You’re ready to book your Walt Disney World vacation and you’ve narrowed it down to two different resorts: Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation. Both are great but which one do you choose? When it comes to deciding which Disney World hotel is perfect for you and your family, you have to calculate everything from cost, transportation options, proximity to the parks, quality of the food, your party’s interests and everything in between.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place because in today’s article, we provide an extensive review of both Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort to help you determine the best hotel for you and your loved ones. Let’s jump into the magic, shall we?
Overview of Disney’s Art of Animation
This resort is where the magic of Disney animation leaps off the page and into your hotel room. Disney’s Art of Animation opened in May 2012 and is divided into four sections that are heavily themed to the movies: Little Mermaid, Lion King, Cars and Finding Nemo. This is considered to be a “value resort,” meaning that the room rates are often one of the cheapest you’ll find on Disney property.
The hotel itself is pretty big, having a total of 984 rooms. This resort offers two types of rooms: a standard room and a family suite. Each standard room is about 277 square feet, which is about 17 feet larger than other value resorts on Disney property. The family suites (which we’ll get into later) are about 565 square feet.
This resort has three pools, a poolside bar, both bus and Skyliner transportation and a food court called Landscape of Flavors, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each area of this food court is themed and there are 5 quick service counters serving up classic American cuisine.
The resort is also dog-friendly – a unique accommodation that is only offered by three three other resorts on property.
Read more: Art of Animation Resort Review
Overview of Disney’s Pop Century Resort
If you’re nostalgic for the 80s, then Disney’s Pop Century Resort is for you. This resort opened back in 2003 and takes guests on a nostalgic look back on five different decades spanning from the 50s to the 90s thanks to the giant decorations they have adorning the buildings. Guests will find larger-than-life foosball tables, Mickey Mouse telephones, Big Wheels and other decade-related memorabilia scattered around the courtyards, all of which make for excellent photo ops (as seen below):
Like Art of Animation, this resort is also considered to be a value resort and as such, has a layout that’s comparable to the other resort mentioned on this list. This property is huge and has 10 different buildings and a total of 2,880 rooms. It has three pools, poolside bar, and a joint gift shop and food court called Everything Pop Shopping and Dining that can be found in Classic Hall – the resort’s main lobby. The food court is not heavily themed and serves Mickey waffles for breakfast, pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, pasta and more. It’s also home to that world-famous and super colorful rainbow cheesecake!
Room Rates at the Art of Animation vs. Pop Century
There are two types of rooms at the Art of Animation: the Little Mermaid standard room and the family suites, some of which are themed to the Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. In 2021, the Little Mermaid-themed standard rooms are about $243 a night, with family suites ranging between $500-$549 a night, depending on whether or not it’s themed and to which movie. From my experience, the Finding Nemo family suites always tend to be on the higher end of this range.
At Pop Century, you can book either a standard room or a preferred room, both of which come with options for a pool view. In 2021, a standard room will cost you $268 a night, with a pool view costing $276. Preferred rooms are a little more expensive, costing $281 a night, with a pool view costing $300. Granted, these prices will fluctuate depending on the time of year you’re looking to book. I’ve seen prices dip below $200 during the off-season (usually January-February) and climb as high as $322 for preferred rooms during the week of Christmas.
Room Design at the Pop Century vs. Art of Animation
The rooms over at Pop Century are understated, to say the least. They aren’t heavily themed to Disney, which isn’t necessarily a drawback for guests. There is a simple Mickey Mouse painting that is hung up above the bed and each room has hardwood flooring, a mini fridge and a coffee pot. There is a door separating the toilet and stand-in shower from the sink, meaning multiple people can get ready at the same time, which is a huge plus if you’re traveling with others.
All of the rooms at Pop Century were refurbished back in 2018, so these are some of the newer rooms on property outside of brand new hotels.
While the rooms are adequate, I don’t think they’re anything to write home about. My biggest complaint with these rooms was how cramped I felt staying there. While I’ve stayed at other value resorts on Disney property before, this room felt much smaller in comparison despite being the same size. I’m not sure if it’s the layout of the room or what, but it does feel a lot smaller than the other standard value rooms. I only stayed at this resort with my husband but for a family of four, I think it would get very tight, very fast. The standard and preferred rooms can sleep up to four adults and come equipped with either one king sized bed or one queen sized bed and one queen sized table bed. If you and your family wish to stay at one of Pop Century’s preferred rooms, they’ll most likely be found in the 50s, 60s and 70s buildings, all of which face Classic Hall.
Art of Animation, on the other hand, gives guests that “Disney feel.” While the decor is a little heavy handed (there’s a mural of Ariel’s treasure trove in the shower of the Little Mermaid standard rooms), the rooms over at Art of Animation are definitely going to be more enjoyable for young children and those who want everything about their Walt Disney World vacation to be Disney themed. The family suites are heavily themed to their prospective section of the resort and are very colorful. In fact, we ranked pretty much every room at Art of Animation as being one of the best themed rooms on property. You can read that article here. Like Pop Century, the sink is in a different room from the toilet and shower, but the Little Mermaid rooms have tubs, as opposed to stand-in-showers.
The Little Mermaid standard rooms sleeps four adults and has either two queen sized beds or one king sized bed. The family suites all sleep up to six adults and come equipped with one queen sized bed, one double sized table bed and one double sized sleeper sofa.
Pools at Disney’s Art of Animation vs. Pop Century
Disney’s Art of Animation is home to three pools: the Cozy Cone Pool located in the Cars section of the resort, the Flippin’ Fins pool located in the Little Mermaid section and the Big Blue Pool in the Finding Nemo section, which is actually the largest pool on Disney property.
The Big Blue Pool has pop-up jets and a Finding Nemo themed playground nearby. This area also has a bar called the The Drop Off pool bar and sells assorted chips ($2.99), wine ($9-$13), frozen cocktails such as the strawberry margarita ($15), on-the-rocks cocktails such as the blueberry lemonade ($14) and featured cocktails such as the Big Blue Ocean ($15) and much more. To view their entire menu, click here.
Pool lifts and other accessibility options are available for guests who have limited mobility or disabilities. Pool hours vary depending on the pool, especially now when guests may have to wait to enter the pool area in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines and each pool’s limited capacity.
Pop Century also has three pools that are uniquely themed to their respective decade. In the 1950s section of the resort, you’ll find the Bowling Pool which is shaped like – you guessed it – a bowling pin! If you’re a 90s kid, you’ll get a kick out of the Computer Pool, which is shaped like a computer that has a giant floppy disk and keyboard (this is a really interesting pool to see up close!).
Then there’s the Hippy Dippy Pool, which sits behind Classic Hall and is the first one you’ll see when you exit the lobby and head back to your room. This is a large pool that has flower-shaped jets and is located in the 1960s area of the resort. This is where you’ll find the pool bar, Petals, which serves classic cocktails such as the Cucumber & Mint Vojito ($14), Captain’s Mai Tai ($13), various beers ($8-$10.25), wines, sangrias and non-alcohol beverages. You can view their entire menu here.
The Hippy Dippy Pool is also where Movies Under the Stars take place, which are complimentary movie screenings that take place on select nights. To learn more about the movie lineup, you can ask a Cast Member at your resort or call (407) 939-2273.
Proximity to the Parks
Both Pop Century and Art of Animation are located near the Wide World of Sports Resort Area, which is where you’ll find the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. These resorts are also relatively close to one another and are connected by a walking bridge. Because of how close these resorts are, the amount of time it’ll take you to get you around property are similar:
If you’ve rented a car or are using your own, this is how long it will (normally) take you to get to the various parks and other attractions on property.
- Magic Kingdom – 11 minutes
- Animal Kingdom – 14 minutes
- Epcot – 9 minutes
- Hollywood Studios – 8 minutes
- Typhoon Lagoon – 8 minutes
- Blizzard Beach – 6 minutes
- Disney Springs – 8 minutes
- Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course – 10 minutes
These times also include bus transportation, excluding the 20 minutes or so it’ll take for buses to arrive at your hotel from their previous destination. It’s important to note that ANY hotel that is on the Skyliner route (including both Art of Animation and Pop Century) will NOT offer bus transportation to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios unless the Skyliner is not working properly.
Disney’s Skyliner opened in September 2019. The Skyliner is an aerial gondola system that takes you high above Disney property that takes you to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and several other resorts (like Disney’s Riviera Resort and Carribean Beach). The line to get into the Skyliner can look very intimidating, especially now during social distancing, however, it does move pretty fast. Even during peak periods, it probably only took me about 10-15 minutes to get from the back of the line to being inside the gondola system. Most gondolas are themed to your favorite characters, however, some of them are plain.
When you enter the Skyliner station, you have to move quickly so make sure everyone in your party is ready to go. You do not have to collapse your stroller to get on, however, it all depends on its size. The maximum stroller size allowed on Disney’s skyliner is 30×48 inches. If your stroller is bigger than that, you’ll have to collapse it. Each gondola system is designed to fit up to 10 guests and is handicap friendly. If you’re traveling with a large party or with someone in a wheelchair and/or stroller, your party may need to take two gonaldas to fit everyone, as there is a maximum capacity limit.
If you’re taking the Skyliner from either Art of Animation or Pop Century, it’ll only take about five minutes to get to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, which is where you’ll have to disembark to continue on to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Once you get off, you’ll have to go into another line for Hollywood Studios; this ride from Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios takes about five minutes. If you’re going to Epcot, you’ll take this route to Riviera Resort, where you’ll disembark and get into another line for Epcot. To get from the Riviera Resort to Epcot, it’ll take about 10 minutes.
In total, it’ll take you about 20 minutes to get to Epcot from both resorts when all is said and done. The skyliner will drop you off at the International Gateway at Epcot’s World Showcase.
The Skyliner operates one hour before Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens and 30 minutes before Epcot opens.
Thoughts About the Skyliner
It’s an incredibly smooth ride and once you’re inside, it’s a swift ride to the parks and has views you can’t get anywhere else. That being said, it’s not for everybody. If anyone in your party is claustrophobic or scared of heights, the Skyliner might not be the best option. I’m not normally scared of heights but I was very uncomfortable during my first ride. When you take off, the gondola does move a bit and there are vents on the side that allow the air in, which only reminded me how far up in the air I actually was. The gondolas are 60 feet high at their highest points, after all. When you’re ready to land, the gondolas tend to get very close to the one in front, which kind of makes you feel like you’re going to crash into it. I felt a lot calmer on my second ride, but it’s not my preferred method of transportation. That being said, my husband loved it (and he’s the one who’s actually scared of heights) and it gets rave reviews from most people who use it.
There have been issues with the Skyliner. Back in 2019, guests were stranded up in the air for about three hours when the Skyliner broke down. While something of this magnitude hasn’t happened since, it does slow down during certain times. When we disembarked at Caribbean Beach and walked around the resort, we did notice the gondolas moving at a crawl. Granted, these did start moving at their normal pace after a few minutes, but it’s worth noting that this is an experience you may have when utilizing the Skyliner system.
Pros and Cons of Staying at Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- You can walk to Art of Animation for photo ops
- It’s usually cheaper than Art of Animation
- The rooms were recently refurbished
- Classic Hall contains the lobby, gift shop and food court so it’s a one-stop-shop for all your needs
- More than one person has the ability to get ready at the same time
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- $15 per night parking
- 24-hour ATM in the lobby
- In-room babysitting for children aged 6 months-12 years old
- Movies Under the Stars on select nights
- Jogging trail
- Some standard rooms are at least a 15 minute walk away from Classic Hall
- Limited indoor and outdoor seating
- The hotel rooms do not reflect the outside theming which could be misleading for a lot of guests, especially since Art of Animation tends to carry the outside theming into the individual rooms
- The property layout can be very confusing to navigate
- Only offers Skyliner transportation to Hollywood Studios and Epcot
- Smaller rooms, which may not be ideal for large families
Pros and Cons of Staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- The standard rooms are a bigger than other value resorts
- The rooms have that “Disney feel”
- 24-hour self service laundry
- Mail service at front desk
- 24-hour ATM in the lobby
- Jogging trail
- Movies Under the Stars on select nights
- Pricer than Pop Century
- Standard rooms are only themed to the Little Mermaid, so not a lot of flexibility
- Skyliner is your only transportation to Hollywood Studios and Epcot
- The Little Mermaid section is located the furthest from Animation Hall and the Skyliner
My Personal Thoughts On These Resorts
People seem to really love Pop Century, but personally, it’s not my favorite. I think the other hotels do the whole value resort thing a lot better and when I visited in October 2020, our stay felt really disorganized. First, because of COVID-19, there was limited seating both indoors and outside and if we wanted to bring food back to our room, we spent a half hour just walking back and forth from the lobby, excluding the time we spent waiting in line and trying to get our MyDisneyExperience app to work to scan the QR code to order. That was a very frustrating experience as neither one of us had a QR scanner installed in our phones and there was no warning that it was required, otherwise we would have downloaded it ahead of time. Because so many of us weren’t aware of that new rule, our Wifi barely worked so we spent 15-20 minutes just trying to load the scanner and confirm our food.
While it was really just a first day glitch, stuff like that can easily set the tone for what the rest of your day is going to be like. It was also confusing because you weren’t allowed to walk into the gift shop if you were waiting to pick up your food, but if you said you were just looking around, you were fine. It seemed like this resort went out of their way to make things confusing for everyone who stayed there. While the theming is cool, especially as a 90s kid who got a kick out of a pool being in the shape of a floppy disk, this was not my favorite experience because it didn’t have the Disney feeling I get when I go to other resorts. Maybe it was just an off week because as I said, people tend to LOVE this resort. This resort just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe visiting it when these restrictions aren’t in place will give me a better experience but as of writing this, it’s my least favorite resort on property. It just felt very disorganized, there’s a LOT of walking, the layout is pretty confusing and there isn’t enough Disney theming to really make me feel like I’m on Walt Disney World property. Again, this was just my experience and despite the rough start, our stay wasn’t bad, it just not my favorite.
Art of Animation, on the other hand, gives me that Disney feeling. While the value resorts get a lot of flack for being a little on the outdated side, Art of Animation feels fresh and I just love the themed sections of the resort. The Little Mermaid is also my favorite Disney movie, so I’m happy as a clam staying in one of their Little Mermaid-themed standard rooms. The theme is what I enjoy about Art of Animation over Pop Century, but if you know what to expect before you book your trip, I think a stay at Pop Century will meet your expectations. Just remember, to download a QR code before you leave and wear comfortable shoes.
At the end of the day, both resorts are a great option to consider for your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation. As with any resort, you want to make sure you book a room that meets your needs and works within your budget. Because both resorts are so similar in regards to proximity to the parks, layout, and transportation options, I think the biggest deciding factor will come down to room size, price and theming.
So what about you? Have you stayed at either one of these resorts? If so, what was your experience? Love them or totally hate them?
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.
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