Walt Disney World first announced plans in September 2011 to bring Avatar inspired attractions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment.
Initially dubbed Avatar Land, construction finally started in early 2014 and was completed in 2017 at a total cost of around $800m. In 2015 it was renamed Pandora – The World of AVATAR.
It finally opened on May 27, 2017 (Memorial Day weekend) following soft openings for annual pass holders.
It offers guests an immersive experience of the planet Pandora and the Na’vi people and culture with floating mountains, a family friendly boat ride through a jungle of lush bioluminescent plants and a new flight attraction called AVATAR Flight of Passage where guests can experience what it is like to fly on the back of a banshee over an alien world.
It is the largest expansion in the park’s history and it is hoped it will transform Animal Kingdom into an all day attraction for the first time with nighttime entertainment. The last major attraction to open was Expedition Everest in 2006. With its lush natural vegetation and landscaping Animal Kingdom is the obvious candidate for this kind of makeover.
Access is via a bridge near the new Tiffins restaurant on Discovery Island, which leads you towards the Alpha Centauri Expeditions base camp.
The Na’vi River Journey water ride through a bioluminescent rainforest is a “family friendly” ride and compares to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that opened recently at the new Shanghai Disneyland Resort. It features the most amazing animatronic figure ever produced by Disney.
The second major attraction is an aerial ride on a Banshee, called Avatar Flight of Passage which is similar in technology to Soarin’ at Epcot.
There is also a restaurant called Satu’li Canteen feature Na’vi art plus Windtraders, a gift shop and Pongu Pongu serving speciality drinks.
Closure of Camp Mickey-Minnie
To make way for Pandora, a number of attractions have been closed or moved.
The former Camp Mickey-Minnie was the first to be closed and one of Animal Kingdom’s favourite attractions, Festival of the Lion King, was moved into the Harambe Theatre in the Africa section of the park in 2014.
In Summer 2014, the daily parade, Mickey’s Jungle Jammin’ Parade was closed after 12 years as part of its route is being redeveloped for the major Pandora Avatar land expansion.
The original Avatar is the highest grossing film in history taking a staggering $2.7bn at the box office.
James Cameron has stated that there are three planned sequels to Avatar. The first will be released in December 2016 with the others in 2017 and 2018. This fits in well with a planned opening date of 2017 for the Pandora-themed land at Animal Kingdom.
Disney has exclusive rights to the Avatar brand and there is the potential to roll out the Avatar themed land to other Disney parks.
This is not the first time Disney have looked elsewhere for character attractions, Indiana Jones and Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios immediately come to mind.