It’s no lie: if you’ve ever visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom down at Walt Disney World, you may have found it a bit lacking. While it is the largest of all of the theme parks that encompass Walt Disney World (580 acres to be exact), it also seems to lack a feeling of that Disney magic. For animal lovers, it can be a sort of mecca, but for others who are there to experience pixie dust, movie magic, and the Mouse, it tends to be a bit lack luster and warrants only half a day to see everything it has to offer. Now it seems a change is on the horizon.
It was clear that Disney had to change a bit and shake things up if they wanted Animal Kingdom’s almost 11 million annual attendance to get anywhere close to Magic Kingdom’s 20 million. They’ve added night time safaris on Kilimanjaro Safaris, a light show on The Tree of Life, and a night time water show called Rivers of Light. But there was something else that Disney was adding–something big behind the scenes–for the last six years now:
Pandora-The World of Avatar, or, as it’s unofficially been called since the announcement of it’s impending arrival: Avatar Land.
Now it may seem a bit odd that Disney–movie giant that it is–would add something to their parks that is most certainly not Disney. Avatar is not a Disney film. On the contrary! It’s a 20th Century Fox production with no affiliations to Disney whatsoever. And with so many films that do take place in the wild-The Jungle Book, Tarzan, UP, and The Lion King to name a few-it seems a bit odd that Disney would choose a sci-fi world to represent in their otherwise conservation and science driven park… but on September 20, 2011, it was announced that Avatar was, indeed, coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Construction began on January 10, 2014 and it was recently announced that we could expect an opening date of May 27th of this year.
So what can we expect to find in this $500 million (yes… $500 million), 12-acre addition to the theme park?
Well, it is now a generation after the events of the 2009 film and the Na’vi and humans have made peace with one another and as a way to introduce humans to their home, Alpha Centauri Expeditions will take you to the planet of Pandora.
This new land at Animal Kingdom will replace the character meet and greet spot, Camp Minnie-Mickey (I’m trying to not be too upset about this) and feature the iconic floating mountains of Pandora, alien wildlife (most likely in the form of puppets or animatronics), and bioluminescent plant life that will actually be able to interact with Guests.
We will be able to meet characters, watch shows, shop, eat, and, of course, ride attractions as well.
The first attraction is called Avatar: Flight of Passage. Here, Guests will be able to fly with a Mountain Banshee through a virtual reality flying simulator in the same way that Guests fly through the galaxy on Star Tours or around the world on Soarin’.
The second attraction designed specifically for this new addition is called the Na’vi River Journey. It will be a more peaceful, scenic boat ride along the Kasvapan River. Here, Guests will be able to get a glimpse at the strange and alien plant and animal life found on Pandora.
There will also be places for Guests to be able to grab some food while exploring Pandora. There will be a quick service kiosk called Pongu Pongu and an actual sit down, full service restaurant called Satu’li Canteen. This will be a much needed addition to the limited number of dining options already found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Elements of the original film will be included in this new part of the theme park and it will also include aspects of the next four sequels planned for the franchise… of course, no one knows how long we’ll have to wait to see those but, we’ll get a little taste while at Animal Kingdom.
And this may not be the last that we see of Avatar in the Disney Parks. With their exclusive agreement with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment company, this could mean more Avatar themed lands opening up in parks all over the world. There are tentative plans to open Avatar lands in both Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, though no concrete plans have been made just yet.
While this new addition to the park is a bit controversial, it is nice to see big changes coming to Animal Kingdom… a park that was in major need of a face lift, and while I would have much preferred a Tarzan themed area or maybe even Paradise Falls from UP, I have to admit that what we’ve already seen of Pandora is incredible and mind blowing.
Pandora-The World of Avatar opens on May 27th. Are you planning on taking a trip to see the home of the Na’vi or is The Last Airbender the only Avatar in your life? Let us know in the comments!
Amanda Woomer-Limpert is The Geekiverse’s Disney expert. You can catch her on The Geekiverse Show.
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