Pixar Place Hotel Review: Exploring an Animation Fan’s Dream Resort at Disneyland California

As one of those kids who, in the mid-90s, got to see Toy Story in cinemas, having their minds blown by the possibilities of 3D animation in feature films, I can safely call myself part of the OG Pixar generation. And since then their hit rate has been second to none – with a catalogue of timeless films loved by fans of all ages.

This adoration makes me the target audience for the Pixar Place Hotel, which opened at the end of January across the street from Disneyland’s second gate, California Adventure.

So, did the world’s first Pixar Hotel prove a success? I was lucky enough to stay in the resort last month as Pixar Fest kicked off (read about this event HERE, running to August 4th) to find out for myself.

The History

When California Adventure opened in 2001, two new hotels opened with it – the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa – which sits within the park and opened alongside it – and the Paradise Pier Hotel, which actually opened the previous year. At that time it was a retheming of the Disney Pacific Hotel, which had been in operation since Disney took over the property in 1995, and previously the Emerald of Anaheim, when it first opened in 1984.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel in the early 2000s – Courtesy of d23.com.

Sitting across the road from the park, the updated 2000 theming accompanied the park’s land of the same name, Paradise Pier, where the now iconic Ferris Wheel and outdoor roller coaster (then called California Screamin’) sat. In 2018, to accompany the first Pixar Fest at the Californian parks, Paradise Pier was renamed Pixar Pier and the Screamin’ coaster rethemed to the Incredibles films – now known as the Incredicoaster. The Toy Story Mania attraction also sat in the section, having opened in 2008, and only the hotel would maintain the Paradise Pier name.

In January of this year, just a few months before the second Pixar Fest kicked off (read about this event HERE, running to August 4th), the Paradise Pier Hotel has finally been updated to match the changes in the park. Almost two years after first being announced, the Pixar Place Hotel has arrived.

And fun fact: Pixar Place was notably also the name used for Pixar’s land at Hollywood Studios in Orlando, before they transformed the area to Toy Story Land in 2018.

The Arrival

As you walk into the hotel, you’re greeted by the animation studio’s iconic lamp, sitting on top of their red, yellow and blue ball. Inside Out‘s Bing Bong was taking photos with guests next to it, and a mobile of characters from the history of Pixar hang overhead. These 2D representations showcase how the animation process starts – which is purposefully fitting, as it sits in the foyer that is the start of your holiday.

A beautifully lit and designed registration area sat to the left (pictured at the top of the article), with large stills from the film sitting behind the desks. I was checked in to the new hotel by friendly staff, and was even treated to a couple of treats on arrival.

The Design

They’ve done a fantastic job of balancing the playfulness of the Pixar catalogue, with a modern, refined hotel design. And it’s in the little details throughout the hotel that Pixar fans will find delight.

Pixar characters and branding can be seen in every aspect of the hotel. Look to the floors, where metallic silhouettes of Pixar characters are built in – just as they are at the Pixar Animation’s headquarters. I’m told 16 are hidden throughout the hotel. Every floor also has a unique mural by the elevators, each inspired by a different film.

The colours of the Pixar ball – red, blue and yellow – feature everywhere on the hotel. From the shampoo, conditioner and body wash that sit in the shower of your room, to the lights on the outside of the building. The rugs in the rooms, meanwhile, feature silhouettes of the lamp, and you’ll find a bolster pillow on the bed designed after the Pixar ball. The balls are playfully designed into the duvets as well.

And this design isn’t limited to the physical space – aurally they have you covered, too, playing lo-fi Pixar music playing throughout the hotel.

The Room

Comfort comes first in the elegant, yet colourfully designed space. Disney art adorns either side of the room, while the red, yellow and blue colour scheme continues – albeit in slightly more muted tones. And you’ll love the lighting – built into the parts of the wall that pop out – behind the TV and the bed.

The Art of Pixar coffee table book sits on the desk, which will delight many fans of the studio. Sitting above, is a large Samsung flat screen television, which has lots of built in complimentary Disney programming, as well as the ability to Chromecast and watch an extensive selection of live TV channels.

My room had two very comfortable Queen beds, with a large red couch, that has a pull out bed within it. The rooms with King beds also have a pull out Queen bed. The bathroom meanwhile, is small, bright, and filled with everything you could need – all branded with a Disney or Pixar touch. Including some playful Pixar artwork above the toilet.

By the closet near the room entry, there’s a capsule coffee and tea machine, complete with Pixar themed coasters and condiment kits. And an empty minifridge sits underneath.

This is also a hotel that has got you covered on the technology front. In addition to the ease of streaming your own content onto the TV, you’ll find USB-C And USB chargers all over the room. And there’s even a wireless charger on the alarm clock between the beds.

The one issue some rooms in this hotel face is noise. They still haven’t finished all the rooms – so some have to deal with construction noises during certain hours of the day. To counter this, noise cancelling machines are placed in the most affected rooms, which I think is a great (and necessary) touch.

While my room wasn’t affected by this, I did have to deal with noise from the adjoining room. I could hear just about everything that was being said in the room next to mine. So, for adjoining rooms, noise cancelling machines should also be included. I turned my phone into one and it did the same trick, but it was surprising just how easily the sound travelled between the two rooms. I know it’s somewhat unavoidable in this sort of set up, especially given the building is from the 80s, but they really should look at what they can do there. It was the only complaint of an otherwise impeccable experience.

The Amenities

There are three dining options within the hotel, with two on the ground floor behind the Pixar lamp. Firstly, the Sketch Pad Café offers light bites and coffee/drinks, is truly Pixar inspired. You’ll find artwork on the wall that showcases the history of the studio’s filmography, connected chronologically by lines.

The other doesn’t have any Pixar theming, but is still a new addition to the hotel; it’s a casual American dining hall, called the Great Maple Modern American Eatery. And is the fourth location in California of the brand. I had a fantastic steak sandwich, and they’re well known for their Maple Bacon Doughnuts, as well as an ever changing Doughnut special. We had the latter, which were covered in strawberries and served with cream – and delicious. You can check out their whole menu HERE.

If you book into a club level room, you’ll also have access to the Creator’s Club on the 2nd floor. The room – which officially opened on Friday – features the general amenities of a club level lounge, with complimentary food and drink, and a dedicated concierge. But my favourite part of the space is all the artwork that showcases the collaborations between Pixar and Walt Disney Imagineering from the parks around the world. You’ll see posters, pre-vis animations and even a model of the Slinky Coaster cars that you’ll find in Orlando.

This is also where you’ll come to learn to draw a Pixar character – one of the hotel’s inclusive activities, requiring bookings at the Front Desk. So speak to them when you check in (or enquire before you arrive) to see if you can be booked in for this experience. We learned to draw Nemo, which was a lot harder than it looked!

The hotel also offers a speaker series to guests staying at any of the three hotels of the Disneyland Resort. This past weekend, Peter Sohn, director of Elemental, spoke, and next up on Thursday, June 20th, will be Maurissa Horwitz, lead editor for Inside Out 2. Roger Gould, creative director, Theme Parks, for Pixar Animation Studios will be there on Saturday, July 13. Like with the drawing lessons, speak to a cast member at the front desk to see what the availability looks like for these.

There’s even free movie nights with Pixar and Disney Animation films – you’ll find the details on all these activities, and more, HERE.

Elsewhere in the hotel, you may have the opportunity to meet Bing Bong from Inside Out, he’ll pop up several days a week, and you’ll find Joe Gardner from Soul playing piano in the lobby on most days. Of course you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to see them, but you won’t find them anywhere else in the park.

Heading outside, exclusive for guests staying at the hotel is a new Finding Nemo water area, which sees an impressive new water slide added to the hotel amenities – within which you might just hear Crush’s voice as you fly along the water. It’s worthy of a spin for guests of all ages – I was personally surprised by just how much speed I got! The pool has a max depth of 4’11, and it’s on the smaller side, and there’s also a large hot tub nearby.

The pool is currently open from 9am to 9pm, but this changes the throughout the year, so check the website before you visit to be sure, or ask at the front desk. Day beds and cabanas can be reserved, and there’s lots of comfortable chairs that don’t need to be reserved.

This is also a fun spot to watch the Disneyland fireworks – with the audio coming through the outdoor speakers while you experience the fireworks from a distance. This is generally on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 930pm, though check the Disneyland website or app for the timing for your visit. Some rooms will also have great views, and the TVs have a channel through which you can listen to the audio for the Disneyland fireworks as well as the World of Color show at California Adventure.

You might also enjoy this sitting around fire pits designed around characters that have fire that come out of their head like the volcano from Lava, Anger from Inside Out or Ember from Elemental.

You can find the hotel’s third and final food and beverage offering, Small Bytes, right next to their outdoor games area. This area is known as the “Pixar Shorts Court”, which (similar to what you’ll find at Club Pixar) sees the shorter Pixar films getting some love in an outdoor games area open to the public – whether you’re staying at the hotel or not. Currently these are in operation daily from 11-5 (but check the website for up-to-date hours), and includes a Bao toss, a shuffleboard court inspired by La Luna and more.

The Location & Park Access

The hotel is across the street from the Grand Californian Hotel, and Disneyland’s second gate, Disney’s California Adventure.

Select rooms offer an amazing view of the park, where you’ll even be able to watch the park’s night spectacular World of Color – with a channel on the TV show designed to sync to the soundtrack when it’s operating, so you can enjoy the entire production – albeit from a distance – from the comfort of your hotel room. A perfect treat for a family with little ones that need to get to be earlier. Here’s the view from one such room!

You can get into California Adventure using your room key to get into a side entrance across the street, that takes you out right into Pixar Pier. Alternatively, you can enter the Grand Californian, from where you can enter Downtown Disney, or the park. If you leave by the back door of the hotel, you can go past the Disneyland Hotel and go straight to Tomorrowland in Disneyland, via the monorail. If you’re unsure of where to go, just ask the staff – they were incredibly helpful as we navigated the resort.

As a rule of thumb to get around the park and resorts – your hotel room key will give you access to all three hotels, including any gates you may see. Though not all resort features are accessible – usually the pools are exclusive to guests of that hotel only! But it does give you access to a few quick ways to around – like a gate that will bring you to the Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Room end of the Disneyland Hotel, a wonderfully themed bar that is very much worth a visit.

The Verdict

Though the hotel itself isn’t a new build, the update to the hotel has been an impressive one. Fans of Pixar will not be disappointed by the experience, from the grand entry (which may feature Bing Bong!), to the grand piano (which may feature Joe Gardner!), the lobby alone is worth a visit.

The rooms are very comfortable, and well designed – with fantastic Pixar theming in every inch of the design. And the lo-fi Pixar music that pumps through the building is honestly a vibe.

There are certainly issues with noise – I know it’s somewhat unavoidable in this sort of set up, and it’s a hotel from the 80s, but they really should look at what they can do there – like ensure every room that’s adjoining has a noise cancelling machine. But that’s where the complaints start and end – and will hopefully improve over time. Certainly on the construction front it will, and they’re already catering to that inconvenience well.

The pool area is fantastic, and I loved the water slide. The outdoor games are a nice addition – and you don’t even have to be staying at the park to enjoy them! The ease on entry into California Adventure gives it extra points – and the changes coming to Disney through the Disneyland Forward project will see it further integrated into the layout of the resort. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that all comes together.

All in all, Pixar Place Hotel is a must have experience for all fans of the Animation Studio. I leave with a deeper affection for the catalogue, and a strong desire to return!


Pixar Place Hotel is located at 1717 Disneyland Dr in Anaheim. Head HERE to book your next stay.

The author stayed as a guest of Disney Parks & Resorts for the launch of Pixar Fest 2024. For more on that event, head to this article. All photos by the author, unless otherwise listed

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.