by Bill Burke
Go for a swim at Walt Disney World’s new Art of Animation Resort, and you’ll hear characters from the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo talking to you — from under the water. It’s just one of the details the Imagineers at Disney have added to this newest resort to make it as immersive as possible.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the central Florida vacation kingdom’s newest hotel — featuring 1,120 family suites and 864 studio rooms slotted into Disney’s “value” level pricing.
Spacious Family Suites
Guests enter through Animation Hall — a lobby festooned with giant reproductions of early concept drawings of Disney/Pixar characters. Cast members (that’s Disney-speak for employees) wear paint-spattered vests, representing the artist’s creative process. Entering into the resort-proper just outside the lobby plunges visitors into a vividly colorful world of animated features. The “Finding Nemo”-themed pool — Disney’s largest outside of its water parks — is designed to make guests feel as if they’re living in the undersea world of Nemo, Dory and friends.
The family suites sleep 6 with a master bedroom, a pull-out couch in the living room area and a pull-down bed that also doubles as a small dining table. The suites also include a microwave, small refrigerator and counter space for preparing small meals. The resort, like all others on Disney property, is serviced by Disney’s motor-coach transportation system — which will ferry guests to and from theme parks — and the free Magical Express service, which brings guests to and from Orlando International Airport to their resort.
Resort Open for Booking Now
The first phase of the resort, the Finding Nemo buildings, will open May 31. The “Cars”-themed buildings, which recreate the Route 66-inspired Radiator Springs perfectly, will follow on June 18. The “Lion King” section will open Aug. 10, and the studio rooms at “The Little Mermaid” wing will open Sept. 15. The opening of the entire hotel is now ahead of schedule. Disney’s newest resort is open for booking now.
Disney this week also announced opening dates for its ongoing Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom. The first phase of the new Storybook Circus section opened in March, giving guests the chance to try out the new-and-improved Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction — complete with a water element and new lighting effects — and the re-themed kiddie roller coaster, Barnstormer: Featuring the Great Goofini. A new train station for the Walt Disney World Railroad also opened at the back of Storybook Circus.
Coming in July: More Fantasyland Attractions
In July, a second Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction will open (this one will fly counter-clockwise and will feature an indoor, interactive queue) and the Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak play area will fire up the spigots.
One of the new Fantasyland’s heavy hitters, Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid, will open by the holidays, as will Enchanted Tales with Belle, the Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern (a tavern in name-only since the Magic Kingdom is a dry park) and Ariel’s Grotto.
The Seven Dwarves Mine Train, one of the final pieces and perhaps the biggest attraction in the new Fantasyland, will open in 2014.
The expansion is the largest such project in Magic Kingdom history, and will nearly double the size of the current land.