Even before you check-in, the design of Walt Disney World’s Resort hotels immerse you in their theme from the moment you enter their grounds. A great example of this is the massive character sketches that line the front of the lobby building of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, welcoming guests to the hotel. Each of these four drawings illustrate the main character from each of the four Disney animated classics that inspired the various areas of the resort: Simba from “The Lion King,” Nemo from Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” Lightning McQueen from Disney•Pixar’s “Cars,” and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” By first depicting a character such as Ariel as drawings the first time she appears at “Art of Animation, this reminds those arriving of the many hands behind the scenes responsible for bringing the red-haired mermaid and her undersea world to life.
The 1989 release of “The Little Mermaid” may have been the film that launched the Disney Renaissance, but it also marked the end of an era for those in the studio’s Ink and Paint Department. The story of Ariel would be the last Walt Disney Animation Studios feature to be made using hand-painted cels, a method that had changed little since the introduction of the Xerox inking process over a quarter century earlier. The film’s final scene gave a hint at what was to come with a single shot utilizing the then-new CAPS system, which allowed animation drawings to be inked and painted via a computer, and the next year’s “The Rescueres Down Under” would be the first Disney animated feature to rely solely on the CAPS for its coloring needs. Given the enormous success of “The Little Mermaid” and its status as of of Disney’s most beloved classics, at least non-digital ink and paint was able to go out on a high note.