Disney bringing Avatar to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World
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
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:
What a coup! Disney now has their "Harry Potter" killer. Time to dust off the old Beastly Kingdom plans...?
Huh? I thought Universal was getting the rights to Avatar to replace Terminator. I bet it'll fail.
They should make everything in the land in 3D.
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.
FYI - there are at least
Shrewd business, and full of creative possibilites. Crossing my fingers.
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?
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.
Oh, let's face it. This new "Avatar" land will just be the discarded Beastly Kingdom concepts dressed up in Na'vi blue.
Smurf II. Really, that's what I think Avatar is.
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.
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.
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.
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.
hoo raaa soarin' over pandora
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks to a Twitter follower, the new TPI nickname for the Avatar project is... "Blue Bayou."
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!
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.
I think people are too quick to jump onto the idea that this is a direct reaction to Harry Potter over at Universal.
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.
Unfortunately, "Couldn't Care Less" was not a voting option.
@TH "How anyone can regard this announcement as anything other than a brilliant means of maintaining Disney’s business model"
Wow......didn't see that coming. Good for Disney!
This announcement define this decade, and the future of some others disney parks
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.
Goodbye Rafiki's Planet Watch. You were boring anyway.
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.
Anon Mouse: Again, they are missing an opportunity with Star Wars.
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 :)
@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?" "
@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).
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.
@ Anon Mouse: To the demographic it is targeting ("girls of prime princess age, three to eight years") every attraction you list "shouts e-ticket."
feel sorry for the cast members that have to learn to speak na 'vi
The Yeti will get its avatar and move again!
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.
I think this is a great idea for that will spark interest in DAK.
@TH "Of course that demographic generates $4 billion a year and attracts millions of families from around the world to Central Florida."
Oh, I also forgot the biggest thing that will make this a great idea, James Cameron is not scared to spend money!
@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.
What happens if the sequel to "Avatar" comes out and bombs at the box office?
*cough* Cars 2? *cough*
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:
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.
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. ;^)
@ Anon Mounse: Well of course it is "predictable" response -- being accurate and pretty obvious.
Curse you, Robert! Now I can't get that image out of my head!!! Ugh!!!
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.
My cast member pals and industry buddies are buzzing about 'Avatar.' So much activity going on at WDW.
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.
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
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.
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.
If Disney finds the technology to make guests enter into their own avatars, then people in wheelchairs will be able to walk again :)
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.
@ 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:
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.
I am having visions of a tall, blue, Micky Avatar. (Shudder).
Mr. Perkins: "but this land will utterly fail to do what Disney wants it to do, which is sell lots of merchandise.
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?
@ 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.
To those arguing that Avatar shouldn't be at Disney because it "isn't Disney":
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.
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.
And they'll make more money off the sale of that Mickey shirt than they would have made selling an "Avatar" shirt.
70+ comments on this thread alone. Been a while since we have seen so much activity!
I'm with you on that James. I started reading these last night, and gave up around the sixty plus statements. .
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
@ 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Right now, I am leaning toward liking it. Pardon the pun, but it's so blue sky right now to know for sure.
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.
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