The Art of Animation Resort Review - warning, this is a very Picture Heavy Post. I took pictures of everything!
The Art of Animation Resort is the newest Disney Resort Hotel, and considered a Value Property (though, the Suites they offer are more moderate to deluxe priced). There are four different areas: The Little Mermaid (with standard rooms) and The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars (all Family Suites). I stayed in a Little Mermaid room for my stay, so I can only review on that.
Once you arrive to the resort, check-in is located in this beautiful lobby:
For someone who loves drawing and animation, you could easily spend a few hours (if not more) in the lobby just looking at the details and all the different pictures. I love the (mostly) concept art, as it's not something we always get to see. What was the original sketch that spurred the characters we know and love?
Keeping with the resort theme, the pictures are of the movies I mentioned above.
I had to get a picture so that you know I was there - and to show the size of the all the drawings/sketches/pictures on the wall. The layout is wonderful, too.
First up, and just to the left when exiting the rear of the lobby/food-court, is the Lion King Area. The Lion King area houses Family Suites inside buildings. Whereas most values have a motel-like setup, the suites are inside, so you have to go into a building/hallway to enter your room. All of the suites are like this; and The Little Mermaid standard rooms are motel-style like the other values.
I walked through this area both at night and during the day, and I love the way the Elephant Graveyard and Scar look in the dark - oooooo, Mufasa, ooooo.
The Elephant Graveyard is also a play area for the kids. There is no pool in this area.
If you exit the lobby and go to your right, there is the Cars area. It's the farthest to the right; but really about the same distance as the farther Lion King rooms. The Cars area is all suite-style living, too.
While there's no official play area in the Cars area, I think there are a lot of fun opportunity for the kids to play. Even I had fun taking pictures of and with all the cars.
The above shows one of many large murals that face the Pop Century resort on the other side of Hourglass lake. That mural is 3 stories tall, against one of the buildings. The sidewalk you see in the pictures is the path that goes all along the interior of the resort, looping around Hourglass lake, going to Pop Century, and coming back again. There is also a bridge dead-center to walk to the Pop Century. This is a really nice jogging trail if you are (or are not) racing and want to get some exercise in. The bridge itself was nice as it's the epicenter of a visual of every area of both resorts, and has benches on which you can sit and enjoy.
Dead center on the backside of the Lobby and Food Court is the Nemo area. This is where the Resort's main pool is. There is also a play area here with slides.
Above is a water play area. The area requires gate access to get in, you must be staying at the resort. I'm not sure why I do not have more pictures of the pool area. It's amazing. It really is. Maybe pictures just couldn't do it justice and you are required to visit it yourself. It has a little bar area near the pool, and you can hear Nemo & Friends (and music!) underwater.
The above is the slide and play area - this is accessible to anyone.
And finally, to where I stayed - The Little Mermaid area. The rooms were generously sized for a standard room, and the beds (well I only slept in one - a king) comfortable. I was in the King Triton wing, and my only (only!!) gripe was my cell phone service. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't get any access in my room; I had to leave the room and walk a good ways before I'd get a signal. This is definitely not fun if you're expecting a phone call or trying to meet up with someone and need to be in your room. I would say maybe it was my carrier issue, but I received a survey form Disney about my stay and a couple of the questions specifically asked about cell service; which I didn't get for other resorts I had stayed at. So I'm not sure, I think it's a known problem and hopefully they try to fix it.
Overall this is a great resort, and much better than any of the other values, in my opinion...and I've stayed at all of them. I wouldn't pay the price for the Suites - as I would much rather stay at a deluxe. However, the suites might be required if you have a family of 5 or more; or if you just want to enjoy a really well-themed kids area. I mean, I love the Contemporary, but kids might not when they can swim with Nemo and see Lightning McQueen.