By the co-author of the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook ever -- The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Review: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

By Dave Shute

The Value Resorts   Art of Animation    Pop Century    Movies    Sports    Music


Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opened in stages over the summer of 2012, and we stayed in each of its two major room types–

–within a week of their respective openings.

While they share central services, these two room types are profoundly different, and families reserving one while expecting the other are in for a shock!  That said, each room type–with some qualifiers–comes in at the top of its respective class:

Because of the importance of these rooms–being brand new, and coming in at the top of their respective rankings–I’ve already written over 6,000 words about the two room types.  See the links above for the detailed reviews.  

This review, in contrast, looks at the “big picture” of Art of Animation.

You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort hotel.

However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort , a value resort. (See this for more on the value resorts at Walt Disney World.)

(It also suggests that first time visitors should avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. See this for why.)

Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the value resorts are distinguished by having the lowest prices, least amenities, and smallest standard rooms.  In contrast, value resort Family Suites–predominant at Art of Animation–are quite large, and for some families may even be substitutes for a deluxe resort.


You likely will never stay in a hotel with smaller rooms than the standard rooms you’ll find at Disney’s value resorts.

Little Mermaid Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.netSee the floor plan. I could not imagine staying in one of these rooms if I had to add a crib as well (the room sleeps four in two full-size beds, plus one more, younger than three, in a crib).

However, if your family will fit, standard rooms in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort have much more kid appeal than the moderate resorts, the next higher price class (about twice as expensive, but with much bigger standard rooms and nicer landscaping).

(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)

Compared to staying off-site, the value resorts are distinguished by their higher kid appeal, convenience, and access to certain key perks that off-site hotels can’t provide.

Art of Animation has ten buildings, deeply themed in groups of two or three buildings around a well-loved Disney movie.

Standard rooms at Art of Animation all have a Little Mermaid theme.  Contrary to some pre-opening concerns, these rooms are not too girly for little boys.

Ariel herself shows up only once in the Little Mermaid outdoor area, and just once inside the room–on the shower curtain!  In fact, Prince Eric is as present in the theming as Ariel is.

Little boys will like these rooms just fine!

The main problem with the Little Mermaid standard rooms at Art of Animation is their relative distance from the central resort services–the bus stop, food court, check-in desks, and main pool.

Art of Animation was built on a site planned for an expansion of Pop Century. As part of that expansion the foundations, the central service building, and two of the ten hotel buildings were built a decade ago.

The two already-built buildings, along with a third planned for the same themed area, were converted into the standard room area of Art of Animation.

The other seven buildings–to become Family Suites–are on the same footprint, but profoundly different.

By chance, the two already-built buildings also happened to be part of the grouping that is furthest away from the main central services.

See the resort map above.  The Little Mermaid Rooms are in the orange circle on the left.  None of these buildings is particularly convenient, and families with mobility issues should consider a preferred room at Pop Century.

Among the Little Mermaid buildings, as noted in more specific detail here, Building 7 is the best choice, and building 8 the worst.


The Family Suites at Art of Animation are covered in detail here. They combine innovative and flexible floor plans with deep theming based on the Disney movies Cars, the Lion King, and Finding Nemo that makes them uniquely attractive for the price.

Family Suite Floor Plan Disney's Art of Animation Resort from yourfirstvisit.netSee the floor plan.

These rooms sleep six in a space more than twice as big as the 4-person standard Little Mermaid rooms.

There are three sleeping spots–two in the queen in the master bedroom, two on a fold-out couch in the living space, and two on a Murphy bed that folds down where the dining table shows on the floor plan.

The dining table is the main furnishings difference between Art of Animation Family Suites and those at All-Star Music.

It’s also just fun.

These rooms are also much more deeply themed than those at Music–to an extent that may be garish to some families!

Music also has some other positives–a bigger living room and kitchen, four sleeping spots rather than three, and a lower price.

For more details on the difference between these two types of suites, see this.

But for most families, Art of Animation Family Suites will be the better choice.  They have much more kid appeal, and more convenience, than those at Music.

Choices as to which group of buildings to book will, in many families, simply be guided by which of Cars, the Lion King, and Finding Nemo is their favorite film.

For those open to any of the three, a 2nd floor or higher Hourglass Lake view room on the Finding Nemo side of Building 6 in the Lion King area will be the best choice.

  • You’d pick the Lion King buildings because these are the only ones at Art of Animation that don’t surround a pool.  This makes them quieter.
  • Second floor or higher to limit corridor noise, which can be a problem on the first floor.
  • Hourglass Lake view, and thus Building 6, for two reasons.  First, this is the best view (Art of Animation and Pop Century are the only value resorts on a lake; why not take advantage of that view?). Second, movies are shown at night in the courtyard between the two Lion King buildings, so the Hourglass Lake view also avoids noise from them.
  • And the Finding Nemo side of Building 6 as that will put you closer to the central services of the resort.

This review continues here.

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1 John { 07.22.13 at 5:37 pm }

Thanks Dave! I don’t know how I missed this page.

I might be wrong but I think the last point on this page should read

“And the Lion King side of Building 6 as that will put you closer to the central services of the resort.”

instead of

“And the Little Mermaid side of Building 6 as that will put you closer to the central services of the resort.”

If you change it just delete this post as it won’t make sense anymore.

2 John { 07.22.13 at 5:38 pm }

oops I made a mistake, I mean

And the Finding Nemo side of Building 6 as that will put you closer to the central services of the resort.

3 Dave { 07.22.13 at 6:54 pm }

Thanks John, fixed! My (very mild) dyslexia sometimes shows up in surprising ways!

4 Dave { 07.22.13 at 6:54 pm }

Got it!

5 Sylvie { 07.22.13 at 8:28 pm }

Bonjour Dave!

My family are still deciding on which AoA Family Suite to stay at; I noticed that you say Lion King and Nemo Section are the best, and you give the best room request possible, but I seem to notice that you have not added a Cars Section. May I ask what will be the best there?

Merci beacoup!

6 Dave { 07.23.13 at 6:21 am }

Sylvie, at Cars vous voulez an upper-story lake-view room near transportation in Building 3!

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