How will Disney's Art of Animation Resort affect the Orlando area hotel market this summer?
Published: October 11, 2011 at 11:34 AM
Disney fans will have another option for where to stay on Walt Disney World property next summer, as Disney has announced a May 31 opening date for its new Art of Animation Resort.
Disney's Art of Animation Resort will be a value resort in the ESPN Wide World of Sports area, with 1,120 family suites and 840 rooms. The resort will be themed to four Disney and Pixar animated films, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Cars, with exterior decorations and interior accents themed to these films and their settings. (Think Pop Century Resort, but with giant Disney mermaids instead of Rubik's Cubes. For what it's worth, the Mermaid and Cars concept drawings in the video above looked a lot like the concept art we saw here in California for the Disney California Adventure expansion.)
The Disney World Animation Resort's been in the planning phase for years, mothballed due to the sluggish economy. So why is Disney moving ahead with the resort now? Ultimately, Disney best strategy for maintaining its lead in the competitive Orlando-area tourism market is its package deals - Magic Your Way tickets, often combined with on-site stays that come with free bus rides to and from the airport, making it inconvenient, at best, for visitors to stray off Disney property.
But Disney needs more capacity at the high season to maximize the number of visitors buying its packages, especially with the New Fantasyland and Avatar on the horizon. So it makes sense for Disney to proceed with a new hotel. Sure, Disney adding 2,000 rooms to the market also means a tougher time for off-site hotels, but that usually translates into even lower hotel prices for bargain-hunters who don't stay on property with Disney.
It seems like a "value" resort by deliberately putting the suites in a Walmart style block warehouse. If it isn't for the nice landscaping and pool, I would have thought it is Disney's version of Quality Inn. I would not stay there.
I think this decision to build it is a good one especially if you look at the competition. Many new resorts just opened in Orlando. And they are largely luxury resorts. Disney is providing a lower cost alternative, but I am largely disappointed with its look.
This look is very similar to the look of their other economy sites. I wouldn't say its Quality Inn though. Disney seems to amp up the themeing and lower the amenities in their economy hotels which makes sense. I like the fact that it looks by some of the art work that at least some of the buildings will have interior hallways which is a nice addition. My only major complaint with Disney Economy hotels was the sound amplification by caused by the concrete walks right outside the door, mixed with the court yards which also amplify the sound. It looks like interior hallways will go a ways to helping with that.
We just got back a week ago yesterday from 11 days spent across Hourglass Lake at the Pop Century Resort. I didn't really have high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the PCR was, and we got to see the progress being made on the Art of Animation, with daily reports from my daughter about the painting of various Squirts on the Finding Nemo building exterior. I think the AoA will be a nice addition to the landscape of WDW in general. It will never be mistaken for one of the higher-end resorts, but with most guests spending relatively little time in the resorts themselves and more time at the parks, this hardly seems to be a problem. In time, I could even envisiion the Pop Century being re-themed to animation as well, with it becoming once again the other half of a budget mega-resort as originally planned. With the Disney film library as rich as it is, it wouldn't be hard to find a few more films deserving of supersizing at one of the budget resorts.
Published: October 12, 2011 at 8:11 AM
Disney should have kept this property as the first phase of Pop Century for the 1900-1940 period they originally planned. It would have been nice to see how Disney would have themed the early part of the 20th century. maybe with a more nostalgic look at the Disney classic characters.
I tried the "value" resort once...and NEVER AGAIN. The rooms were really TINY and all of the buses loaded at ONE location, the main entrance. My room was the second to the last building from the main entrance. You would walk by two pool areas, a picnic area, and a courtyard just to get to the main area where the poor food courts were and the bus stop. There was NO SHADE so you burned in the sun waiting forever for you bus to shop up. When you got back at 12 or 2 am and had to walk WAY BACK to your room...we thought we were not going to make it. In the end, I just had taxi cabs bring us back, but we still had to walk-a marathon to rest in our "closet". The housekeeping service was horrible. I will always stay "on property" but never again at a value resort. Seeing the video, it looks like any one of the other existing value themed resorts, but now with more of a central movie theme. It will do well. These resorts offer great pricing and were packed.
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