During the Walt Disney Imagineering presentation at the Disney D23 Destination D: Walt Disney World event, Imagineer Gary Hoffman provided new insight into the resort’s newest hotel, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, expected to open in stages, beginning May, 2012.
On the site of what was once destined to be the second half of the Pop Century resort, the Legendary Years, the Art of Animation will allow guests to step into the world of their favorite Disney films and come face to face with their favorite characters from The Little Mermaid and The Lion King and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Cars — with some major exceptions.
The magic begins at the central building, where guests are first greeted by Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Nemo and Simba on the facade. Inside the check-in building, guests enter into the mind and studio of an animator, surrounded by character sketches and images in all stages of production.
The buildings themselves, like the rest of the value resorts, are courtyard-centric, however rather than just having large figures representing the resort section, the courtyards are set to be immersive experiences with even the building facades feeding into the theming and feel of the resort and each section is designed with a different point-of-view and scale in mind. With exception to The Little Mermaid, the building facades facing the courtyard have images of the film’s characters created exclusively for the resort which play into the theming of the area of the courtyard they are near. The sides of the buildings not facing the courtyards instead portray sketches of various characters from the film, also created exclusively for the resort, which gradually appear to jump off the pages they’re sketched on to eventually appear to join in on the courtyard fun.
The hotel rooms themselves continue the immersion process. Rather than one quasi-generic configuration and decor for the entire resort, each section is meticulously detailed to the film it represents, right down to attempting to hide all references to things that exist outside the environment, such as furniture and televisions.
In Finding Nemo, guests are Nemo-sized which means they’ll come face to face with a giant Crush, but the other characters will be much smaller in relation to Nemo. Nemo and his friends have a water play area while there’s another dry playground hosted by Squirt.
In the Cars courtyard, guests are car-sized, so each character from the films, eleven in all, is at a lifesize scale. The three buildings are each named and themed, including Luigi’s Tower of Tires. The Cozy Cone Motel not only serves as the pool for the section, but the rooms as well.
The Lion King courtyard features scenes from both Pride Rock and the Jungle and even features the elephant graveyard. Guests are Simba sized in this section of the resort which even includes a log bridge guests can walk under while Timon, Pumbaa and Simba stroll across it, just like the Hakuna Matata scene from the movie. Note there will be no pool at this section.
Lastly, The Little Mermaid section is where you’ll find the standard rooms (the rest of the buildings are the suites). Instead of the murals along the facade of the buildings, guests will find more than 600 cutouts adorning the sides. Here, guests are Sebastian size as they go under the sea to explore the courtyard which features a (naturally) huge King Triton.