In some idealized artist's renderings, the company unveiled the outside of the resort, which will be divided into four areas -- dressed up as four of Disney's and Pixar's greatest hits of the past generation: Cars, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and The Little Mermaid, in which the cheapest rooms will be. There will be 854 standard rooms (maximum occupancy of four) plus another 1,120 "Family Suites" (maximum occupancy of six) which at Disney are usually two standard rooms, with two standard motel-style bathrooms, that are merely joined with an interior door.
Seen in perspective, the details aren't revolutionary. Really, Art of Animation is just another iteration of the workable style and amenities present in other Value rooms that exist on the resort property, including All-Star Sports, Music, and Movies. There, outsize outdoor decorations belie somewhat standard cement-block motel-style room indoors. Meals are supplied in a central food court-style hall.MouseSavers.com, WalletPop's choice for the best Disney savings site, has a floor plan of the previous Family Suites, which cost twice as much but are discounted less often than standard rooms. The suites will feature something called an "Inovabed," which converts between a table and a bed.
Disney has not announced when booking will open for the new resort, but its prices are expected to match the rates charged at all Value resorts. The website AllEarsNet.com has a calendar of rates at All-Star Music, another Value resort with Family Suites.
But with standard-room prices that start around $82 at the lowest traffic periods, they're the least expensive rooms that Disney offers. A few miles away, where there's no free bus service, rooms cost about two thirds as much for comparable quality.
In fact, the new hotel's property, and some of the buildings, were actually built a decade ago in expectation that they would become the second phase of the Disney's Pop Century, another Value property. But 9/11 halted those plans.
The recession and a certain boy wizard put them back into play. Disney finds itself in the rare position of having to respond to pressure from its rivals, as Universal's Islands of Adventure is pulling a big spike in attendance with its lavish new Wizarding World of Harry Potter area. Universal reported its summer attendance jumped by 36% over the year before, whereas Disney's attendance, which is not reported openly, was described by a spokesman as being flat.
When you're a high-end brand such as Disney, it's even tougher to combat the currents of the recession, which have tourists spending less to travel.
Just before Halloween, Disney announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of making its hotel rooms available at a discount on parts of Priceline.com.
Art of Animation, which will add 800 construction jobs to the suffering market, is a sign that Disney thinks the recession may turn around soon. It's also proof that it's still playing to win in the Orlando market. In 2013, after Pottermania settles down, Disney hopes to recapture buzz when a major expansion of Fantasyland, to include a new ride based on The Little Mermaid, opens.
Orlando suffered two years of declines, and in January was knocked from its perch as America's top tourism destination. All of that has been fantastic news for vacationers, who can spend as little as $20 a night for a low-end motel in Kissimmee, near Walt Disney World. In October, though, the airlines reported mild passenger increases.
If Disney's bet is right, prices in Orlando will soon be on the upswing. The next few months may be the best time in years to take advantage of low prices for the big theme parks.
Today's event was designed to promote its contribution to the local economy and to show off the exterior look of the resort.