Why Pandora Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype (Part 1 of 3)

Not as impressed as I thought I would be.

By any other theme park standards (outside of Disney), Pandora – The World of Avatar would be awesome.  But by Disney standards it’s good but not great.  Certainly not worth the overwhelming hype it’s been getting.  I’m hoping that the new Star Wars inspired lands will be more impressive but now I’m worried since it is following the same pattern as Pandora – two attractions and lots of food and merchandise.  From all the build-up for Pandora, I expected something even better than Cars Land at Disney California Adventure – a truly immersive experience that transports you to another world.  But I didn’t feel that.

The banshee we were hoping to see – digitally planted there by the photographer

Architecturally, it was massively impressive.  The floating mountains are gorgeous to look at.  And even though it’s obvious they are not really floating, it still is awe-inspiring.  The landscaping was also beautiful.  Rich flora covers the land, the waterfalls are beautiful, and sounds of animals can be heard hiding in the bushes (although never seen).  It was so realistic, I half expected drones that look like Pandora banshees (ikron) to come flying around the floating mountains.  Now THAT would have been jaw-dropping.  Maybe next time.

  •   The merchandise at Windtraders is also pretty impressive.

But there are definitely flaws.  After exploring Pandora, I was sent a survey by Disney asking about my experience and one of the questions was whether or not I felt transported to the planet.  I said no.  While the landscaping is impressive, it didn’t feel like I was taken somewhere else.  Instead it felt like a zoo – a little piece of Pandora transported to Earth.  To really make us feel as if we went somewhere, it would have been better to build a gateway with mist blowing through it to make us feel we were going through a portal to another world.

Love the waterfall behind these lantern/plants

Also, the nighttime experience was only okay.  It didn’t feel like the flora came alive.  Instead it felt like someone threw glow paint on the ground and put Christmas tree lights in the plants.  With all the hype, I expected to be overwhelmed in awe, but daytime was more impressive because you could really see the majesty of the floating mountains.  So much was said about the nighttime experience, I thought we would see micro-filaments embedded in the ground that would shift in color, plants that would change color or shift in intensity with the wind, or something more impressive than what was actually there.

More of the plants – they look like blue versions of the Cars Land tail light flowers that also glow at night

The complete lack of signage is also disturbing.  Because the pathways are purposely winding, there is no way to easily determine where the attraction entrance is.  Or anything else for that matter.  I read that was done intentionally to give the area a more “authentic” feel.  Why would there be signs in the middle of the Na’vi forest?  But they didn’t worry about that detail when building any other land in any other park and for good reason.  It’s hard to find what you’re looking for without some sense of direction.  Confused guests are unhappy guests.

Overall, the new themed land is a nice addition to Animal Kingdom and does expand the park’s offering to be more of a full-day theme park.  There are many fun and worthwhile things explored in Pandora.  The rides are enjoyable, the food is fun and different, the merchandise is cool, and the atmosphere is amazing in the day.  Is it worth a visit?  Most definitely. But it didn’t live up to the hype.

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