friendly resort with the official set of rules and regulations available here. If you’re interested, more information and a phone number to call about it is available here.
We’ll head inside where it’s cool.
The floor is being replaced inside the lobby with more durable laminate instead of the little tiles that were originally installed. The work, which began at the end of April, should be winding down.
To say that Landscape of Flavors, the resort’s quick service, revolutionized Disney World resort fast food is probably a bit dramatic. But before the resort opened its first section back in May of 2012, resort quick service options were far more homogenized, consisting of your basic chicken nuggets, burgers, and hot dogs with the occasional flair. Landscape changed that.
Above is part of the original menu with things like Tandoori Shell-on Shrimp and Portuguese Sausage.
Gelato was a thing for the first time.
You could get a Crab Cake topped with Popcorn Shrimp and the Burger was completely made-to-order with House-seasoned Fries and choice of six different cheeses, including Queso Fresco.
It was also the start of Disney’s push to add local and international beers to the usual slate.
These side items would have been unheard of at a Disney World resort, and particularly at a Disney World Value Resort, prior to Landscape of Flavors opening. Acorn Squash. Slow-cooked Lentils. WHERE ARE THE HOT DOGS?
Of course, the people were not exactly ready for most of that. Add Disney’s own need to increase efficiency, and a lot of those original choices have gone the way of Spectromagic over the years.
Immediately above and the following will all be the current menus. We begin with a nice assortment of familiar favorites, along with a couple of items that are a little more interesting, like the Chilled Asian Noodle Salad and Power Salad. The Create-Your-Own Salad is a particularly good, fresh, filling option.
Some Kids’ Meals, Soups, and Sides.
To confuse things a bit, the above options are only available from 5pm to 10pm, while the salads and sandwiches are available from 11:30am to midnight. If you’re having trouble keeping track of what’s what, then you may want to reference Disney’s own text-based menus.
And if you’re after a much richer history of the Landscape of Flavors, in addition to reviews of items like this Jumbo Stuffed Meatball, then see my own reviews here.
There are still a couple of interesting Side Items available, like Naan Bread or Spinach and Paneer Cheese, which I would recommend. Kids can go with Fish or Chicken as if they were on a short domestic flight circa 1997. We didn’t even know what we had. But many of the Tandoori items are long gone as they proved unpopular with guests and the profit margin was also probably lower.
These items are also available from 11:30am to midnight and include the venerable Create-Your-Own Pasta, which is typically a huge portion of delicious food. If you’re not sure how to assemble a list of toppings yourself, then you can go with one of their selections, like the Pomodoro Pasta. With the help of a little magic, it sounds like we might even be able to whip ourselves up some Steak Alfredo.
The Create-Your-Own Pasta customization options might be a little disappointing, particularly considering it doesn’t even include some of the other items that are part of the other pasta dishes on the menu, like the Pomodoro Sauce. I’m not sure how many people are rocking Jalapenos in their Pasta, either.
The Whole Pizzas are actually a great value and should be enough to feed four hungry people for $16-$18.
And that Surf and Surf Burger survives, even if the other Burgers are a lot less interesting. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich sounds good though.
Oh boy, a Cupcake that probably won’t still be available when you visit.
The most frustrating aspect of eating at Landscape of Flavors is undoubtedly the varying, and often long, waits to order food from the various stations. We’ve got at least ten people waiting to order at the Burger and Pasta stations and more than that waiting for their food. We’re still a couple hours away from the dinner rush.
At the same time, there’s nobody waiting to order or pick up food at the sandwiches and salads station, as 90% of it is pre-made. Your wait to order and pick up your food from the World of Flavors would also be about 30 seconds, compared to ten or more minutes at the Pasta station. You’ll have the best luck if your group is all ordering from one of the two stations with the lowest waits. If you’ve got somebody waiting for Pasta or a Burger and others waiting for Sandwiches/World of Flavors, have those waiting for the latter hold off on picking up their food until the others have received theirs. It’s less of an issue with the cold food, but you’re liable to eat a lukewarm Jumbo Meatball if you pick it up right as someone else is getting in the back of a long Pasta line.
A lot of cold beverages are also available along with items like Gelato and Smoothie Bowls.
Along with even more stuff.
The mix of Florida and international beers remains for the most part with Orange Blossom Pilsner and Cigar City Jai Alai available in cans, along with a number of domestic options, including Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Torpedo IPA, Yuengling, and Blue Moon. The ability for adults 21+ to add an alcoholic beverage at each meal has also meant the addition of the Cutwater canned cocktails, including a Bloody Mary, Gin & Tonic, and Rum & Coke.
Breakfast is above average:
There might not be a heavier way to get your morning going than a Chicken Fried Steak Platter from a Disney World quick service. The Simba Waffles are also very on-theme, considering the live action version of The Lion King comes out in theaters today, July 19th, 2019.
Overall, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort continues to be a smart choice for a family looking for suite accommodations, where up to six guests can share accommodations with just one front door and some added benefits like the kitchenette. In about two months, the Skyliner will also be a big draw for many. Those looking for small, bright, under-the-sea themed rooms will also find just what they’re looking for here, though the price point is getting up there compared to Pop Century, and in particular, the All-Stars. It may come down to how much the kids will appreciate the theming and how much time you’re planning on spending at the pools. With Pop Century sharing the Skyliner station and being just a short walk away from most of the groovy guest buildings, you may want to save some money and stay in updated accommodations at Pop Century and simply visit Art of Animation from time to time to enjoy the scenery or the food court.
To close things out, here’s a look at the current lineup of resort merchandise:
We’ll check out the other resorts on the Skyliner line.