Disney and James Cameron joined together to develop an entire land in Animal Kingdom based on the box-office hit, Avatar. Never in Disney’s history has an entire new land in one of its theme parks been dedicated to a non-Disney property until now. While it remains to be seen if Avatar will have the lasting staying power of other Disney collaborations (Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises to name two), plans for the new land are past the development stage and deep into implementation with a projected opening date in 2017. While Disney is famous for keeping things under wraps to enhance the wonder for guests, it’s hard to hide the floating mountains of Avatar that are already starting to appear in the Animal Kingdom skyline. At the D23 Expo 2015, some details and a a large scale model of the new area were revealed that gave attendees an idea of what the finished land will be like.
From this video presented at the 2013 D23 Expo in Tokyo, details of the project were given more life. A boat ride through the bio-luminescent forest will be one of two featured attractions along with a flight on a banshee ride that looks like a ride akin to Soarin’ which has proved to be immensely popular among guests. Joe Rohde, chief Imagineer for the new area, promises new technology will make Pandora a reality.
The Na’vi River Journey will take guests deep into the forest on canoes where the life on Pandora will be revealed as they pass by. According to Disney photos and press release, the ride will culminate with an “encounter with a Na’vi shaman.” Flights of Passage is the name of the Banshee ride guests will embark upon over Pandora. And Base Camp will be the area where food and souvenirs will be located, modeled partially after what we see onscreen.
Pandora is beginning to take shape. Because the structures are so high, some of the construction cannot be hidden and it gives us a rare glance into seeing the magic taking shape. How the islands will appear to be floating is one of the many mysteries surrounding the evolution of Pandora. What will be more interesting will be to see how Disney masks the beams needed to hold the islands in the air and to watch it move toward completion. Pandora is part of Disney’s initiative to turn Animal Kingdom which traditionally has been pretty much a daytime park into a full day experience. With apparently bioluminscent flooring in the Pandora area, the land will come to life in new ways after dark. This will be coupled with the new Rivers of Light show being produced for the park and set to open this year. Now I wonder if that big blue moon is just a prop or will actually be part of the experience in Pandora? I guess only time will tell.