Tales of Folly: Disney Announces New Resort

Disney officially announced plans today to construct a new value resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, adjacent to Disney’s Pop Century Resort, to the southeast of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. The new resort will join Disney’s Value Resort line which includes the All Star and Pop Century resorts.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will actually occupy the infamously abandoned Legendary Years extension area at Pop Century. That expansion ground to a halt due to a drop in tourism earlier in the decade but has been visible to astute visitors to Pop Century and widely discussed amongst Disney fandom (particularly in regards to the existence of uncompleted buildings on the property of a constantly expanding theme park).

Rooms at the resort will be themed after Disney's The Lion King and The Little Mermaid and Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo and Cars. There will be 1120 suites and 864 traditional rooms at the resort, which will utilize the structures and layouts already started for the aforementioned Legendary Years.

Given the continuing economic concerns of the country as well as tourism, this appears to be a savvy move by Disney. The value resorts are popular, especially for larger families, and have only gained more “value” in this economic recession. With Disney trying to distance itself from recession-busting deals, value resorts become vital to maintaining attendance for those still struggling to recover in the economy. Just recently when the Free Dining promotion was announced for August-October, the majority of fellow travelers I came across on various Disney message boards were clearly targeting value resorts. (Which made my Yacht Club reservations seem a bit extravagant in comparison!) It's clear that many have long since reconciled their desires to stay at the Polynesian or Grand Floridian and made a happy compromise with value resorts.

Additionally, it took Disney long enough to theme a hotel after their own intellectual properties. The cross promotional opportunities for the hotel, and the four movies the hotel themes are based on, should be plentiful. They have wisely chosen two classically animated films and two computer animated films, and a good mix of films that appeal to both boys and girls. And speaking as a late thirtysomething who has shrugged off the value resorts completely, I can say that this is a value resort I will keep a careful eye on, especially when I have children. Quite honestly, a King Triton statue is just so much cooler and relevant than a huge bowling pin.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is expected to open in 2012, well timed for the likely surge in attendance for the following year’s Fantasyland expansion opening. Construction will begin this summer. Head on over to the official Disney blog for some official scoop and a preview photo.


Tales of Folly (May 8, 2010)

The Disney Feature Animation building in Burbank, CA was renamed and dedicated to Roy E. Disney, who passed away in December. Roy E. was not only a cornerstone of the Disney company but he was a major influence on Disney's animation renaissance.

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May is shaping up to be a big month for Disney at the movies. Iron Man 2 was released this weekend with an opening that when official will rank in the Top 5 all time movie opening weekends. (While not released by Disney, Iron Man is now a licensed property of the company.) Also, buzz continues to grow for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie with prime summer real estate on Memorial Day weekend. Disney is hoping to have another franchise, akin to Pirates of the Caribbean, with the action movie. Will both movies be able to overcome Shrek Fourgettable, also releasing in May? The sands of time cannot provide a clear answer.

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Disney announced this week that it will participate in the Star Wars fan convention Celebration V with Last Tour to Endor, a special event being held at Disney's Hollywood Studios on August 14, 2010. The event promises one of the last rides of the current iteration of Star Tours before it goes into hypersleep and gets a facelift. Last Tour to Endor will also include party events like a Death Star Disco and a special, Star Wars-themed fireworks show. Guests must buy a separate ticket as admission to the event is not included with Walt Disney World admission nor with the pass to Celebration V. Celebration V is being held August 12th through the 15th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

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Last week, Disney announced its Free Dining promotion will run August 15-October 2nd for guests booking a vacation package at Walt Disney World. As usual, guests staying in a Value resort will qualify for a Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan. Guests staying at Moderate or Deluxe resorts will receive the Standard Dining Plan. Guests staying in my hotel room will be getting their money's worth of food!

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Lastly, some personal news…I'm going to Disney World! The aforementioned Free Dining promotion became available a few days after a return from my first vacation of the year so I quickly booked a trip for October (that we had always been planning). It will a trip of firsts as I've never attended WDW during the Food & Wine Festival, never stayed at the Yacht Club Resort and have never used the Dining Plan. This trip will also help inspired a wealth of new material, photos and videos for Disney's Folly.


The Marvel of Disney

When we think of some of modern marvels of today's society, our minds will often think of the pyramids or The Great Wall of China. And yes, those of us with the Goofy hats on will offer up compelling arguments for how Walt Disney World is on that list. Thankfully, the History Channel agrees.

Modern Marvels is a documentary series on History that covers a number of technological developments in today's society, such as those in electronics, engineering, industry and agriculture. In 2005, Modern Marvels covered a wonderful place that encompassed almost all of the typical topics from the show--Walt Disney World. That episode is often repeated by the channel and is also available via the official History website store and retail outlets like Amazon. Despite the time lapse since it's debut, this episode of Modern Marvels is actually still quite relevant (except for coverage of then-under-construction Expedition Everest), and happens to be one of the best and most informative of Disney specials found on cable channels and is unlike the cookie-cutter, travel propaganda often found in some of the bland Travel Channel or Discovery Channel specials.

After a brief introduction of the four theme parks of Walt Disney World, Modern Marvels takes a brief but detailed tour through the history of Disney leading up to the Florida project, with interviews of key Disney figures like Marty Sklar and covering important developments that laid the ground work for Walt Disney World (including the obvious developments that started with Disneyland). This background information is set to great montages of photos and videos from the time. Even though many of these have been seen by Disney fanatics, it was refreshing to see that History did their homework and was granted access to key footage.

Obvious attention is paid to construction techniques and innovations, as well as Disney-wide techniques like audio-animatronics, before Modern Marvels goes into specific details of each park, including the utilidors, Spaceship Earth's geodesic sphere, the monorail, Soarin', Lucky the Dinosaur and other rides, attractions, and shows. Each segment is given some technical description and history, along with interviews with Imagineers and footage of construction and/or current views.

Modern Marvels isn't breaking any ground with the most studious of Disney fans, but it's still a great watch, jam-packed with a lot of great information and footage, and very little filler. And certainly recommended for casual Disney fans looking to learn more about the World. Or even those big fans who simply never dig beneath the surface. I can certainly say that if something like this was on when I was adolescent, I would've been enthralled. So this is a great treat for any of you Disney parents raising some little inquisitive Disney minds!