Walt Disney World is about to begin building its first new hotel in seven years, a 2,000-room resort that will open in 2012.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will feature 1,120 suites with room for as many as six people each and another 864 traditional hotel rooms, with a design theme based on four of the company’s most popular animated movies.
The complex will be priced as a “value” hotel, at the low end of Disney World’s scale, similar to Disney’s Pop Century and All-Star resorts, where standard rates begin at $82 a night.
The announcement is one of the strongest signals yet from Disney that it thinks a sustained recovery is under way from the long travel slump brought on by the global recession. Disney executives, who have been weighing construction of a family-suites hotel for several years, finally approved the project in January
But in deciding to add another lower-priced hotel, Disney also appears to be betting that travelers will continue the frugal spending habits many adopted during the downturn. Disney has been relying on discounts to sustain attendance during the past year, and executives acknowledged Tuesday that consumers are still searching for deals even as Disney attempts to return to pre-recession prices.
“Quite honestly, we’re in a bit of waiting for each other to blink,” Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo told analysts during a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.
The Art of Animation Resort will be built on a 65-acre plot across a lake from Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The location will allow Disney to use a pair of long-neglected, unfinished buildings that Disney originally constructed as a second phase of Pop Century but which it abandoned amid the 2001 recession. Pop Century’s first phase was completed in 2003.
Plans for the new resort show 10 wings of rooms and a separate building housing the check-in lobby and restaurants. The hotel wings will be separated into four distinct groups, each with a theme from a different animated movie: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars.
Each section will have separate courtyards anchored by icons from the movies — such as a 35-foot-tall King Triton presiding over the Mermaid section — and the entire resort will use bright-color palettes evocative of the lush scenery of animated movies. Hotel designers say they have been soliciting input from artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios on everything from building elevations to which scenes to depict at the swimming pools.