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.