On Victory Way near the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is Pop Century Resort. Originally designed to be completed in phases, the resort opened its first section in 2004. The second phase was canceled in favor of a new Value resort, Disney’s Art of Animation. Pop Century is a near-clone of the All-Star Resorts—that is, four-story, motel-style buildings arranged around a central pool, food court, and registration area. Decorative touches make the difference. Where the All-Star Resorts display larger-than-life icons from sports, music, and movies, and Art of Animation is inspired by Disney cartoons, Pop Century draws its icons from decades of the 20th century and their attendant popular culture: building-size Big Wheels, Hula Hoops, and the like, punctuated by silhouettes of people doing the jitterbug and the twist.
The public areas at Pop Century are marginally more sophisticated than the ones at the All-Star Resorts, with 20th-century period furniture and decor rolled up in a saccharine, those-were-the-days theme. A food court, a bar, a playground, pools, and so on emulate the All-Star Resorts model in size and location. A Pop Century departure from the All-Star precedent has merchandise retailers thrown in with the fast-food concessions in a combination dining-and-shopping area. This apparently is what happens when a giant corporation tries to combine selling pizza with hawking Goofy hats. (You just know the word synergy was used like cheap cologne in those design meetings.) As at the All-Star Resorts and Art of Animation, there’s no full-service restaurant.
The resort is connected to the rest of Walt Disney World by bus, but because of the limited dining options, we recommend having a car. Running $107–$209 per night, guest rooms at Pop Century are small at 260 square feet. The decor is upbeat, with white bedspreads and blue walls. Wall art depicts pop memorabilia from decades past. Cherry-finish wood-inlaid furniture and blue-and-tan-patterned carpet provide an upscale touch, but these are not rooms you’d want to spend a lot of time in. Bathrooms are tiny and counter space a scarce commodity. Worst of all, we’ve received many complaints from readers that the soundproofing between rooms is inadequate. A lake separating Pop Century from the Art of Animation Resort offers water views not available at the All-Star Resorts.
In spring 2016, an alert reader sent us photos of what appeared to be Disney testing a completely revamped Pop Century room style. It starts from the ground up, literally: The carpet is replaced with a modern hardwood-floor look. The modern touches extend throughout the room. One feature we love is that the second bed in the room is a fold-down option, as at Art of Animation. When the bed isn’t in use, it disappears into the wall, freeing up floor space (and turning into a desk). The bulky armoire–television stand is replaced by built-in shelving and a wall-mounted monitor. The bathroom overhaul is stylish and efficient, with lots more shelf space, plenty of storage, and a modern shower. We hope this spreads like kudzu across Disney’s Value resorts.
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Pop Century Resort
The best rooms for both view and convenience are the lake-view rooms in Buildings 4 and 5, representing the 1960s. Another option, though with a less compelling view, would be rooms in the same building facing east, toward the registration and food-court building. Next-best choices would be the east-facing rooms of 1950s Building 3 and 1970s Building 6.
Avoid south-facing rooms in 1980s Building 7 and 1990s Building 8. Both are echo chambers for noise from nearby Osceola Parkway. Finally, so-called preferred rooms at Pop Century, which are closer to the main pool and lobby, cost about $7–$17 more than others. They’re definitely closer, but they probably save only 5 minutes of walking per day and subject you to more noise from guests walking past your room. We don’t think these rooms are worth the extra cost. Finally, note that guest rooms don’t have private patios or balconies.
For more hotel reviews, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.