Winging to Orlando and Exploring Art of Animation!

The day we had all been waiting for was finally here. The girls had been anticipating it for almost a month and I had been jonzing for it since May.

4:30am came mighty early and Roxy and PumpkinGirl were unfortunately not any better. As a matter of fact PumpkinGirl’s voice started to cut outĀ šŸ™

Still we got ourselves up and dressed and did all that wonderful bathroom stuff. We were downstairs a few minutes late for the shuttle but the driver was waiting for us.

Unfortunately he was waiting in a compact station wagon for 4 of us plus 4 big bags to check and our carry-ons. He tried packing it and I finally had to ask him to let me give it a try and thanks to the packing skills taught to me by the Army I managed to get all of it and us into the rig. I was just thankful that it was only 2 miles down an empty road to the airport, it was sardine time for sure!

Bag check went fine other than that pinch you feel when you hand over a crisp $100 bill for Delta to get your bags to your destination. This is the first time that we got to use the WDW baggage tags to have them delivered to POP, so that was cool – huzzah for the Magic Express! Security was a breeze and the wait to board wasn’t long.

We took off on time and were in the air before the sun

I had hoped to get a shot of the sunrise but our angle was bad and there was frost on the window so it turned out a bit fuzzy

We dozed a bit on the 1 1/2hr flight and arrived in Salt Lake City on a crisp morning around 9:05am and were walking down the gangway for our Orlando (MCO) flight at 9:28am

I was in a row with Bean and PumpkinGirl and Roxy was right across the isle for the 4 1/2hr trek to Orlando

The girls were still a bit tired but in a good mood overall. Roxy and PumpkinGirl had earplanes in to keep the sinus pressure from being an issue. That and a bunch of cold/sinus meds kept them going

They couldn’t find the in-flight movie, which was good as it was some sort of RomCom that we hadn’t heard of. Instead they played Mr. Popper’s Penguins which the family likes. I had set aside cash to pay for food/snacks on the plane only to find out that they only do credit cards now – oops! At least the Disney card was there for us. There was a lot of iPod and laptop game play and video watching to pass the time.

We were on the ground on time and were walking thru MCO by 4:15pm. They had a nice Christmas tree as you came out of the gate area

Beyond that was everyones favorite little monorail

I even stole a bit of the Simpson’s monorail song to my family’s mild embarrassment

Soon enough we were at the other end and passing thru the Hyatt and its tree

Elevator down and a quick jaunt to the ME area, I had my AAA paperwork in hand so we went straight to our line and were on a bus within minutes. As had been our luck in the past we got a cruise line bus again. They are cool to look at but much harder to take pictures from due to the smaller porthole-style windows.

Our driver was nice but we couldn’t understand him very well.

It was a beautiful blue-sky day, with a temperature around 76 degrees and nearly no humidity – w00t! Bean was happy as she knew it was raining back in Oregon (it rained at home the whole time we were in Florida).

The on-ride movie hadn’t changed since last year from my B-Day trip

Roxy took a shot of Bean and I

And I took one of Roxy and PumpkinGirl

After a bit we literally had signs of Disney!

We were half way back in the ME bus so this was the best shot I could muster of the entrance gate

Our bus had several stops, of which POP was second. The first was our new neighbor the Art of Animation Resort, which had literally just opened a few months ago. I handed the camera over to Bean and let her take some shots.

You should all know that Bean took quite a few of the pictures you will be seeing throughout the TR. She’s got a good eye, as does her sister. PumpkinGirl would have taken more pics but being sick we were trying to limit contact between the “sick” pair and the “well” pair.

Anyways, here a Bean’s pics of Art of Animation starting with a Cast Member (CM) pulling off some Michael Jackson moves

Then on to the characters

One last shot of Mufasa and Simba as we pulled away

We left the AoA zone and the Magic Express bus took us around hourglass lake to our home resort, POP Century! The front gate had a nice holiday wreath on it

Right around the corner was the resort main entrance just as sunlight was fading from the sky.

There was a CM outside to greet us with bubbles!

We headed in the door and immediately saw more Christmas theming

Registration wasn’t too busy

And to make things easier I had done the online check-in so it was a quick trip through the reserved line for that I soon had our packet in hand. I had done 50s preferred which gave us a 1st floor room that unfortunately did not have a pool view, but was literally in sight of the front entrance. Heading out for food and transportation was a snap the whole trip :-]

I had reserved an ECV for Roxy from Apple Scooter Rentals. This is the 2nd time we’ve used them and I highly recommend their company. They even waved the delivery charge since we were a returning customer! It was right around the corner from the luggage area and on the way to our room and was a brand new one, a real sweet ride.

We settled into our room, unloading our carry-ons and setting up who was using what drawers and sleeping arrangements. As had been discussed Roxy and PumpkinGirl were sick, so they took one bed and Bean and I had the other. They also had half of the dresser-top for meds and other sundries.

We then talked about what we wanted to do. We had enough days of park tickets to take in a couple of hours at one of the parks. And that included EPCOT and the Candlelight Processional hosted by Neil Patrick Harris that evening. For now we decided to go get dinner at the POP food court while we figured out our next move.

We came in just in time to see the Hustle put on by the CMs and a few brave guests.

For dinner I had a favorite of mine, the meatball sub and salad. Dessert was the tye-die cheesecake which I had missed having on our last visit. It was a fine meal. Bean and Roxy had bacon cheeseburgers with fries, PumpkinGirl had soup and crackers.

Roxy and PumpkinGirl were just too wiped out from the trip/their colds to do anything other than head back to the room. Bean and I didn’t want to go to a park without them so we decided to just walk around POP and Art of Animation (AoA).

Here was our first night-time look at part of AoA, taken from the bridge that connects the two resorts

Coming off the bridge the first thing you see is the Nemo area with a 4 story hunk of coral

There were cool fish lining the walls as we walked forward towards the hub of the resort.

As you may have heard, everything you interact with is set to a scale as if you were Nemo’s size. The first thing we came across was a cute little play structure.

Bean really liked the feel of the ground of the play area. It felt amazingly like oversaturated beach sand and almost squished under your feet

Squirt said ‘hi’ from the top of the structure

Bean tried the slide

…and laughed at how small it was – she barely fit down it.

Off to the side was the giant Crush

The next area was the pool, which started off with some jellyfish

I loved that they had the goggles there

When we got to the hub we turned right and saw ‘them’


Beyond them was a cool montage of Dori

The next area was the Lion King! Rafiki gave us a lively welcome :-]

He was standing on the back side of Pride Rock with Mufasa on the other end

Next was the 3 friends practicing a little Hakuna Motata

Bean and I continued our adventure thru the Pridelands at AoA. One thing I forgot to mention, the nightly movies that they show outdoors at the resort are shown right under Mufasa at Pride Rock. They were just wrapping it up as we walked thru there.

Our next stop brought us to the Elephant Graveyard! Bean started exploring along with a couple of other cubs

As you can see from Bean perching on it, those tusks were sizable!

Banzai, Shenzi, and Ed were watching over the yard

And a bit farther along on his own outcropping was a favorite of mine, Scar

On the other side of Scar’s perch we find Zazu. Bean struck a good pose with him

We exited the Pridelands and waded into the ocean, quickly finding ourselves Under the Sea. Our first find was the coveted Dinglehopper!

A pipe, some treasure, and a larger than life beer stein followed

Closer to the pool we find Eric’s statue sitting proudly

King Triton made for an imposing 4 story figure

Between him and his nemesis we find Sebastian striking up the orchestra

And then we find the evil Ursula dominating the buildings across from Triton. Do you think Bean liked the pose?

Across the pool from the two towering foes we find Ariel and Flounder

The rest of the area had some dancing fish and good ocean theming.

Now since we were at the far end of the resort we had to trek back out of Mermaid, back across the Pridelands, past the hub & Nemo, and finally on to Cars Land.

The first thing that caught Bean and my attention that we expected the Cars characters to be the same size as regular cars. I guess they made them smaller so the wee ones could not feel like they were too big to be around.

First we saw the Sheriff

Then the Mayor

Flo was next

Followed by Ramone and his low profile wheels

The whole pool area was themed as the Cozy Cone Motel with a full facade as you walked up

I liked the cone shade areas around the pool. I’m sure they’d be very popular when it got hot outside.

Beside the Cozy Cone pool we find Luigi’s shop

Him and Guido were very cute

Across from them we find Mater’s Tow Yard

Bean noticed that someone had already chipped one of Mater’s teeth 


There we lots of little bits of theming if you were paying attention. Stuff like the Radiator Springs Chamber of Commerce logo on the pool fence

At the far end of the pool area we find Sarge’s setup with Sarge standing guard

The far building was themed as the Wheel Well Motel complete with gas tanks and our two main characters

The last character we came across was good ole Fillmore

We walked back to hourglass lake and followed a path back to the bridge. Both Bean and I tried to take pictures of POP reflecting on the lake but neither of us could keep the camera steady enough to get a decent shot and I was too tired to look for a place to set the camera down to get one.

My overall impression of the Art of Animation Resort was that it would be a very cool place to stay once the prices come down a bit more. The food court had some unique offerings although we never ate a meal there we heard good things about it.

One thing that struck me about it in comparison to all other Value Resorts was that you lose the direct entry onto balconies/sidewalks from your room. You have to travel down corridors to get to exit points and only have windows to look out on the resort. Not a huge deal but it does make it a bit harder for those putting up window displays to have their Disney decorations seen.

By this time we got back to our room in the 50s area it was just after 10pm. We had been up and moving for just shy of 15 hours and were ready to be done. Roxy and PumpkinGirl were both asleep so I had Bean go in and take a shower while I picked out clothes and got things together for our first day in the parks. Bean went to bed and I grabbed a quick shower and was asleep before 11pm.

Tomorrow would bring us to DHS early for an 8:05am reservation at Hollywood & Vine. I was already regretting setting a morning ADR the day after our travel day. I wouldn’t be doing that one againĀ