From the Disney Insider:
One of the delights of a Walt Disney World Resort vacation is that the magic doesn’t end when you leave the Theme Park gates and return to your room. At every Disney Resort property, Guests are greeted with the friendliness, service, and magical details that make Disney Disney. It’s no wonder that the opening of a new Hotel or Resort is big news!
Now Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, slated to open in phases beginning in May 2012, will take the concept of extending the magic further than ever before. As Frank Paris, Senior Project Manager – Walt Disney Imagineering and project lead for the new Resort, explains, “There are certain animated films that resound with our Guests. Everybody loves the immersive Disney experience they get in the Parks, but how do you do it in the Resort? Our idea was to immerse Guests in their favorite movies while staying at the Resort, so that they really feel like one of the Characters.” The Resort has 10 buildings clustered around four large courtyards, and each courtyard (with its surrounding buildings) has been themed to a different movie: “Cars,” “The Lion King,” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Little Mermaid.”
The legendary Imagineering attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the Resort. Arriving Guests will check in at a reception building celebrating the “art of animation” that brought each of these beloved films to life. Frank walks us through: “Imagineer Eric Jacobson came up with the idea ‘what goes through the mind of an animator at work?’ So the first thing you see are black-and-white hand-sketched images from all four movies on a long wall. As you enter, the tile starts to turn colors and at the check-in desk there’s a wave of color. As you move further down, the sketches become more like images from the movies. You are essentially walking through the creative process. Moving on, there’s a script wall with colored scenes from each of the movies that make a great mural. The retail area is the Ink and Paint Shop, and the dining area, called Landscapes, is decorated with the landscapes from the movies. It is an enormous artistic undertaking and display of great artwork. I think our Guests will be taken aback by the artwork and the amount of intense color, and brought right into the scene where they’re the star in any of these movies!”
Now that Guests have been through the mind of an animator, they’re ready to move into the world of the particular film their section of the Resort celebrates. Those who’ve chosen to stay in the world of “Cars” will find themselves on the road to Radiator Springs, encountering 11 of the Characters from the film along the way. When Guests enter the “Finding Nemo” courtyard, they become the size of Nemo and dive into the big blue with all their favorite Characters from the film. In “The Little Mermaid” courtyard, Guests venture under the sea and become part of Ariel’s world, while “The Lion King” courtyard puts you in the shoes – make that paws – of a teen-aged Simba for a trip from Pride Rock to the Elephant Graveyard. Each courtyard is full of details and surprises, from the Squirt’s Righteous Reef water play area celebrating “Finding Nemo” to the neon signs sprinkled through Radiator Springs. Even the landscaping fits the theme, with kelp-like fronds swaying around “The Little Mermaid” pool and jungle greenery in “The Lion King” area.
Inside the buildings, the themes are just as detailed – not always an easy challenge for the Imagineers to meet! Frank explains, “In the suites [available in the Lion King, Cars, and Nemo areas, while Little Mermaid offers individual rooms], you’ve got a pull-down bed that doubles as a table, a sleeper sofa, and a bed in the master bedroom, and you realize that for some of these films, there’s no reference for furniture! So how do you make the furniture make sense? We thought instead of re-creating locations from the films, why don’t we take fabric, colors, and textures and use them in a creative way to put people in the environment? So the sofa in ‘Nemo’ is a great red-orange wavy fabric that you could really imagine seeing underwater. The carpet is colors you’d expect to see in the ocean. The bathrooms are little pieces taken from the submarine, so there’s a round mirror that looks like a portal and the tile looks like metal flake with rust pattern that you could imagine came off the submarine. On the other hand, the film ‘Cars’ contained many of the details we needed, right down to the curtains in the Cozy Cone Motel.”
Fortunately, no one was better equipped to meet the challenges than Walt Disney Imagineering. As Frank observes, ” Imagineering is all about creating detailed immersive environments! We spent about two years on the design process, and I have books of the art from all the various movies we tried to put in here. We worked hand in hand with our partners at Pixar through the whole process, and worked with Feature Animation. The animator who animated Ursula even came out recently to look at the Ursula sculpture in the ‘Little Mermaid’ courtyard to give his approval!”
Whether they’re venturing under the sea, hitting the open road, or roaming the Pride Lands, Guests will get to experience a Disney vacation in a way they never have before – immersed in magic from the moment they first step into the Resort lobby until their heads hit the pillow in time for sweet Disney dreams.