Walt Disney World's Pandora: The World of Avatar.
Walt Disney World Of Avatar.
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No excuses not to visit the 12-acre land which is in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a theme park that relies more on lions and giraffes than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Disney thought the “Avatar” franchise fit in because of its messages about the value of nature and transformation through adventure.
Walt Disney World for decades has brought us face-to-face with our favourite movie characters. But in its new “Avatar”-themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the stars of the show are the stunning visual effects — soaring banshee flights, hovering mountains covered with waterfalls, a jungle of otherworldly, tropical-coloured plants.
The World of Avatar has its grand opening 27May17.
The 12-acre land is in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a theme park that relies more on lions and giraffes than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Disney thought the “Avatar” franchise fit in because of its messages about the value of nature and transformation through adventure.
Pandora’s designers aimed to immerse visitors into a new land they could enjoy without necessarily knowing the plot line of “Avatar,” a movie that came out almost a decade ago and won’t see its first sequel until 2020.
The land was designed to give visitors the impression that, “Pandora is real, you’re on it, this is where James Cameron made some movies,” said Joe Rohde, the Walt Disney Imagineering senior creative executive behind the project.
Guests will come face-to-face with the movie’s Na’vi aliens a few times in the themed land’s dark ride. You have fleeting encounters with them in a second, more thrilling attraction.
But don’t expect any character meet-and-greets with the Na’vi. After all, these are creatures who shied away from humans in the “Avatar” movie. It’s not as simple as a character painted blue waving around in a costume out there.
The place is Pandora, a moon that a greedy group of humans working for an organization called RDA plundered in search of a rare substance called unobtanium.
In Disney’s Pandora, however, the villains departed a generation ago.
Pandora is a land filled with Instagram opportunities. The hallmark is the 156-foot-tall “floating mountain” structure. There are also gardens with plants the colours of avocado, pomegranate and mangoes.
One looks like a Salvador Dali-inspired stained glass lamp. “Avatar” producer Jon Landau, said that’s just one example of something designed for the theme park that wasn’t actually in the movie.
Near the entrance, you can bang on a collection of drums embedded in tree stumps. And drumbeats will respond to you. Live musicians will sometimes perform in that area.
You’ll also hear viperwolves and Pandoran primates. The alien animal sounds will change as day shifts into night. After the sun goes down, Pandora will turn into a bio luminescent garden as flowers, plants and even the floor below light up.
At Pandora’s entrance, a sign resembling one you’d see in a national park welcomes you to the Valley of Mo’Ara and provides a map, though there’s nothing on it to indicate any rides. In keeping with the immersive environment, signs for the rides are small.
The first, Na’vi River Journey, is a traditional Disney “dark ride.” It takes you on a restful boat journey down a sacred river. You see bio luminescent plants, spinning orange disks, moving silhouettes of lizards on overhead leaves. An animatronic Shaman of Song gets plants to create music as she sings.
In sharp contrast to the calm river cruise is Flight of Passage, a 3-D simulator ride that sends visitors through some of the movie's most stunning landscapes.
An elaborate queue design includes a cave with hand-painted scenes on the ceilings.
It also includes a lab with science experiments and a life-sized Na’vi floating in a chamber.
Visitors are introduced to an on-screen scientist named Jackie Ogden. There are mock scans of brainwaves and bodies. (A video host solemnly informs everyone that they’ve all got parasites.) Then, it’s time to board individual scooter like vehicles lined up in a row in front of a screen and don 3D goggles.
It’s a fast-paced journey from sea to sky and everywhere in between.
The thrills start with the illusion you’re hanging over a valley, then plunging into it. You pass through a flock of banshees and come face to face with an aerial predator. You feel the mist of a rushing waterfall and shoot under the curl of a wave. There are close calls with tree limbs and a herd of stampeding beasts. A few moments of respite come in a darkened cave filled with floating woodsprites, which one rider reached out to touch.
Nearby, the quick-serve Satu’li Canteen allows diners to build their own combos of proteins, sauces and bases that include quinoa and vegetable salad and red and sweet potato hash. Is a cheeseburger more your culinary style? Here, it comes in the form of a steamed “pod” — a bao bun. Desserts include a cheesecake with an exterior of blue and yellow ovals that looks like something from the Jetsons’ dinner table.