Cars Hotel at Disney World

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in 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.

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  • almandot

    That “Disney aspect” is something I always enjoyed about the Disneyland hotel… Not that it was themed in the same way with movie characters and props everywhere, cuz it never was other than perhaps Goofy’s kitchen. But just going through the buildings and lobbies and hearing….. Disney music! All the WDW hotels theme their playlists to whatever the resort is about but Disneyland’s is one of the few that when you walk to and from and around your hotel you’re immersed in the fact that, oh yeah, you’re at Disney!

  • Kidgenie

    Kevin, first, I respect that you don’t buy into the “surrounded” by the magic. But honestly your off base on this. First your comparing regular rooms to a suite. You really should bite the bullet one day and experience the resort. Some of your comments rocked me…. you should have waited to tour a suite at DAAR before you compared it to a room at Radisson Celebration and the DTD Hilton. You mention the Hilton’s “rooms will EASILY outgun the Art of Animation suites for comfort and amenities. ” And you couldn’t be more wrong.

    The suite comfortably sleeps 6, not 5.
    It has two full bathrooms, each with hairdryers linens, soaps, shampoos
    a kitchenette, with refrigerator, microwave, coffer maker w/ coffee and compliments.
    a private master bedroom,
    Two large flat screen tvs,
    What exactly is the room at the Hilton going to have that is going to Outgun this? Putting price aside, fact is a family of 4, 5 or 6 is going to be more comfortable in the DAAR Suite then the Hilton room. To full baths means two can be getting ready at the same time. Kids can watch a different TV then the adults. Breakfast food and snacks can be at the ready for all in the Kitchette.

    Calling the Radisson Celebration dumpy is an understatement. I would not feel safe at that resort. But comparing a room there to a suite at DAAR? How about a ROOM at DAAR compared to a room at the RC? The DAAR room on Dec 14th? $120. Is that extra $41 worth it now? Yes! just to feel safe, heck YES.

    Its not that I think they aren’t over price, but your comparisons was like fruits to… shoes.

    What I would have compared a DAAR suite to is the Nick Hotel and its comparable kids suites. And here Nick comes in at $159, but again only has one bathroom. DAAR as two full bathrooms. Not a bath a a half, but two full bathrooms. That’s a nice amenity to have at 7am when everyone in a family of 5-6 is trying to wake up and get to a theme park before it opens at 9am. But is that extra bath worth the extra $135…… that is a bit steep, and I will agree I was surprised that the suites cost more then two regular rooms. If a regular room is $120, and two regular rooms could sleep 8, then I suggest that suite at DAAR are over price just as you say, but just not for the reasons you gave. The suite should be $240. Why should something that sleeps only six cost an extra $55 a night???? Because it has a kitchette? No thank you.

    Side note on WDW transportation. It really is a worthy amenity. yes it has its issues, and understand you get a lot of e-mails, and reading posts on here, it’s easy to think that the WDW transportation system has fallen apart. But it has not! It functions pretty well, not as well as some would like, but at the end of the day, it successfully transports with out delay or needing to adhere to a schedule, the vast majority of WDW’s resort guests. Where else in the world from your hotel could you connect to four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping dinning complex, and numerous other resorts pretty much at your whim all day long. Stay off site and you will be lucky if your hotel shuttle offers more then 3-4 morning departures to Disney and the same for return trips. On Disney, No schedule to look up, no route to memorize. Just go to the bus stop and wait, and despite your e-mails and on-line forums, most of the time at wait is less then 20 minutes. This is factual. Most of the time it really is less then 20 minutes. Mistakes happen and they happen to much but its still works MOST of the time. But no one write about the time the bus pulled up just as they walked up to the bus stop. Rarely do you hear about the joys of traveling in half empty busses because your not riding during park opening or closing hours. But these are EVERYDAY MASS OCCURANCES that easily out number the amount of times someone had to wait more then 40 minutes for a bus that never came. WDW would like to get its transportation ratings higher, but that said, the Majority, not minority, of WDW guests are satisfied with the system. So writing off the WDW transit system, even with its work horse fleet of over 300 buses, is just not the way to go. For the savings of not having to rent a car for my multi night stat at Disney resort, I will risk having to wait to long for a bus occasionally. But most of the time the bus is going to come at its usual VERY frequent interval, and I am not going to have to adapt my plans to its schedule.

  • PSUMark

    “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?”

    Really, Kevin?? Really??? Disney vacations are just for small children (or families with small children)? Does that mean you’ll stop visiting the parks when your kids have grown up and left the house? I expect that kind of thinking from Disney’s marketing department and people that don’t “get” Disney parks, but not from you.

    I visited Art of Animation and appreciated the theming there for what it was, but I much prefer the classier, understated theming of places like The Polynesian or Wilderness Lodge. Yes, I enjoy staying at a hotel that’s themed like a “Disney park land,” but that land doesn’t have to be Toontown. More often than not, quality theming is subtle theming – and that’s something that kids and adults (whether consciously or subconsciously) can both appreciate.

  • WDW1971

    I must say that it is a nice looking resort but it has several flaws in regards to the pricing strategy. Why did they build a resort intentionally to be a value property with all the amenities and quality associated with values but then are charging the rates of moderate and deluxe hotels? I do not see the added benefit of staying in a resort like this when there are so many better and cheaper options.

    You can easily get two rooms at the Swan or Dolphin for a lot less than staying here and these hotels still receive all the perks of the Disney Deluxe hotels and they are within walking distance to two theme parks, an entertainment area, and mini golfing while offering boat service. The rooms are much more upscale and comfortable, there is a bigger pool which I can assume will be much less crowded than the ones at Art of Animation and they are themed too. I just do not see the value in this Value hotel.

    In addition the Downtown Disney hotels are also very good options and they do receive the benefits of Disney hotels also and are closer to the parks than other unofficial hotels. Even two moderate rooms may be cheaper than one room here.

    Or for that price stay in one Deluxe resort hotel room which is probably the same square footage as an Art of Animation room but offers sleeping for 5 however they allow for better transportation, pools, and amenities.

    In my opinion, there are better options than the price which is sad because Disney needs to provide affordable accommodations for families of 5 that outgrew the standard value and moderate rooms and cannot afford Deluxes or AoA.

  • daliseurat

    I definitely agree that the suites are no value. You can get way more for your money by staying off property and spending the differences on park experiences. However, you can simply stay in the NON-SUITE rooms of Art of Animation, or even POP CENTURY and wander around all that theming anyway. That way you can stay within the magic and not break the bank. And doing the math, in the case of the TRUE value resorts, it really doesn’t cost much more (and in some cases less) to stay on property if you do fair comparisons. And if you AREN’T renting a car while staying on Disney property. But the instant you upgrade to moderate resorts, you are definitely paying a lot more.