Star Tours Meets Soarin’ – Pandora Attractions Review (Part 2 of 3)

I was hoping for more.

With all the hype, I thought these two new attractions would blow me away!  But they didn’t.  To be sure, they were definitely worth riding, but not enough to make me go back and wait in that interminably long line again.  With such incredible innovations like Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Radiator Springs Racers, Mystic Manor, and Expedition Everest, you would think Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey would just simply be mind-blowing.  But they weren’t.

Attraction: Flight of Passage
Theme Park: Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Type: Motion simulator thrill ride
Height Requirements: 44 inches or taller (112cm) – NOTE there are size restrictions by body type for this attraction!
Worth the Wait?: Definitely would wait 60-90 minutes for the attraction and worth a FastPass+ slot even if its your only one – but unless its the only time you’ll ever visit WDW don’t wait more than that – there are too many other great attractions you’ll miss from waiting in line for this one

Flight of Passage was tons of fun!  But it was basically a combination of Star Tours and Soarin’ in one attraction (complete with 4D elements like Soarin’ had).  Considering the huge popularity of both those rides, Flight is sure to be a hit.  But I was surprised at some of the design flaws in the ride.  It was too easy to see the edges of the screen.  You didn’t feel as if you were actually linked to your avatar – especially since a simple look to the left or right showed you the screen AND the other riders.  It would have been more innovative to equip riders with virtual reality goggles that encompass your vision.  They could explain it as a new form of linking to an avatar.  That would have restricted the screen snafu and prevented you from seeing the other riders while still immersing you in the experience.  Still there were lots of cool experiences you’ll have during this ride.  Definitely worth your one FastPass+ choice but I don’t know if I would spend more than

An example of the video screen technology used in the Na’vi River Journey attraction

The other flaw in the design is the size restriction for the ride – which Disney does not communicate well as one Disney Parks Blog fan wrote:

…make sure you can fit in the Banshee ride before waiting 2 to 3 hours in line. This ride was built for an average size person only. If you are really large or really tall, you will not fit and not be allowed on. So check before you wait. Just ask any [g]uest service person to show you the seat you will be sitting in as they have one outside under the floating mountain. They are not that great about telling you this up front and many people waited over 3 hours on the opening weekend only to be turned away once they were at the entrance of the ride. So check before you wait or blow a fast pass on it.

Rose Thornson on June 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm

After riding it, I wasn’t sure why this ride couldn’t be adapted to almost anyone.  The attraction was far more tame than Big Thunder Mountain, Expedition Everest, or even Splash Mountain which can accommodate most body shapes without restriction.  It’s also embarrassing and degrading to make it to the ride only to be told you’re too big to ride.  Is that good Disney guest service?  So although really fun, too many flaws pull you out of being submerged into the Pandora experience.

Attraction: Na’vi River Journey
Theme Park: Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Type: Uneventful boat ride
Height Requirements: None
Worth the Wait?: If you’ve never been on it a 30-minute wait isn’t asking too much.  More than that I would seriously have to think about it.  Not worth a FastPass+ use – especially when Flight of Passage is so much better.

As for the Na’vi River Journey, it was basically a short version of It’s A Small World.  Lots of video screens with only one Audio-Animatronic character and the Na’vi Shaman at the end was nothing extraordinary.  The figures in Frozen Ever After seemed more complex.  Now, I don’t know the actual mechanics of it all so it could be extremely more complex, but not from watching it.  And isn’t that all that matters?  Don’t get me wrong.  I liked it and thought it was beautiful.  The flora and fauna in the ride was amazing and really awe-inspiring to look at.  But it seemed to be mostly video screens instead of actual figures.  Screen technology has the benefit of being more fluid but it’s been used a lot by the Imagineers lately.  When it was first used in Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage it was cool.  When they used it again in Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland it was cool.  But now it’s like a crutch.  Instead of using real Audio-Animatronics, they just go with screens.

And why was I on this ride?  There wasn’t a coherent story being told or a reason we are on the boat.  What are we witnessing?  I was surprised that the queue was uneventful and without any clues to the story involved.  Why were the Na’vi migrating?  And for those unfamiliar with the film Avatar (come on it was eight years ago), you would not have a good frame of reference for anything you’re seeing.  My daughter, who is now 13, was barely 5 when the first film came out.  And let’s face it, as popular as the film was when it came out, it didn’t have the lasting power of Star Wars or Star Trek or Harry Potter.  It’s largely forgotten in pop culture today.  A refresher would have been good.

I love the work of the Disney Imagineers and have been a huge fan for decades.  I love the innovative ideas they often come up with and I’m sure some will think my review heretical since it has been getting rave reviews from many other places.  But for the Disney Nerds out there who expect Disney to outshine even itself, these two attractions had some definite flaws.  I would still recommend riding them, but with the noted reservations.  Will you still think it’s worth it?  Sure.  But Cars Land probably is still the benchmark for new land creation.

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