Cars Hotel at Disney World

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Kevin Yee, Walt Disney World

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Cars Hotel at Disney World

Published on August 02, 2012 at 6:00 am with 24 Comments

Today I’d like to focus on the Cars section of the Art of Animation Resort at Disney World, which opened a few weeks ago. The resort itself opened several weeks before that; the Cars Hotel section is actually Phase II of the development. There’s a Phase 3 and 4 coming, too, in the form of Little Mermaid and Lion King sections (Phase 1 was themed to Finding Nemo).

This hotel takes the place of the proposed second half of the Pop Century Resort (which must now more accurately be thought of as the Pop-Half-Century Resort, since they never did and never will get to the earlier decades).

Cars Land too? Not quite...

Unlike the Phase 1 development, which focused on the zero-entry pool (and the extremely cool innovation of underwater music), the Phase 2 development is more about the characters and the props. You can get up close and personal with the Cars characters. They are designed, in fact, for you to pose with them.

Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation

Doc Hudson

Cars section of Art of Animation

Lightning McQueen

Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation


Cars section of Art of Animation

...and, of course, Mater

On the one hand, this is fantastic. People like to pose with movie characters, as we’ve seen for decades now at Disney parks. And the props being here at a hotel rather than at a park means they will have far smaller lines (if any at all) except for peak moments, such as the morning time when everyone leave their hotel rooms.

Cars section of Art of Animation

On the other hand, though, the seclusion might tempt vacationers to be a bit more loose with the props. They might climb on them, or try to pry pieces off of them. So it’s not a big surprise that shortly after the car props were unveiled, Disney had to add signs nearby saying that climbing was prohibited.Such signs are somewhat common on Disney property, though, so this is not that far out of the ordinary.

Cars section of Art of Animation

The car props are only part of the scenery here. The Imagineers have outdone themselves, revealing a finished project that is immersive in scope, even more than the usual. Granted, it’s still a hotel, but it also really feels like a complete land like you might find inside a theme park. There’s a full and rich sense of storytelling in the place, arising out of multiple factors. The gravel to the side of the sidewalk “road” is two-toned, for instance, with one bed of gravel light colored and another, just outside, darker. There are small billboards along the road reminiscent of Burma Shave ads from the past. But most of all, there are painted facades and props everywhere.

Cars section of Art of Animation

Frankly, it’s everything Disney hotels should have been all along. When you think about it, an infrequent (or first-time) visitor to Disney theme parks is most likely imagining THIS kind of environment when they hear the words “Disney hotel.” It’s a hotel surrounded by Disney characters. And it’s the first hotel to do that. Other Disney hotels until now have opted to provide a themed environment, but themed like something other than a Disney movie: a Polynesian resort, the French Quarter, or giant foozball players and yo-yos (I still don’t get that one, either).

Cars section of Art of Animation

Having actual Disney characters may make it feel less “grown up” and more aimed at kids, but hey, that’s the point. This is a Disney vacation. Those seeking adventure and salty old grown ups are advised to head up the road to Universal, right?

Cars section of Art of Animation

Phase 1 did a decent job of folding in Disney characters, but Phase 2 goes a step further by placing us INSIDE the movie. We aren’t really “inside” Finding Nemo in any meaningful way in Phase 1, but in Phase 2, it feels like we’ve stepped out into Radiator Springs. It’s a huge leap forward for Disney World. In some ways, it’s finally like having a theme park environment come to a hotel, rather than just a “themed” environment, if you follow the distinction.

Cars section of Art of Animation

The little details are fantastic. The gas station is apparently called “Butte Gas” (I’m glad my 9 year old missed this one), and the Fillmore minibus sports lots of stickers, one of which says (and as seen in the movie) “Save 2D animation!”

Cars section of Art of Animation

Cars section of Art of Animation

Disney has classified this as a Value resort. That sounds amazing. All that theme and a Value resort?! Indeed, the rooms are reportedly on par with Value Resort rooms. I haven’t been inside one to verify this.

Cars section of Art of Animation

But scratch just a little bit at this, and the facade falls off. This isn’t a Value resort. The Cars section features family suites, which sleep six people. Each suite rents for $295 in the fall season, using the weekend price. I chose December 14 as my target date when looking that up.

Is that really a value price? The Radisson-Celebration, just around the corner, costs $79 for that same date (Dec. 14). I get it that Art of Animation is a great resort. I get it that a family of five people might prefer a suite instead of using a (free) pullout couch or rollaway bed. But paying 275% more for the privilege?

Cars section of Art of Animation

That’s not the worst part. During the holiday season, the Cars suite rises to $425 per room. This is now really not a “Value” resort. Disney is calling it that out loud so people aren’t upset about the room furnishings, I’m guessing. But the prices are not value prices. Those prices are luxury, premium, deluxe. Anything other than “value.”

Cars section of Art of Animation

Oh, the Radisson-Celebration? Still $79 on December 21. But let’s say you thought the Radisson was dumpy. Some online reviews aren’t very complimentary, after all. So, let’s look for a three (or 3.5) star hotel in the area. The Hilton Lake Buena Vista (near Downtown Disney) is classy, and its rooms will EASILY outgun the Art of Animation suites for comfort and amenities. The price on December 21? $144 per night. You could get two rooms there and still pay less than a night at a Art of Animation-Cars suite.

Cars section of Art of Animation

My advice? Stay off property and save hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of dollars per day. Funnel that money into nicer meals, more souvenirs, or experiences like parasailing, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or Bibbidi Bobbodi Boutique. And then, yes, drop by Art of Animation to eat in the very nice (and affordably priced) food court. While you’re there, oogle the props and the decorations for, uh, ahem,… for free.

What are your thoughts? Is the detailed theme worth the premium pricing? Share your thoughts below…

Ultimate Orlando

My weekly posts to MiceAge/MiceChat are so focused that there often isn’t time or space to delve into other subjects and the smaller updates that are common every week in Orlando. I’ve set up an alternate blog that I update every day called UltimateOrlando ( Drop by for your daily dose of smaller updates and observations from around the parks.

Weekly Walt Disney World

There’s a group of folks who assemble at Walt Disney World every week. They don’t come from any one Internet community (in fact, they come from several), but the main idea is simply to have folks to meet face to face each week. If this sounds interesting to you, join the Weekly WDW Facebook group.

Social Media

Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular “Where in Walt Disney World” photo quizzes. On his public Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Google+ account, he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks. You can also email Kevin at [email protected]

Books by Kevin Yee

Since this is my re-introduction to the MiceChat crowd, I thought I’d link to the books I’ve written about Disney parks, in case any of you are interested.

Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris

Visiting Disneyland Paris might seem like a daunting task for many Americans, especially if they do not speak French. It’s easier than you think, however, to make your way from the airport to your hotel, and to navigate around the parks. All you need are a few “top tips”! This e-book provides the essentials. Anyone familiar with Disneyland or Walt Disney World won’t need detailed information about rides, but they might want to know which attractions to prioritize or which to skip, and this book provides the answers. It’s intentionally not an exhaustive resource. By design, it narrows down the advice to just the principles, concepts, and wisdom you’ll need to make your own on-the-spot adjustments. By providing only the “top tips,” the book lets you make informed decisions about where to go and when, but also keeps the elements of surprise and discovery intact on your vacation.
Kindle Edition

Walt Disney World Earbook 2011

Re-live the special events, additions, removals, and alterations with this yearbook-style volume designed to show, using hundreds of pictures, how rapidly the portrait of life at Walt Disney World changes. A timeline provides a comprehensive overview, and an index at the back will make finding information even years from now a breeze.
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Walt Disney World Hidden History
The book pays special attention to the inside jokes and hidden references to Walt Disney World’s past. Think of it as a guided tour through all four parks, pointing out all the artifacts and remnants from former attractions. You’ll be astounded how many references remain!

Jason’s Disneyland Almanac

With Park hours for 19,484 of the 20,257 days covered here, plus weather for each day, Disneyland attendance from July 17, 1955 through December 31, 1966, openings, closings, debuts, endings, events, and famous visitors, Jason’s Disneyland Almanac provides detail on every day in Disneyland’s history through the end of 2010. For most visitors, this compilation will capture the basics of Disneyland on their first visit: the Park hours and the weather.
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Christmas in Walt Disney World

Take a photo journey with us that includes extinct guest favorites such as the Country Bear Christmas Special, an overnight visit to the Cinderella Castle Suite from Christmas week 2007, and a look around the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts as you may see the decorations now. Kevin is the uncredited third author of this book.
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Walt Disney World Earbook 2010

This book captures all the new attractions in pictures, and offers brief retrospectives for the closures. Many special events are also captured here–all through the eyes of one frequent visitor. A time line of events throughout the year puts the changes into perspective, and an index makes finding info easy.
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Your Day at the Magic Kingdom

This children’s book, in full color and hardcover, lets readers (or listeners in bed!) decide what ride to go on next, and thus are prompted which page to turn to. It’s an interactive book, creating a customized experience for each young reader. 76 pages.
Purchase Hardcover from Amazon

Mouse Trap

Re-live fifteen years as a front-line cast member in Anaheim’s Disneyland, in restaurants and in the Entertainment department, even taking a side trip into a fully empty Disneyland on the middle of the day during the September 11, 2001 events that closed major venues.
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Tokyo Disney Made Easy
The only guidebook in English for visiting the Tokyo Disney parks. More than just a guide to the attractions and shows, this volume sets out to make the trip effortless and painless for non-speakers of Japanese. Make travel to this country a snap!

101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland

The book pays special attention to the inside jokes and hidden references to Disneyland’s past. Think of it as a guided tour through Disneyland, pointing out all the artifacts and remnants from former attractions. You’ll be astounded how many references remain!
Purchase Print Version from Amazon

Magic Quizdom
The only trivia book dedicated just to Disneyland. Even better than the multiple-choice questions are extended paragraph-length answers, so that each answer reads like a miniature exploration of a major element of Disneyland’s past, present, and thematic landscape.

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He spent more than a decade working at Disneyland and cultivating a never-ending fascination with that park’s rich traditions and history. Now relocated to Orlando, Kevin enjoys the Disney offerings on both sides of the country. Kevin is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations: – Kevin’s personal blog for daily WDW updates Public Facebook page – or friend his personal Facebook account, Twitter feed (user UltOrlando), Google+ account (user cafeorleans), Email at [email protected], Weekly Walt Disney World, a Facebook group of regulars who visit Disney World each weekend. Visitors from out of town are encouraged to come and say hello when in Orlando! Join the FB group to learn when/where the next meet is. Kevin’s books on Amazon

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Comments for Cars Hotel at Disney World are now closed.

  1. Great report, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree on some points. For my family, I would not book us anywhere BUT a Disney resort. Is it cheaper just outside the gates? Yes. Much cheaper. But frankly, I live in southern Virginia and it’s A LOT cheaper to just go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Heck, I can get a season pass for the price of single day admission at Disney. That will pay for my parking, I can stay for free (at my house) and food is fairly inexpensive……..and yet, I continue to spend a great deal more to travel across the country, spending hundreds in gas alone, to go to the much more expensive Disney parks. Why? Because Disney offers me something I can’t get here. You mentioned those immersive environments in the Art of Animation Resort; well that’s what I want my vacation to be. I want to leave today and enter the land of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. Now for someone like you (who, I’m assuming, lives somewhere in Florida) I can certainly understand not wanting to pay for the Disney Resorts. You can get as much of a Disney fix as you like, you can pop in for a weekend. The cost of the Resorts is simply not worth it for you. For me, however, it’s a big part of my Disney vacation, a vacation that takes place once a year (or even every two years). I look forward to it all year. I do a countdown, and drive my wife crazy. When it finally comes down to those 6 short days, I have NO desire to leave my happy place and head over to the local Days Inn (or even the local Marriot). I want to continue to be immersed for the entire week. Now don’t get me wrong, I never pay rack rate (I simply can’t afford to), I use discounts, but for me……it’s more than worth it.

  2. mkcoastie,

    Your post is why Disney loves you. They are counting on many more like you to help launch their NextGen system, too. I’m a value guy, so I’ll make your experience even better by never going back to WDW again because I find them to be way overpriced for my budget.

  3. mkcoastie,

    I could not agree more with your post (and disagree with Kevin’s).

    When I am at Disney I want the complete Disney experience. Not just Disney during the day and some generic hotel at night. Does it cost more? You bet it does! But that is to be expected. If it was not Walt Disney World would anyone have a problem with it? Does anyone go to Hawaii or the Caribbean and find a generic hotel just a “few miles” from the beach because that one of a kind right on the beach hotel is to expensive? If it was all about the price then every property would be a Motel 6. Some people are willing to pay a little more for a better experience right down to the choice of resorts. Where do you draw the line? Should I not eat that burger at WDW because I can get one as good just outside the gates at Chili’s for less?

  4. Kevin – Nice review but I totally agree with mkcoastie. I live in in SoCal and I have been to WDW 8 times, the first in 1978, the last in 2005, going first with a girlfriend, then many times with a buddy (he worked for Delta Airlines so we always got great rates) and finally with my wife and step-daughter in 2005. I’ve stayed at Disney resorts, at the then HoJo’s on Hotel Circle (next to the then WDW Village) and yes, even a Days Inn. The last resort we stayed at was Old Key West because we wanted a suite. And I can tell you with certainty that it was always worth it to stay at a Disney resort.

  5. I realize the Kevin was just comparing pricing, not amenities, when he compared the price of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort to off-site properties such as the Radisson Celebration.

    However, comparing a 6-person suite with two rooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchenette to a conventional off-site hotel room is not a fair comparison. Disney also offers lower-priced conventional (small) rooms at Value resorts.

    A more apt comparison would be a suite hotel such as a Residence Inn by Marriott or a vacation home rental or two connecting rooms at an off-site hotel. Then the question becomes how much the immersive Disney decor, Disney transportation, and Disney benefits (such as Extra Magic Hours) are worth. A $295 family suite at Art of Animation are still pricy, but compared to a $189 2-bedroom suite at the Residence Inn Orlando Lake Buena Vista, it might be worth it, especially for a family using the no-charge Disney’s Magical Express airport transportation and WDW Transportation service instead of renting an expensive minivan.

  6. Actually, I always thought of the original Magic Kingdom resorts as Disney’s takes on resorts in Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland. I’ve heard it suggested that the Grand Floridian evokes Main Street, and clearly Port Orleans evokes New Orleans Square.

    Without running all numbers at all possibilities, I usually compare cheapest advertised rates. When Disney runs specials on the values for ~$60 a night, it’s worth it for anyone who wants to walk no more than about ~5 minutes from their room to a really good meal. (Usually there’s one person in my party who wants breakfast, and one who wants a late dinner/snack.) In three stays, I have yet to be disappointed by the food courts at the values.

  7. I adore the detail. Did you notice that Fillmore’s license plate number is George Carlin’s birthday?

  8. Werner I appreciate your comments above ^

    Ultimately, it was this thinking that led us to booking with a Value Resort for our upcoming stay. We are actually staying in Art of Animation… but in the Little Mermaid section, which has normal (non-suite) value rooms. We have a family of six, so we are getting two-interconnecting rooms for $200 total ($100 for each room) in the offseason (before discounts). We looked at all the possibilities – including staying in the homes around the area that are available to rent. After determining how much a mini-van would cost to rent + parking, it ended up being worth it to go Disney. I know some of the areas offer shuttles, etc. but since we are out West, and this is really a once-in-a-lifetime trip, its nice to know that through Magical Express and the park/resort shuttles we will really be taken good care of. Its worth a few extra $$ a day for that reason. If they throw in Free Dining for late Jan/early Feb of 2013… its even more worth it. :)

  9. Gotta agree with the rest of you. Comparing a suite at a Disney resort to a basic room off property really isn’t fair. Compare rooms to rooms and suites to suites. Then come back and tell us the results.

    Having said that, I spent 10 days at Port Orleans – French Quarter and couldn’t have been more comfortable or had more fun. My room was well away from the pool and lobby and the river was a mere 15 steps away. Lovely to see the boat trams or horse drawn carriages going by.

  10. I have stayed “on property” at Disney theme parks before (Paris, Tokyo) as well as “off property” and I get that some folks really, really, really prefer to stay with Disney.

    For me, the “surrounded by the magic” argument was never worth the premium. Especially when we’re talking a premium of more than $100 per day (which we are, in the case of the Cars Suite on Dec 21 versus two rooms at the Hilton). My family of four would save even more because we’d only need one Hilton room. For us, we’d rather spend the extra hundreds of dollars on park-based experiences, park-based souvenirs, or finer dining.

  11. Kevin, love ya man but have to disagree with the comparison of hotels.

    Most people see staying on property as part of their vacation experience, they want the experience of staying IN the magic, not just in a hotel that could be found in any town. A standard room off property and a new family suite on property is not a good comparison, size, amenity or cost wise..

    If you stay off property you have additional costs:

    A lot people fly into Orlando to visit WDW, so you would need to add in the price of a rental car , since most of the resorts don’t have reliable shuttle service to and from the parks. (all you frequent visitors to WDW, do you recall the people waiting for their buses from the off property resorts in the middle of the parking lot near the Disney Resort buses? I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about off property buses not being on time or skipping a pick up time entirely) If you are driving, then add in the parking fees on top of the extra travel time and perhaps car rental. Magical Express is not available off property, so scratch that convenience of not having to get your bags and being taken from the airport directly to your hotel off the list too.

    It might save you a little money staying off property but when accounting for the wasting of park time because it is taking you longer to get TO the parks, lack of theming, lack of extra magic hours, the additional hassle of having to rent a car (not everyone), driving to the parks, not to mention the other on property perks you get from staying at Walt Disney World you would be missing out on, your valuable vacation time and money is better spent by staying on property IMHO.

    • I respectfully disagree about “time and money” balancing out in the wash.

      I get folks emailing me all the time about the horrid Disney bus service–this is no picnic for folks on property.

      If you have a rental car, you can eat off property, shop at supermarkets – the savings versus a Disney-only vacation are in the hundreds per week on that angle alone. Factor in the savings of the hotel (more than $100/night) and we are talking a very serious difference financially.

      The EMH benefit is hit or miss, right? I gets lots of feedback from folks that EMH makes things awfully busy. The Touring Plans guys generally tell you to AVOID those parks with EMH, I think.

      That brings us back to “surrounded by the magic.” Like I said, I get it that some folks want that. For me, I’d rather save hundreds of dollars and sleep in a non-Disney bed.

      • Mr. Yee. I agree with you 150% here. I guess I am in the minority but I have to say that I do not quite understand some of the other responses I have read from several participants here. This “I want to be totally immersed in a disney vacation (with the hotel experience)” is a statement that just makes no sense to me. Maybe because the time I stayed at the Coronado Resort was the least enjoyable vacation I have ever had at Disney World? Who knows..but I have to say that using Disney’s buses to shuttle pack and forth from theme parks, to Downtown Disney, to water parks, etc, was a very unnerving experience. I felt we were wasting time waiting and waiting either for buses to arrive of for other slow guests to board and get off buses. Same for having to take monorails which are poorly operated without regards for guests’ time restrains. And wasted time means wasted money and time from enjoying the parks.
        So, like you Mr. Yee, I would rather save money by staying at a decent hotel outside Disney World that offers similar amenities at more affordable prices, and much rather use money to rent a car and actually go outside of Disney World and see other offerings in the Orlando area. Our recent visits to Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Legoland were just as enjoyable as visiting any Disney World. (Frankly, I feel overly charged at Disney World and the prices I have paid recently really do not merit the less than perfect and outdated conditions of their main parks. I much rather visit Disneyland Resort in California for it’s charms and values).
        The way I see is this: the money I save for not staying at a Disney World hotel means more money to enjoy other options outside Disney, which we feel offers more value and many more magical memories to our vacation in Central Florida.
        The level of details I see in your pictures at the Animation Hotel’s Cars area seems lovely but I would prefer to see that level of theme and money be applied at the Magic Kingdom park which is a park devoid of charm and magic, and based on what I have seen lately, also in major need of refurbishing pretty much all over the place.
        Thank you for your time.

  12. For all you folks who love the price of the Magic so much, what do you do for a living? I obviously could do better judging by your comments. On the other hand, if many of you just save up, then more power to you. If you want the money you save to pay for a premium experience, then you’ve well earned it. I’ll stay away to keep 5 extra people off the sidewalks there for you (and less people in lines, too!).

  13. Even if a rental car, gas, and parking is cheap enough to make a difference, staying off-property really isn’t an option for me, since I don’t drive. I haven’t kept a car in years, and I wouldn’t start up again on busy, unfamiliar Florida highways. Being able to stay on site, with transportation from the airport and good, reliable transportation from the hotel to the parks, is at least the number two reason I choose a WDW vacation over other destinations.

    • I think the majority of people who complain about the WDW bus service are probably people who never use public transport at home. It’s unfamiliar territory for them, and so it’s frustrating and intimidating for them when it’s nothing out of the ordinary for us town folk.

      • It’s not that it’s unfamiliar or frustrating or intimidating, it’s that it wastes too much time. Sometimes I’ll wait 5 minutes for a bus. Sometimes I’ll wait 45 minutes, sometimes even longer. That’s way too much wasted time on my vacation – I wouldn’t wait that long for most attractions in the parks; I certainly don’t want to wait that long for a bus. Not to mention that bus transportation often requires making more than one stop on the way to my destination (and this is true regardless of what tier hotel you’re staying at).

        If I have a car, I can drive directly to where I want to go, point to point – no waiting, no stopping on the way, no transferring. That’s why I always prefer to rent a car. I don’t have to waste time sitting at a bus station or driving somewhere other than where I want to go. It can easily save an hour or more per day.

  14. So my family (wife, 2 year-old daughter & mother-in-law) all just returned from our 4-night trip to Disney World… we stayed at the Art-of-Animation in a Finding Nemo Suite. It was our favorite Disney hotel we’ve ever stayed in, for a few reasons!

    1 – Themeing… we always felt like we were more in the middle of “Disney” than at other resorts.
    2 – Room Size/Quality… 2 bathrooms with double the space of a regular room was terrific.

    The food was fantastic, the splash pad and pool were also a huge hit for the 2 year-old and us after a painfully hot day at the parks. To Kevin’s point, the prices certainly don’t feel like a “value” resort, but the layout of everything and feel of an “improved Pop-Century” do make it seem more like a value resort format? It’s like the big hit lesson for Disney with the California Adventure turn-around… don’t just hint at Disney with your parks, through us deep into the middle of it! It’s what Disney guests want!

    I don’t have one negative thing to say about this new resort, we loved it and will plan to visit again in a few years… perferrably in the fall. (Forgot how bad the Florida heat can be the last week of July!) :)

  15. I agree with the fact that the suites are ridiculously overpriced. They should cost no more than the sum of two Value rooms combined, period.

    I disagree that this is the first time a Disney hotel felt like a Disney hotel. I am more than THRILLED that most of the others do NOT tie directly to a Disney movie. I can get enough of that at the Parks that I don’t want to feel like I’m inside a movie when I go home to sleep.