I’m a very big advocate of planning non-park days during your Disney vacation. This day, or days, can give you and your family a much needed break from the excitement of the four incredible parks. It also gives you an opportunity to enjoy the many other things going on at Walt Disney World that are beyond the gates of the parks. On our last visit to Walt Disney World we began our vacation with a non-park day. After a full day of travel and a late night check in, our littles needed a low key day. We decided we would spend part of the day exploring the Art of Animation Resort.
The Art of Animation Resort is on the upper echelon of the Value resorts and is the newest resort on Walt Disney World resort. It’s found in the Wide World of Sports resort area. The resort’s design highlights four epic Disney films: Little Mermaid, Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. There are four areas of Art of Animation, each representing one of these films. The outsides of the buildings are painted to submerge guests into the film that’s represented. In all of these areas, huge replicas of the main characters from these movies decorate the grounds.
Our son, Lincoln, had meeting Lightning McQueen on his wish list for our vacation. I knew that there was no proper meet and greet location for this Cars character but had figured wandering the Cars area of Art of Animation might fit the bill. So, off we went to Art of Animation on our first vacation day. I had no expectations, having never been by this resort before. In all honesty I don’t even remember how I knew the resort had these statues. There may have been some pictures in Disney Files magazine, the Disney Vacation Club magazine, at one point in time. Regardless, upon arriving at the resort we took a look at the grounds map and decided to check out the Cars area first, as this was our whole purposed of coming. The Cars area of the resort is on the southern side of the resort, or when exiting the main building take an immediate right.
All the classic Cars characters are there. Lightning McQueen, Mater, Sally, Doc Hudson, Dusty Rusteze, Sarge, Flow, all the cars found in Radiator Springs. Lincoln was beyond excited. His feet never left the ground. The cars are specifically placed there for guests to come and take pictures with. There are clearly marked signs that you are not to climb on the statues which, of course, we adhered to.
Next, we made our way to The Little Mermaid area. I knew there were building tall statues of the main characters and thought the kids would at least like seeing them. But all along the walkway in the middle of the courtyard are all of Ariel’s treasures from her grotto. The dinglehopper, the snarfblat, Eric’s statue. I was amazed. The kids loved running from spot to spot, never quite sure what would be around the next corner. The large statues are of Ariel, King Triton and Ursula. All of the shrubbery in this area of the resort is made to look like seaweed. There is no stone left untouched by imagineers at this resort.
We walked straight through to the Lion King area of the resort. I didn’t know this area was here but was greatly surprised. It’s one of Jeff’s favourite Disney movies so that added an extra plus in our book. This area’s landscaping was drastically different from the Little Mermaid area, with great big rocks and much taller greenery. We came across Zazu, Mufasa and Scar. In the middle of this whole area is the Elephant graveyard, with the three hyenas glaring down at you.
The graveyard is made to be a play area for young kids. With caves and the bones strategically placed to make an area to run through. Although no climbing is allowed. My favourite place in this area was the big log, with Timon, Pumba and Simba parading across. It’s placed high in the sky so guests can walk under it to get into their building.
Lastly, we spent a little bit of time in the Finding Nemo area. This is where you’ll find Art of Animations feature pool. Side note, Art of Animations is fourth on our list of resorts with the most pools. Making it a great resort to pool hop to. The feature pool is not “allowed” to be pool hopped but if you’re visiting during a quiet time of year you’ll be fine. Finding Nemo is not one of our kids’ favourite movies so the statues didn’t appeal to them as much but the resort’s playground is in this area.
With benches surrounding the structure, it’s a great place for parents to sit and relax while the kids play. The slides do come out at different areas so if you have very little littles you may want to strategically place yourselves on either side, especially if it’s busy.
We finished up our time here with a meal at Art of Animations’ quick service dining experience, Animation Hall. This restaurant has plenty of choice. We were here at noon time on a Sunday so they were serving brunch. Which worked out perfectly for us. Our first Disney vacation meal: character waffles. Can’t get better than that.
The lobby of the resort is also a place to spend some time in, especially if it’s not so busy. All the walls are covered with early drawings of the four movies. The lights hanging from the ceilings are also covered in these pieces of art.
We could have easily spent a whole morning or afternoon here. With all we did, we were here for about 2 hours. The kids only played at the Finding Nemo playground for about 15 minutes. Any guest who loves Cars, Lion King or Finding Nemo, I would encourage you to come and spend some time here. The Little Mermaid is featured pretty heavily at the Magic Kingdom, so I feel like those fans already get their fill in Fantasyland.
Getting here is not overly complicated. Grab a bus from your resort to any of the parks and then grab the Art of Animation bus back to the resort. If you’re traveling in the afternoon you can expect for this bus to be very full because this is a large resort with a lot of guests. When we visited, we were staying at Saratoga Springs so we walked to Disney Springs and took a bus from there. The bus was empty and the drive was only 10 minutes from Disney Springs.
Visiting Art of Animation will provide you some great photo opportunities and wonderful memories and there’s no cost! Travelling with young ones? Bring your stroller. It’s a very large resort and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Happy Planning Friends.