Art of Animation is a resort in Walt Disney World located in Florida.
We have stayed at AOA twice since it opened in 2012 (during Trent’s first trip to WDW in April 2013 and once in October 2013). The location and buildings of AOA were originally intended to be the 2nd half of the Pop Century resort, which is located on the other side of Hourglass Lake. Pop Century’s buildings are themed by decades and the first section that was built and that you know of today as Pop Century is the Classic Years. The other side was intended to be decades 1900 to 1940, and known as the Legendary Years. The building skeletons were built and sat empty for several years, until Disney scrapped the original idea and instead decided to go with an entirely new theme.
It was fun watching the transformation from across the lake over the course of a few trips.
We were definitely excited to be able to finally take in the view from the other side of the bridge!
There is a central building that contains the Check-in and Concierge desks, the gift shop, the arcade and the food court.
The check-in and concierge area is large, so as to accommodate the large crowds that descend upon it during peak check-in times. It’s also very colorful with lots of interesting drawings from the Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Lion King and Cars movies located along the opposite wall. They progress from basic sketches all the way to the full color final drawings that you’ve seen in the movies.
The Ink & Paint Shop is the place to get souvenirs and various sundries.
Definitely don’t go into the arcade if you are prone to epileptic seizures…lots of bright flashy lights!
The food court is called Landscape of Flavors and offers several stations to order various types of food off of a digital menu. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered, and there is also a gelato station and several cold cases to choose from. Here, you’ll also find the refillable mug stations.
Right outside the food court doors is our favorite pool of WDW, the Big Blue pool. Sure, we haven’t experienced every pool on property, but so far, this one is our favorite…and Trent especially loves it. It is large and wide open, but the best part is the zero entry side with jellyfish that spray water down. The zero entry is perfect for little kids. This is the single largest pool on WDW property and is also the first to have underwater speakers playing…what else…Disney music!
Right behind the pool is the splash area. Trent can’t get enough of this area, although he has usually been the youngest and we have to constantly keep an eye out for older kids that run into him. Luckily, it’s padded, so a minor collision won’t put an end to your vacation
There is also a playground behind the splash area for some non-water action. If you are located in one of the farther buildings or if you are searching for a more layed-back (i.e. not as crowded) pool, fear not, there is also a pool located in the Little Mermaid Section and in the Cars section that are both often less crowded because they lack those extra features that pull in the kids to the Big Blue pool.
Disney has three main categories for their hotels…Deluxe, Moderate and Value. AOA falls into the Value category, but offers two types of rooms: Standard rooms that can sleep up to 4 people, and Family Suites that can sleep up to 6 people. Having both options in a Value resort means more people can experience this amazing hotel. There are 4 themed areas: Little Mermaid, Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. Let’s take a look at the room types and the locations.
All of the standard rooms are located in the Little Mermaid section. Standard rooms have a single bathroom and either a King Bed or two double beds. There isn’t a whole lot of room to move around, but if you don’t spend much time in your room during your Disney vacation, then that shouldn’t necessarily matter.
Our biggest complaint about being in the Little Mermaid section is the distance from all of the amenities, such as the food court and main pool/splash area. Sure, there’s a pool right in the middle of the 3 Little Mermaid buildings, but as a family with a toddler, we prefer the Finding Nemo pool since it has more for him to do. The walk is just so far…and it seems even farther during a hot Florida day.
Here are some photos of a Little Mermaid standard room with 2 double beds.
The Family Suites are located in the Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars sections. The layout of most of the rooms, no matter their location, are basically the same, they are just themed differently. They have multiple rooms and bathrooms and PLENTY of room to move around. The doors to the rooms are located on the inside of buildings, with temperature-controlled hallways (as opposed to the Little Mermaid section, where the doors are located outside), making the trek to your room after a long day much more comfortable.
These rooms have one full bedroom with an attached bathroom, 2 sitting areas with pull out beds, a mini kitchen area and a separate bathroom.
We stayed in the Lion King Suites during one of our visits. We may have had a handicap-accessible room, so keep in mind that our room layout may look slightly different from the regular rooms, but should be almost identical.
Photos of a Lion King Family Suite
-First sitting area with tv and a couch that pulls out to a bed.
Second sitting area with a desk and a bed that pulls down from the wall.
The Lion King Section is where you can catch movie night…and if your room is in the right location, you can watch it out of your window since they open up!
Some people find the theming of Value resorts to be a little cheesy, with their giant icon statues scattered throughout the property. I can see where that thought is coming from, but I think that Disney did much better with AOA as compared to the other Value resorts. It’s just the right level of Disney, without going over the top. Kids will probably find AOA much more fun than many of the other hotels that lack an obvious Disney theme and there are some great photo opportunities throughout the entire property.
Don’t wait in long lines at the parks to get photos with Cars characters….take them at AOA!
Finding Nemo Section
Lion King Section
Little Mermaid Section
In regards to it’s location on WDW property, Art of Animation is closest to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, then Animal Kingdom, with Magic Kingdom being the furthest away. We drive our own vehicle on property, so we can’t vouch for timing of buses, but we feel like it is in a convenient location and never took us more than 10 minutes to get to any of the parks or Downtown Disney.
Since we are only a family of 3, we find the standard rooms to be fine enough for us, but when we crave a more convenient location or when our family grows (in both numbers and age/stature) we will most likely be switching to the Family Suites. As far as discounts go, Disney offers numerous room discounts throughout the year, but the Little Mermaid rooms have always been excluded so far. Maybe when AOA isn’t so “new” they will add them to the list for available discounts, but the Family Suites have been included so far.
Want to see more of our Disney posts, trip reports and photos? Check out our Disney page here!