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Disney bringing Avatar to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

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Published: September 20, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Disney announced today that it has secured the theme park rights to James Cameron's Avatar - the number-one box office movie of all time - for a new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Avatar
Art from James Cameron's Avatar, coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2016.

Construction will begin by 2013 for the new land, which will include multiple rides and other experiences (figure some shopping and dining, at least). The debut is scheduled for 2016 - five years from now. That construction timeframe roughly matches that of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, which had a similar budget to what Disney expects to spend on Avatar. Walt Disney Imagineering is in the design phase now, and James Cameron is working with Imagineering on the project.

With its huge reservoir of intellectual property, Disney usually doesn't look outside the company for themes to new attractions, especially now that Pixar is part of the Disney family. But Disney has secured outside contracts before, most notably for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. And don't forget that Hollywood Studios was originally the Disney-MGM Studios. Avatar earned more money than any other motion picture in history (not adjusted for inflation), but it's only been one movie so far. It's not the franchise of multiple films and books that Star Wars and Harry Potter represent.

Ah, yes, Harry Potter. File this with Fantasyland and Star Wars and we now see Disney's answers to Universal's Potter development. But will Avatar have the emotional connection with visitors that Potter has demonstrated? It seems weird to ask this of a Disney project, but - will it have the "magic"?

We'll be waiting to see what Imagineering develops. But for now? Wow, what potential.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What would you do with Disney's Avatar land?

Update: Disney CEO Bob Iger said that Avatar will be coming to other Disney parks after it debuts at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom. Where would it fit in Disneyland?

Update 2: Twitter followers have suggested that Middle Earth would have been a better get for Disney, as Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit have more dedicated fan bases and the franchise more storytelling potential. Let's throw that into the 'what do you think' mix for the comments.

Update 3: You know I love polls:

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 11:05 AM
What a coup! Disney now has their "Harry Potter" killer. Time to dust off the old Beastly Kingdom plans...?

I can only imagine what WDI can do with the unique and immersive world of Cameron's Avatar. Start saving your pennies now... will probably see the results in about 2015 or 2016... (if the world is still around, of course!)

From 168.254.225.251 on September 20, 2011 at 10:54 AM
Huh? I thought Universal was getting the rights to Avatar to replace Terminator. I bet it'll fail.
From Jack Curley on September 20, 2011 at 10:57 AM
They should make everything in the land in 3D.
From Reid Loveland on September 20, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Avatar came out last year. Add to that the 3 or more years to design and build the ride. By the time it opens only the die-hard Avatar fans are going to really care.

I say, "Meh..." I'll ride it but won't wait in line for it (maybe it will have Fast Pass).

From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 11:09 AM
FYI - there are at least two more films planned for the "Avatar Series".
From E Ticket on September 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Shrewd business, and full of creative possibilites. Crossing my fingers.
From Ashleigh Noad on September 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM
To be completely honest, I thought this was a joke! How does this fit into Animal Kingdom?! Avatar isn't 'mythical' if anything it is fantasy?

Did not see this coming at all. I thought Universal had the rights to Avatar!

From 82.9.115.58 on September 20, 2011 at 11:30 AM
This means that WWoHP phase 2 will CERTAINLY BE CONSTRUCTED (and now probably with bigger, more expensive attractions than first planned) for around 2015 or 2016. That is the definitive timeframe, so that Universal can compete with Disney.

Great news for theme park fans.

I just wonder if Universal have any money left that they WANT to put into more HP attractions. I know WWoHP generates income and profit, but with new ownership of the resort now, I doubt that another big development will occur at Universal Orlando for perhaps 20 years.

FFS, mini golf? Dispicable Me? Give me a break.

From 38.104.98.62 on September 20, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Oh, let's face it. This new "Avatar" land will just be the discarded Beastly Kingdom concepts dressed up in Na'vi blue.

Disney made a huge, huge error when they passed on "Harry Potter." Now they're just compounding that error by latching on to a property that already feels dated and stale.

From Anon Mouse on September 20, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Smurf II. Really, that's what I think Avatar is.

It will fit in Animal Kingdom, but will they create another huge tree? Or will they repurpose the existing tree and swap out the 3D Bug's Movie for Avatar. Many possibilities, but I can't help thinking it WON'T be the same as Harry Potter.

If Disney want to beat Harry Potter, they should have stuck with Star Wars. Create a new land and new rides based from this property. Rumor is George Lucas is thinking of new sequel trilogy, 7, 8, 9. Disney is dumb to not expand on this.

http://www.deadline.com/2010/01/avatar-spoiler-alert-avatar-spoiler-alert/

From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Who is to say DHS won't get that coveted Star Wars land at some point? But let's face it, DAK needs something, and AVATAR is the perfect fit, if you ask me.
From luis gonzalez on September 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM
this is a knee jerk reaction to the success of wwohp. i think its totally out of character for disney to basically be the follower to universal's leader. I also think it sets an alarming trend toward making lands for flavor of the month entertainment. I love harry potter, and the wwohp is great but, i wanna see more timeless attractions not based on box office gross. In ten years splash mountain is not going to be passe', i dont know if the same can be said about avatar.
From 76.240.21.167 on September 20, 2011 at 11:53 AM
I actually hate this idea. Yes, Avatar was a stunning movie visually, but the story line was mediocre. And Disney has ALWAYS been all about story telling. They can do amazing things with this but I don't see how it fits. Sticking with Star Wars or going with something like Lord of the Rings would have been a much better choice. These movies have a much more dedicated fan base. I've never met anyone who feels emotionally connected with Avatar like I have Star Wars or LOTR.
From Max LaZebnik on September 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Such a brilliant idea! Avatar was such a great film and I actually like this idea way better than the Cars Land one at DCA. It makes me wonder if Disneyland will get an avatar-style attraction either at DCA or in Tomorrowland.
From duncan henny on September 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM
hoo raaa soarin' over pandora
From Andrew Mooney on September 20, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Ahhh!!! This is amazing. I cannot hold my excitement. I am totally hyped to see what Disney have in the works. Finally WDW's ailing park gets a Harry Potter beater.
From Tim Odom on September 20, 2011 at 12:18 PM
As someone who is not a fan of Avatar (really, it is Dances with Wolves in spaaaaaace), I can see how this would work. Avatar, even with all it's science fiction-y stuff, is still a very 'pro-nature' movie.

With sequels in the work, this could be huge. Remember, the first made around $2.7 billion worldwide, which is a ludicrous number for a single film (for reference, the ENTIRE Harry Potter series made around $7.69 billion, and that is counting 8 films against 1.)

Also, putting this in Animal Kingdom is big. That park needs another E-ticket ride, badly. Maybe this will get them to, I don't know, fix the damn Yeti. Maybe Disney will finally catch up with Universal and put a Spider-Man-like dark ride in. Only 10+ years late there...

Disney needs something to get away from catering mostly to little girls. I thought it would be Marvel (that they would somehow buy out the Marvel deal with Universal and put stuff in DHS, which would not fix AK in any way.) This is probably the best solution for them.

But I still hate Avatar.

Also, to those that say Lord of the Rings would be a better fit, it would. But, it will never, ever, ever, ever happen. Tolkien HATED, with the fury of a thousand suns, Disney, and supposedly put it in his will that Disney would never have anything to do with any adaptation of Lord of the Rings. As much as that disappoints me, that's the unfortunate truth of it.

From Mark Fairleigh on September 20, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Didn't really care for the movie so the franchise alone isn't a draw for me, but interested in seeing what Disney comes up with. I can see it fitting into AK since the whole movie is based around the idea of respecting nature. But Avatar was a juggernaut for the visuals and the promises of major eye candy, not because people are in love with all things Avatar, so unless Disney pulls out the works it will not have the inherent drawing power of Harry Potter for those folks who dont go gaga over anything and everything Disney. Its good its not being placed at DHS or I'd never bother. AK I like, so I'll be interested to see what they come up with.
From TROY DAVIDSON on September 20, 2011 at 12:21 PM
AVATAR was one big gimmick! Visually 3D impressive, but the storyline was a big mess. I can tell you it didn't inspire me to watch it more then once and I see no need to buy any merchandise related to it. I don't think I ever saw one Avatar toy in the store. Beastly Kingdom or Lord of the Rings would have been a much better fit for Animal Kingdom. The best visuals from Avatar were the night visuals with the glowing plants and animal life; There basically putting this in a park that closes before it gets dark. Animal Kingdom is a day park that closes early. I'm sure Universal will decide to build Potter 2.0 in the next few years and will still blow Disney out of the water. Disney needs more in the Studios and EPCOT as well as enhancing Animal Kingdom. I think this is a huge mistake and I doubt the next films will live up to all the hype of the first film. Give us Pixar Place and Cars land at the Studios!
From Robert Niles on September 20, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Thanks to a Twitter follower, the new TPI nickname for the Avatar project is... "Blue Bayou."
From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM
I am shocked at the negativity, to be honest. I don't see a downside to this expansion at all. And someone, somewhere must have liked Avatar, because it so far outdistances all other films in terms of money making that the next closest film on the list (Titanic - another Cameron film) is almost $1 billion behind!

Now, I'm not saying Avatar is a great story, but it is a good story - certainly as good as the unoriginal tales of both Star Wars and Harry Potter, and it will make a great expansion.

And, as Tim Odom said earlier, this Avatar expansion will finally allow Everest to take an extended vacation in order to fix the YETI! Hoorah!!

From Brandon Mendoza on September 20, 2011 at 12:48 PM
I'm not a fan of the movie as a whole or the 3D gimmick, but I do like the idea of a world dedicated to something like this. It fits with the natural theme of DAK. I'm all for a Star Wars one as well. I'd rather be dropped into a complete world of a movie franchise than to be in some disjointed place like Disneyland's Tomorrowland.
From Michael Owen on September 20, 2011 at 1:02 PM
I think people are too quick to jump onto the idea that this is a direct reaction to Harry Potter over at Universal.

Disney is adding a land themed to an incredibly popular movie to a park which has, for the majority of its existence, propped up the rest of Disney's Orlando parks in terms of attendance.

Whilst the Fantasyland Expansion is a welcome addition to the resort, it works to further boost attendance at a park which is already the worlds most popular, with the trickle down effect of an increase in attendance likely to be minimal at the other three parks.

Another major E-ticket, alongside several other attractions, themed around a hugely popular movie franchise, will give people more incentive to visit Animal Kingdom, spending more time on Walt Disney World property and push guests towards longer stays, increasing Disney's ticket, hotel and in-park revenue.

From TH Creative on September 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM
Robert once authored a BRILLIANT piece about how Disney packages its tickets to keep people at its parks and on its property. That is Diseny’s It is such a wise strategy. Walt Disney World or purchasing Walt Disney World multi-day tickets can spend $10 bucks for an extra day at a fourth theme park ($40.00 for a family of four). Or they can shell out $85 for a Universal park ($340.00 for a family of four). Avatar is a visually stunning film featuring strange characters in an amazing world. James Camaeron is a visionary who is now enabled to apply his talent in a new medium (theme parks). How anyone can regard this announcement as anything other than a brilliant means of maintaining Disney’s business model (keeping people on the property) while creating a partnership with an extraordinary artist like Cameron defies any standard of reasonability.

This announcement is full of WIN!

From Mike Gallagher on September 20, 2011 at 1:49 PM
Unfortunately, "Couldn't Care Less" was not a voting option.
From Anon Mouse on September 20, 2011 at 1:53 PM
@TH "How anyone can regard this announcement as anything other than a brilliant means of maintaining Disney’s business model"

Brilliant is too strong a word to describe Disney these days. I don't think so. If I look to the New Fantasyland project as an example of Disney, it falls short by a large margin. They may have spent a lot of money, but it does nothing to keep people excited about its prospects.

Until I see it, I have strong doubts about "Avatar". The emphasis on Pandora is its biggest weakness. What was visually exciting on the screen might be not translated to a physical land. I can see the similarity with Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life and the Bugs 3D movie. Swap them out for Avatar, but what else. Will there be a transplant of DCA's Bugsland. You walk into the fake paradise of Pandora. You ride the dragons in a simulator. Okay, I already can see how it can be exciting for a few minutes, but to wait 3 hours for it? Not going to happen.

What's unsaid was Cameron's previous involvement with Universal's Terminator 3D show. Will they do the same thing here? A stunt show with one actor in a wheel chair. Wonderful. How about a salty scientist? Will it be PG-13? They will have to bring the entertainment down a notch for Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Again, they are missing an opportunity with Star Wars.

From Andy Milito on September 20, 2011 at 2:05 PM
Wow......didn't see that coming. Good for Disney!
From José María Sandoval on September 20, 2011 at 2:13 PM
This announcement define this decade, and the future of some others disney parks
From Jill Harrington on September 20, 2011 at 2:25 PM
Love and support the idea of expanding DAK in some way - hate this way... Avatar is not Disney, in my opinion. I have my thoughts on why that film did so well at the box office (not adjusted for inflation, BTW), but I don't think it will honestly support a 'land' in a theme park that many visitors simply run into, ride a single ride or two, and then leave. If the idea is to bring more folks in to DAK to stay, I don't think this is necessarily the right way.

I'd rather revisit the Beastly Kingdom ideas of old, go the LOTR route, or hey - how about this - build a land based on Disney intellectual property!

So many great ways to expand a park with wonderful potential - I don't think this somewhat obscure film is it...

From Carlo Guardascione on September 20, 2011 at 2:29 PM
Goodbye Rafiki's Planet Watch. You were boring anyway.
From Joshua Conlon on September 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM
Sorry but this is a HUGE FAIL on Disney's part. I've never even seen Avatar, and I don't want to from what I've heard of it.
Disney has a huge Star Wars following already, why not capitalize on that even farther and build the Star Wars land that should have already been in the works.
If Disney wanted to compete with Harry Potter, then Star Wars would have done it.
Fail Disney!!!!
From TH Creative on September 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM
Anon Mouse: Again, they are missing an opportunity with Star Wars.

I Respond: Why are the franchises mutually exclusive? Who says Disney won't build attractions affiliated with BOTH 'Star Wars' as well as 'Avatar?' I believe Disney is targeting 2021 (50th anniversary). Magic Kingdom: the Fantasyland expansion, Animal Kingdom: Avatar ($2 billion sales worldwide), EPCOT: Brazil and (why not) Disney Hollywood Studios: "Lucasland." Why on earth does the addition of 'Avatar' elimnate any chance that Disney will EXPAND its EXISTING relationship with George Lucas? The addition of the new 'Star Tours' and the annual "Star Wars Weekend" event, seems an indication of a healthy partnership.

Anon Mouse: Brilliant is too strong a word to describe Disney these days. I don't think so. If I look to the New Fantasyland project as an example of Disney, it falls short by a large margin.

I respond: You have GOT to be kidding. The aggressive addition of the princess franchise featuring multiple attractions, dining and meet and greets in a beautiful, landscaped setting "falls short?"

(Chuckle)

The Ledger.com: "Disney officials say this (the Disney princesses) has now morphed into a $4 billion dollar industry that draws girls of prime princess age, three to eight years, and their families to the Disney parks and has helped propel a new Fantasyland renovation in the Magic Kingdom that will ultimately include more princess experiences."

The expansion of Fantasyland draws families. And (again) the "ticket/hotel" packages are strategically priced to keep people on the property. But your response pretty much fails to deal with ticket packaging ... doesn't it?

Adding 'Avatar' supports that successful strategy. A strategy that placed the four Walt Disney World parks in the top five of attendance in 2010.

From Daniel Etcheberry on September 20, 2011 at 2:56 PM
I wonder in which part of AK will this new land go. Avatar is about nature and strange animals, so what a great place to build it! If California Adventure is getting a new land, then we Floridians deserve a new land too :)
From Anon Mouse on September 20, 2011 at 3:16 PM
@TH "You have GOT to be kidding. The aggressive addition of the princess franchise featuring multiple attractions, dining and meet and greets in a beautiful, landscaped setting "falls short?" "

Huh? This is the best you can do? Yes, it falls short. Nothing in there shouts "E-ticket" attraction. 2 D-ticket Little Mermaid and Snow White Dwarf family roller coaster. A C-ticket Dumbo dueling spinner. Princess meet and greets.

The addition is merely one of sustainment, not of advancing the market. You call it "aggressive". I call it a safe bet and not overly ambitious.

Quote "Why on earth does the addition of 'Avatar' elimnate any chance that Disney will EXPAND its EXISTING relationship with George Lucas? The addition of the new 'Star Tours' and the annual "Star Wars Weekend" event, seems an indication of a healthy partnership."

Because there is no expansion. Legoland managed to have their Star Wars mini-land in record time as comparison. If Disney wanted to do it, they could have done it a long time ago. Why did they take many many years to update Star Tours? Why did the update happen after the end of the trilogy and not soon after Episode 1 or 2. You can read the intent by the long delays. I would not say it is a healthy partnership. When Eisner was in charge, the Lucas relation was frayed. It could be getting better. Somehow I would think Lucas is disappointed that Cameron is jumping in and getting a huge reception.

From steve lee on September 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM
@Tim, regarding Tolkein and Disney: You do realize that Disney almost made the films, right? It was only the short-sightedness of the Weinstein Brothers and Eisner that kept the films from being made at the Disney-owned Miramax Studios (of course, they also wanted to condense it all into 2 films instead of 3, but that's an entirely different issue).

As for this Avatar thing...I wish Disney would hire some people who could come up with original ideas for theme park attractions. They could even have a cool name like...Imaginationers or Smart-Thinkeers. I'm still working on the cool name. Give me time.

From Flavio de Souza on September 20, 2011 at 3:23 PM
Disney is unbeatable in making people feel they are in a different place, country, age or reality. That is Disney’s strongest point. Star Wars, LOTR and Pandora offer them that possibility, since most people would love to experience the feeling of being at Star Wars planets, Middle Earth or Pandora.

I strongly prefer the first two, BUT they don’t fit in AK, and Pandora does. I say Pandora because Avatar is a silly story, and I think that Disney will focus on Pandora and not on the story itself.

They said that Avatar will be in a new land. What I would like to know is if the whole new land will be based in Avatar or it will be the E-ticket ride of a new land with imaginary animals?

I can see an enhance 4D version of Soarin flying through Pandora, but outside the 3D technology I cannot imagine another Avatar ride. It simply won’t fit in a dark ride, or a show or a rollercoaster.

From TH Creative on September 20, 2011 at 3:26 PM
@ Anon Mouse: To the demographic it is targeting ("girls of prime princess age, three to eight years") every attraction you list "shouts e-ticket."

Of course that demographic generates $4 billion a year and attracts millions of families from around the world to Central Florida.

Anon Mouse: When Eisner was in charge, the Lucas relation was frayed.

I Respond: (Academic inquiry) Can you please document that? In 'Disney Wars' James Stewart provides very clear documentation regarding the fall out between Steve Jobs and Mr. Eisner. But as someone who has ready pretty much everything regarding Mr. Eisner's tenure, I've never heard of a fall out between him and Mr. Lucas that could be described as "frayed."

From duncan henny on September 20, 2011 at 3:29 PM
feel sorry for the cast members that have to learn to speak na 'vi
From Daniel Etcheberry on September 20, 2011 at 3:44 PM
The Yeti will get its avatar and move again!
From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 3:51 PM
Were it not for TH's love of the Jungle Cruise I believe he and I would be kindred spirits. I completely agree with everything he has posted.

Star Wars will see its day. DHS needs expansion as much as Animal Kingdom. Disney adding another successful movie license in Avatar in no way diminishes what they can do with Star Wars. In fact, it should get Lucas' competitive juices flowing....

As for the Fantasyland update, I don't see the issues Anon describes. The addition of the Little Mermaid omnimover and the Seven Dwarves coaster should make for a significant improvement in the ride department and the dueling Dumbos area will be a boon to families who have waited 45 or more minutes so their indiscriminate children can ride what amounts to nothing more than a Red Baron spinner. The new dining options look to be amazing, must do experiences, and the meet-n-greets will be hugely popular amongst the masses of Disney fans who enjoy that sort of thing. Furthermore, the expansion looks like it will be absolutely stunning and beautiful, and add quite a bit of space to the most popular park in the world. Again, where's the downside?

For me, I am just glad Disney did not announce that they were adding a Windseeker! Now, that would SUCK!

From Dan Babbitt on September 20, 2011 at 4:04 PM
I think this is a great idea for that will spark interest in DAK.

I say to the people that Disney needs new "thinkers" or imagineers to come up with original ideas for attractions look at what they have that are not Disney owned, most of Pixar before they bought it, The Twilight Zone, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the MGM Franchise and others. So they have been successful in the past.

And I gotta say this has shut us up about what to do with Marvel!

From Anon Mouse on September 20, 2011 at 4:31 PM
@TH "Of course that demographic generates $4 billion a year and attracts millions of families from around the world to Central Florida."

Such a predictable response.

http://www.deadline.com/2011/09/will-avatar-provide-disney-with-the-theme-park-hit-it-needs/

"But most of the growth was due to Disney’s decision to raise prices for tickets, hotels, food, and merchandise. That probably can’t continue if the economy continues to weaken."

@TH "I've never heard of a fall out between him and Mr. Lucas that could be described as "frayed." "

I've read accounts where it was. Perhaps you should read other books like Kim Masters "The Keys to the Kingdom: How Micheal Eisner Lost His Grip (2000)"

Here is George Lucas claiming he tried for years to get an update to Star Tours. "We've been wanting to do it for a long time."

http://www.heraldtribune.com

From Dan Babbitt on September 20, 2011 at 4:08 PM
Oh, I also forgot the biggest thing that will make this a great idea, James Cameron is not scared to spend money!

Look how much he spends on his films! And of course how much they make!

From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 4:19 PM
@Anon Eisner has been gone a long time. Whatever happened between him and Lucas is ancient history. Lucas got his update, and Iger is more than willing to expand DHS further.

The future looks quite bright to me! Bring it!!! Cameron + Disney = True Love FOR-EV-ER!! HOOOOOORAHHHHH!!!!

From 65.35.142.19 on September 20, 2011 at 4:23 PM
What happens if the sequel to "Avatar" comes out and bombs at the box office?

I didn't care for the original film, but I agree with many other posters here that it had really nice special effects. However, effects rarely carry a film franchise.

I think what made the Harry Potter books and films so beloved by readers and movie-goers were memorable characters who were part of a very imaginative world, and an engaging series of stories featuring the battle of good against evil. I don't remember "Avatar" having any of these traits.

- Brian

From Robert Niles on September 20, 2011 at 4:31 PM
*cough* Cars 2? *cough*

Actually, like Cars 2, Avatar will have so much goodwill given the first movie that it won't bomb at the box office, no matter if it does turn out to be a stinker.

But as Cars 2 suffered over the weeks it played due to poor reviews and word of mouth, a poorly received Avatar 2 also would underperform relative to the original. Ultimately, Avatar Land will succeed or fail on the quality of its attractions, as Cars Land will, too. But a poor showing for Avatar 2 would be a missed opportunity for building excitement and anticipation for the new land.

From Dominick D on September 20, 2011 at 4:31 PM
Seems interesting, but Ill wait for the ideas first. I guess Terminator wont be going. Now adding Avatar to AK is good for many reasons:

1.Fits nicely
2.Will get crowds


Now Ill probably have to add this to my Netflix (or Qwister, as its now called) queue when its empty.

From Jorge Arnoldson on September 20, 2011 at 4:32 PM
What?? This is Disney's ANIMAL Kingdom, not Disney's Alien Kingdom! This is a huge fail on Disney's part. Disney has been making and planning knockoffs for their parks for years. For example, Gaston's Tavern and it signature drink are knockoffs of The Three Broomsticks and Butterbeer, DHS is a blatant knockoff of USF, Oktoberfest at Epcot is a direct copy of BGW's Festhaus.
From Robert Niles on September 20, 2011 at 4:34 PM
I can't wait to see James' head explode when he discovers that "Journey to Pandora" is, in fact, going to be a rethemed Windseeker ride. ;^)
From TH Creative on September 20, 2011 at 5:08 PM
@ Anon Mounse: Well of course it is "predictable" response -- being accurate and pretty obvious.
Also can you please a place in 'Keys to the Kingdom' where it references a fraying of the relationship because of Mr. Eisner? I can't find it in my copy.

And thank you for the link to the excellent article. But I do not see a specific reference wherein the reporter contends that the "wait" referenced by Mr. Lucas was caused by frayed relations with Mr. Eisner.

Perhaps you have something more specific?

And that was a great quote about the company's hopes for the success of the $2 billion 'Avatar' franchise. ("That probably can’t continue if the economy continues to weaken.") Then again the word "probably" seems to undermine the writer's level of confidence.

But I guess as individuals, the TPI regulars can weigh the opinion of Executive Editor (and, I assume, theme park expert) David Lieberman verses the team that has successfully managed a theme park operation that has consistently outpaced all of itys (for lack of a better word) "competitors."

(Chuckle)

From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 5:11 PM
Curse you, Robert! Now I can't get that image out of my head!!! Ugh!!!
From Anon Mouse on September 20, 2011 at 7:30 PM
@TH

Your requests for more documentation is noted, but I read it elsewhere I could not find it for your use. So it will be undocumented. But I find it surprising that you would think Eisner and Lucas' relationship is so rosy. Eisner was documented to have bad relationships with virtually everyone who worked with him like Steve Jobs, Jeff Katszenberg, Roy Disney, which only gotten worse before he left as President and CEO. Believe what you wish.

As for the "team that has successfully managed a theme park operation that has consistently outpaced all of itys (for lack of a better word) "competitors." Well, if they have to invest in Avatar, who am I to complain? Disney's reason shall be taken at face value that its a strategic decision to make back its $500 million dollar (via LA Times) investment by getting more revenue from more admissions rather than merely price increases. It's a tall order. I know it won't happen with the New Fantasyland addition, which was my earlier point and you seem to keep getting lost from the big picture.

From David L. on September 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Wow. This is a great surprise to me. This will be a great expansion. If it will be the size and scope of Carsland, then it will be superior to Harry Potter World. I am not surprised by the negative feedback, but I think that they will all eat their words when the land debuts. I kind of had a negative feeling when Carsland was announced (a whole land to Pixar's worst, yet still amazing, film?), but now it seems like it will host the best E-ticket ever created, 2 additional amazing rides, and one of the best themed areas in the world. Avatar will likely surpass it in theme, rides, and more. Now, Universal's and Seaworld's responses come to mind. I think Universal and Seaworld knew something was coming, something big, and were starting to prepare for it. Legoland will quickly have to add rides that reach out to the whole family in the coming years. Seaworld will need to add the rumored dark ride and more in order to reclaim its spot(or at least maintain its current spot) as the primary excursion outside of Universal. Making Seaworld a whole resort would be nice(with hotels and more). Universal already has Despicable me coming. The rumored transformers ride(plus more for a land?) in the massive spot between MIB and the Simpsons will be needed. An updated Hulk, with more effects and maybe an on board sound system would also be nice. Silver Springs needs to get its charm back. If not, it will likely shutter. As for Busch Gardens? A dark ride, plus a couple smaller rides and new exhibits... and maybe a new coaster.

Now, what happens at Disney between now and then? A new Epcot country? more new rides at all parks? Animal Kingdom can't live with just the anticipation of a new land in 5-7 years. The fantaslyland expansion alone can't provide all of the new rides. As for what rides will be in Pandora? Probably a large coaster, a simulator E-ticket, a wind seeker to anchor the land, 1 or 2 smaller rides, and areas to explore. I'm really looking forward to this land and I think it can be the expansion Animal Kingdom needs.

From TH Creative on September 20, 2011 at 7:29 PM
My cast member pals and industry buddies are buzzing about 'Avatar.' So much activity going on at WDW.

Magic Kingdom to expand Fantasyland with new attractions, dining, and entertainment. It will also launch the Disney NextGen technology.

Animal Kingdom to welcome 'Avatar.'

EPCOT: Many whispers about Brazil being added to World Showcase.

That leaves DHS as the next (seemingly) logical choice for a new gate-crasher.

Meanwhile there's Splitsville coming to Downtown Disney and the new Four Seasons resort to begin construction in early 2012.

From Phil B. on September 20, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Avatar is very much a franchise in it's infancy. In many ways it is comparable to what happened when the original Star Wars movie was released and took the cinematic world by storm. Both films were the first in a series. Both films set box office records. Both films raised the bar for effects movies and tools that are used to tell these stories. Both films shook up the film industry and changed the way studios produced feature films. Both films introduce us to new worlds, creatures and characters never seen before. Both films were criticized for being simplistic in nature. Both films were criticized for drawing heavily upon former works of fiction and incorporating it into its own mythology to tell a new but familiar feeling story.

Avatar is still in the midst of developing at least 2 sequels that deal with the continuation of the first movie. It's barely scratched the surface of an expanded universe, something that has allowed the Star Wars franchise to continue to grow, expand and be profitable with or without new cinematic releases. Cameron has hinted at there being new worlds to explore, and tribes to encounter. Much like The Empire Strikes Back, I imagine the scope of the first movie will be very much expanded upon. Globally, Avatar is a wildly popular franchise, and quite honestly I can see Avatar Weekends at AK down the road.

From Anthony Murphy on September 20, 2011 at 9:09 PM
It's the Beastly Kingdom 2.0. I think it would fit pretty well. Avitar is pro nature and full of mythical creatures. I would have liked to have seen Australia there however. Why not...... Star Wars seems to be doing fine
From Brent Moody on September 21, 2011 at 4:59 AM
I think that Avatar was really successful because of the stunning visual effects and that it was one of the first blockbuster non-animated 3-D movies. But the movie's story was weak and did not sit well with a lot of poeple. The movie made most of our military that was on the planet look like a bunch of testosterone fulled goons that wanted to kill every animal in sight and knock down every tree they came across. I do not think that a second film will do nearly as well because of the turn off the first film had on many of those who did watch the first one and the fact that 3-D is kinda old hat and a bunch of people have now decided they hate 3-D. One of the coolest things to me about Avatar were the fact that the trees were maybe a 1000 feet tall and 100 feet across in the movie. I think it will like kinda dumb to have 50 foot tall trees in the park trying to make it look the same as the movie. Other than all that I am sure Disney will make it look pretty cool but I am just not sure Avatar itself will stand the test of time so I hope the land Disney creates does not fade with it.
From 173.251.20.34 on September 21, 2011 at 6:05 AM
For the all the commentators who think the planned Avatar addition for DAK will outshine or beat out the Universal's Harry Potter land, you are just kidding yourself.

The Harry Potter books are a worldwide phenomon unlike anything we have seen in the last few decades. Yes, Avatar made a ton of money, but as a property, it is not even in the same league as Harry Potter. People are coming from all over the world to see & visit the Harry Potter land. Hell, most of them call it Harry Potter World, not even realizing that it is just 1/6 of Universal Islands of Adventure.

My Brother took his family on an east coast trip this summer and stopped in Orlando for a couple of days. They went to IOA and just spent the entire day in the Harry Potter Village and thought it was great. They were barely aware of what other rides existed at the park. When I asked if they went on Jurrasic Park or Spiderman or others, he said he didn't realize those rides were there. YET, he was completely satisfied with his day. I don't think you will ever get that with the add on section of Avatar at MK.

From Daniel Etcheberry on September 21, 2011 at 6:46 AM
If Disney finds the technology to make guests enter into their own avatars, then people in wheelchairs will be able to walk again :)
From Crystal A on September 21, 2011 at 7:29 AM
First off, Avatar is not one of my favorite movies. However as a Disney Fan I will willingly go see anything new they have to offer. I may not make the trip to specifically see Avatar land but I will still make the trip nonetheless. I do think Avatar has the potential to draw a different segment of the population that may not be as much into Disney as they are into Avatar. I can imagine Pandora being something like an updated ET. Everyone always says that Animal Kingdom "needs something". Well here's the chance. I would think a Land based on a major blockbuster hit might do the trick.
From Tim Odom on September 21, 2011 at 7:42 AM
@ steve lee: I know, way late, and way off topic. I knew that Miramax was close to getting film rights, and if they got them, the Tolkien estate would have fought tooth and nail against the movies ever being made. Tolkein, very specifically, did not like Walt Disney, nor trust him at all. Per his own letters:

"It might be advisable [...] to let the Americans do what seems good to them — as long as it was possible [...] to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #13

"I recognize [Walt Disney's] talent, but it has always seemed to me hopelessly corrupted. Though in most of the 'pictures' proceeding from his studios there are admirable or charming passages, the effect of all of them to me is disgusting. Some have given me nausea"
– Letter to Miss J.L. Curry, of 15 July 1964

Would I rather see a Lord of the Rings land instead of Avatar? Hell yeah. Avatar is, at least for me, very meh. But I would not hold my breath for Disney to ever get those rights. If they were to do a land based on a major fantasy book series, they had Chronicles of Narnia, and oh holy hell did they mess that up.

From Tony Perkins on September 21, 2011 at 7:51 AM
There's a big problem with this deal. Star Wars and Harry Potter sell a ton of merchandise. Cars sells tons of merchandise. Even Indiana Jones does okay in merchandise. But Avatar sold almost no merchandise. The action figures were peg warmers, and all the other stuff ended up on discount racks. I liked the movie and am curious to see what they come up with (particularly with the perfectionist Cameron pushing the Imagineers hard), but this land will utterly fail to do what Disney wants it to do, which is sell lots of merchandise. They should have created a Star Wars Land instead and they could have made a killing. This move smacks of desperation by Disney.
From Don Lancaster on September 21, 2011 at 8:42 AM
I am having visions of a tall, blue, Micky Avatar. (Shudder).
From TH Creative on September 21, 2011 at 8:51 AM
Mr. Perkins: "but this land will utterly fail to do what Disney wants it to do, which is sell lots of merchandise.

I Respond: I could not disagree more. Adding 'Avatar' keeps Disney guests on property. Again, as Mr Niles noted in a blog earlier this year, ticket pricing packages are structured at Disney to keep their guests at the Disney parks.

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201106/2537/

Robert Niles: "Once you've bought three days of theme park tickets at Disney, it costs just $9 to add a fourth day. Then it's just $8 to add each additional day beyond that, up to 10 days total."

He continues: "So if you want to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when you're in Orlando, but you're visiting Disney World, too, you're looking at $85 for your day at Universal Orlando versus $8 to skip Potter and spend an extra day at Disney instead."

Does Disney want to "sell lots of merchandise?" Of course! But if a guest enters the park to see the new, cutting edge 'Avatar' attraction (paying only $8 verses $85) and during the day the guest makes a $30 t-shirt purchase, why on earth would Disney care if that purchase features a blue Thundercat knock-off or a picture of Mickey Mouse? As long as they sell a shirt they achieve their retail ambitions.

Mr. Perkins continues: "They should have created a Star Wars Land instead and they could have made a killing."

I Respond: Again, the concepts are not mutually exclusive. They can still expand the 'Star Wars' franchise's presence in the park (DHS). The addition of 'Avatar' does not prevent that from happening. With the expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, the rumored addition of Brazil to EPCOT's World Showcase and now the announcement of 'Avatar,' it would seem DHS is next in line for a "gate-crasher" ... 'Star Wars,' Marvel, Pixar, 'Tron' Lightcycles, etc.

From Sylvain Comeau on September 21, 2011 at 9:09 AM
Robert, you said in your piece that the Avatar land will have the same budget as Cars Land. That begs the question: what was the budget for Cars Land?
From steve lee on September 21, 2011 at 9:29 AM
@ Tim - never too late, man. That's some fascinating stuff there. I can't imagine what Disney had produced at that point that made Tolkien so embittered towards the company. But do you think Tolkien would have been so negative if he had been alive to witness the atrocities Ralph Bakshi unleashed onto the world.

But ultimately the estate wouldn't have been able to do a thing if the films had progressed at Miramax. It was done with Saul Zaentz, who legally owned the rights (ironically, the Weinstein boys were smart enough to keep a piece of the action. Despite having nothing to do with the actual production of the films, they still made north of 50 million off the trilogy).

From Joshua Counsil on September 21, 2011 at 10:15 AM
To those arguing that Avatar shouldn't be at Disney because it "isn't Disney":

When was the last time Disney (excluding Pixar) put out anything worth turning into an attraction? Why do you think Disney licensed Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and MGM movies for the Disney-MGM Studios? For one, Disney didn't put out any worthwhile movies in the '70s and '80s that could be turned into attractions. When the Disney Renaissance hit with The Little Mermaid, they finally had some films that were park-worthy. Unfortunately, they've once again hit a stagnant period of mediocre films, so outsourcing is an excellent idea.

From Anon Mouse on September 21, 2011 at 10:15 AM
Keeping guests on property is a failure if Disney cannot get them to buy more merchandise. Avatar is a proven failure in getting people to buy the merchandise. The goal of Avatar should never be about encouraging them to stay on property without getting the guest to part with their money. Otherwise, what would be the point of that extra $8 marginal advantage? Avatar might succeed in increasing attendance. That is the main thing to be excited about.

I don't think the guests are gullible about that $8 differential for an extra day. Once you experienced Animal Kingdom and everything it has to offer, you will want to do more elsewhere. You won't stay merely to take advantage of the extra day. Vacation is a compromise of time and money. The money you spend on a multi-pass to Disney World was spent, yet it must be compared to the airfare and hotel that usually costs more. Do you pass up an opportunity to visit Harry Potter because you're too cheap to spend the extra $85 although you already spent $500 for airfare, $500 for hotel, and $250 for WDW tickets?

I do think 4 days at WDW is more than enough. WDW's biggest disadvantage is only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot are full day parks. Animal Kingdom and Disney Studios are show heavy parks and they often close early. So the advantage of a 5 to 10 day ticket IS its marginal cost. The guest who doesn't value the low cost in the ticket's balance from day 5 and beyond might not bother using it. This is one reason why I hate the Magic Your Way tickets. Tickets for multi-day, mult-park passes should be progressively more expensive and not linear with a plateau.

From TH Creative on September 21, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Anon Mouse: Keeping guests on property is a failure if Disney cannot get them to buy more merchandise. Avatar is a proven failure in getting people to buy the merchandise.

I Respond: The low ticket price to upgrade from a three to a four day ticket, combined with the chance to see a James Cameron attraction that (in terms of design and technological advances) holds great promise is a worthy strategy for drawing guests to a theme park. When the guest enters the park if they do not want an 'Avatar' t-shirt, but instead buy a Mickey t-shirt, the objective of selling merchandise is still successfully achieved. Thus, whether or not the 'Avatar' merchandise sells is by no means essential to the strategy.

In fact, if 'Avatar' merchandise does not sell and if guests decide to buy a Mickey shirt (or a Tigger, Pooh, Stitch or Donald Duck shirt) it's actually better for Disney as they hold the rights to the merchandise.

From steve lee on September 21, 2011 at 11:06 AM
And they'll make more money off the sale of that Mickey shirt than they would have made selling an "Avatar" shirt.

(but the point about Avatar being a merchandising failure is in no way incorrect. There was a solid five or six months where you couldn't walk down a clearance aisle and not be assaulted by tons of mutated Smurfs)

From Anon Mouse on September 21, 2011 at 11:38 AM
"clearance aisle"...

...So Avatar is actually a tough sale. Buying a Mickey shirt isn't the same thing. If you go to see Avatar, the chances of you buying something else is rather low. Just like another person who explains that some Harry Potter fans don't even bother visiting the other IOA attractions, Avatar fans might not even care about the actual animal attractions at Animal Kingdom, and probably even less of Disney and its various characters.

I remembered buying Mickey Mouse shirts a long time ago when I actually cared about the character. It is unlikely for me to buy one now.

Actually, to go from a 3 day pass to 4 day is a $11 difference. From 4 day to 5 day, its a $8 difference. Since time and effort goes into vacations, it is possible for guests to not care about visiting 4 days and beyond. Not all 4 parks are worth going.

From James Rao on September 21, 2011 at 11:51 AM
70+ comments on this thread alone. Been a while since we have seen so much activity!

Regardless of how one feels about this brilliant move by Disney, it has certainly vaulted the company into the forefront of everyone's mind.

Genius. Pure genius.

From Amanda Jenkins on September 21, 2011 at 2:03 PM
I'm with you on that James. I started reading these last night, and gave up around the sixty plus statements. .
From v bal on September 21, 2011 at 7:35 PM
the vitriol spewing from some of the haters is astounding. honestly, if you don't like the idea, don't go when it is built. But for the rest of us theme park fans, the battle between Uni and WDW is a win... i am excited
From Tim Odom on September 22, 2011 at 6:07 AM
@ steve lee - I have wondered that myself. I don't quite know the origin for his complete loathing for all things Disney, but the truth is he did not like Disney nor his company.

As for the estate fighting aginst the films being made if Miramax got the rights, remember, the estate fought the production of The Hobbit, and they fought against the production of the LOTR trilogy. The legal battles was one of the reasons why it took so damn long to make the films.

Like I said, thought, I would rather see a LOTR land over Avatar, even if I have no clue how it would be done.

From Andrew Rector on September 22, 2011 at 10:22 AM
Avatar is a smart move for Disney. I can't wait to see how it turns out. Some of Disney's best rides are based on non-Disney movies: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Avatar is definitely Disney's answer to Harry Potter, but in no way is it a Harry Potter killer. The new Fantasyland wasn't going to hold a candle to Harry Potter, but we'll see how the Avatar land turns out. The next step for Disney should be expanding the Star Tours section at Disney Hollywood Studios to include a Star Wars themed land, or adding an Indiana Jones ride to this park.
From Tim Hillman on September 22, 2011 at 3:27 PM
I'm confused. Five years ago on this site we were complaining about Disney being tightfisted with the parks during the latter years of the Eisner regime, and now that Disney has thrown a ton of money at the parks we're still not happy?

California Adventure is being turned into a full-day park. Disney's Animal Kingdom is being expanded into a full day park. I've never been to either because I didn't see them as being worth the price of admission. Now I do.
Fantasyland is getting updated. This is great news!

Would I prefer to see Beastly Kingdom or an Australia land being built at DAK? Would I rather see a LOTR land or even TH Creative's Artemis Fowl land be built instead of an Avatar Land at DAK? You bet! But, considering what we went through in the Eisner years, this is progress, folks!

Man, I'm starting to feel like one of the Munchkins after the house fell on the Wicked Witch of the West. "Ding dong, the skinflint's gone, ....." Okay, I paraphrased a little but you get the idea.

It's a great time to be a theme park enthusiast!

From Sylvain Comeau on September 22, 2011 at 5:01 PM
I agree with you, Tim. I made the same point on MiceChat, and caught flack for it. Let's give credit where credit is due. The Disney company is finally showing some love for both resorts.
From 166.137.136.242 on September 23, 2011 at 9:28 AM
Number one box office hit of all time, yes. But Avatar doesn't have anywhere near the fan base or the emotional equity of Harry Potter. Not in any way. To call Avatar a Potter killer is a huge stretch. Im shocked that a company with Disney's market sophistication could be so off the mark. Its remarkable really. A proven franchise like Star Wars gets a ride while Avatar warrants an entire land. I'm at a loss to understand the logic.
From Andy Guinigundo on September 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM
Right now, I am leaning toward liking it. Pardon the pun, but it's so blue sky right now to know for sure.

Competition is good. I don't think everything has to be a "Harry Potter killer" to be a success. The new Fantasy land will be huge, but not necessarily a HP killer.

Haters out there - just don't show up; that's how you "vote" in this business.

From 173.66.204.173 on September 25, 2011 at 5:43 AM
yuck, yuck, triple yuck. The first thing that came to mind was shock that Disney would do something so lacking in merchandising potential (as Tperkins also stated). No one will be buying Na'vi dolls. And then what else is there? A colossal departure and fail by Disney on that front.

I thought it was an ok movie, and yes, stunning. But this in no way, shape, or form competes with HP. Not even remotely close. I think this is an awful idea and certainly isnt something to which I am looking forward.

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