Theme Park Insider

Avatar Sequels Delayed a Year; Will Disney World's Avatar Land Open First?

January 14, 2015, 11:41 AM · While construction continues on Disney's new Avatar land at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, production of the new Avatar films have fallen behind schedule.

Director James Cameron said Wednesday in New Zealand that he's pushing the next Avatar film back to 2017, as he's not yet completed the scripts for the next three Avatar films, which will be produced simultaneously. The first of the three planned Avatar sequels had been slated to premiere at Christmas 2016. Now it's looking like Christmas 2017 instead.

Avatar concept art

The first phase of Disney's "World of Pandora" Avatar land is also slated to open in 2017, so it now appears possible — indeed, likely — that the Avatar attractions will open before the sequels, unless Disney decides to hold back on the opening until 2018 to take advantage of the promotion around the new films. On the flip side, having the sequels delayed by a year might allow Disney to open the new land under less pressure, as there likely won't be as much public attention on the franchise before the films come out.

In case you're wondering what will be in Disney's Avatar land, we leaked the blueprints for the centerpiece 3D "Soarin'"-like ride in late 2013. Disney broke ground on the site of the old Camp Mickey-Minnie a year ago, and construction's gone vertical on the new show buildings.

Previously:

Replies (42)

January 14, 2015 at 12:44 PM · I'm not holding my breath for either the movies or the DAK land. I think both could be epic failures.
January 14, 2015 at 1:08 PM · I still think they are crazy to be going forward with avatar instead of star wars. I mean, I enjoyed avatar the movie. It was a well made movie. If the sequels suck, though, no one will remember it. Star Wars has been around for decades and has a huge following. why would you pick a 'had one good movie' thing and bet your future on that. It just seems crazy to me.
January 14, 2015 at 1:50 PM · Disney acquired Star Wars a long time after they announced Avatar. Disney couldn't go back on its announcement especially since they specifically cited technology that they wanted to use for Avatar. This means the technology wouldn't be a match with Star Wars.

I don't get why you think its crazy to stay with Avatar when it will go in Animal Kingdom. Do you think Star Wars will work in Animal Kingdom? I suppose you want to see an Ewok village instead of Tatooine, but that's not what most people want to see. Star Wars doesn't focus on its imaginary animals, which I think Avatar is stronger. Anyways, Star Wars is already appropriate in DHS where the existing Star Tours is at. There are four parks in Disney World. This isn't an "either or" debate. They can have both and they will.

BTW: Star Wars only had 2 good movies. The rest are junk... so there!!!

As for "epic failures", really? James Cameron has always outperformed... Is Titanic a failure? Is Avatar a failure? They have exceeded expectations by hundreds of millions of dollars.

January 14, 2015 at 2:03 PM · I agree with Tracy. I'll never understand disney fastforwarding avatar after 1 movie, in a theme park that has nothing to do with science fiction, when star wars has been the biggest movie/franchise success since 1977! I would be much more interested in seeing an austrailia, south america, European, Siberian antarctica land! And it has nothing to do with owning Lucasfilm. Disney doesnt own avatar and yet they're building the land. The only thing I can think of is Harry potter. Disney panicked at Universals monumental success and wanted something new and trendy to match.
January 14, 2015 at 2:12 PM · I still just can't wrap my head around the Avatar connection w DAK at all. Sure the ride and land could look really cool but what does it have to do with Disney or Animal Kingdom? And I can't remember a single character from the movie at all without having to google it. I just don't see people making the concerted effort to visit DAK because of Avatar. I guess we will wait and see. Disney usually knows what they're doing but that's not always the case (e.g. DCA).
January 14, 2015 at 2:42 PM · "James Cameron has always outperformed"

Not always---True Lies and The Abyss didn't "outperform", which is about a fourth of his feature filmography.

There's simply not a great vibe surrounding these sequels. I know "vibe" is a really nebulous term, but there weren't a whole lot of people screaming for sequels to Avatar. There also weren't tons of people screaming for a theme park application of the Avatar world, certainly not above other uber-popular IPs. The movies are coming out because Fox wants to capitalize on the success of the original. The theme park land is only being constructed in response to Universal's WWoHP.

Add the announcement of this delay and the general "meh" response from even the Sci-Fi community, it doesn't bode well for the ultimate success of these sequels and companion theme park land. Call me skeptical, but there simply isn't a lot of buzz right now for Avatar despite it being the biggest grossing film of all time.

January 14, 2015 at 3:29 PM · So let me get this straight. Avatar is 1 movie and science fiction, whereas Star Wars is science fiction and definitely not going into Animal Kingdom and will remain in DHS, not a sci-fi themed park.

Hint: Avatar will not feature sci-fi, but its imaginary animals, fantastic 'natural' environments, and eco-message, which are in-line with what Animal Kingdom is about.

It is correct that Disney didn't own Lucasfilm to install Star Wars, but they sat on it for years without any hint of an expansion of the Star Wars IP. Why? Hint: Michael Eisner who had a bad relationship with George Lucas and even worse relationship with Steve Jobs. Once he is gone, Disney acquired Pixar and Marvel, and then Lucasfilms. Who knows if Disney needed to buyout Lucasfilms, but George Lucas was selling and why risk some other studio getting their hands on it.

Yes for more panicking.

Avatar in DAK is not necessarily for the locals. It will be a big pull for foreign tourists. Avatar's box office was significantly bigger in Asia and Europe. Anyways, added capacity in Animal Kingdom can only increase attendance and the addition of the evening light show that is influenced by Avatar's look will enhance the park.

January 14, 2015 at 3:21 PM · "Not always" Okay, I'll leave it at that for the 1/4th.

No one is screaming for Hobbits in 3 parts either. So there you go.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey = Worldwide: $1,017,003,568

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug = Worldwide: $960,366,855

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies = Worldwide: $783,482,655

----

The Abyss (1989) = Worldwide: $90,000,098

True Lies (1994) = Worldwide: $378,882,411

Maybe only "The Abyss" underperformed, but in context...

Aliens (1986) = Worldwide: $131,060,248

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) = Worldwide: $519,843,345

How can True Lies be considered an underperforming film? It is his fourth highest grossing film.

January 14, 2015 at 3:45 PM · If you're curious about what the actual ride is, here it is.


http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/avatar-ride-coming-to-life-at-disneys-animal-kingdom-1201376587/#

"Bob Iger said he was recently given the chance to try out the ride, which will enable guests to fly through “Avatar’s” Pandora on the back of a flying banshee.
“It felt so real, so lifelike,” Iger said of the prototype vehicle guests will board to travel through the fictional land. “There’s never been anything like it.”
The vessels that guests will ride upon will essentially be the banshees themselves, with bodies that move to mimic a breathing beast. The flying sequences will be brought to life through large video screens — similar to “Soarin'” — with vehicles moving with the 3D action inside a massive theater.
While Disney and “Avatar” franchise creator and director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau already had announced that “Avatar” land would include the flying attraction, Iger excitedly provided a better glimpse of the experience, describing how he had to scale scaffolding in order to try out the ride for the first time.

January 14, 2015 at 3:57 PM · Avatar & Star Wars are 2 different franchises, (just like Marvel).

In terms of Disney picking up Avatar, I understand it. It's a business decision.

Avatar currently is (without inflation), the #1 film of all time in terms of box office. James Cameron is arguably one of the most successful directors of all time.

The film, regardless of what people thought of the narrative, was a visually impressive film. For a theme park immersive land & attractions, it all makes sense. It's NOT for "Avatarians", (is there such a thing, lol). Avatar doesn't have all that jazz behind it. What it does have, is being based on the #1 film of all time & personal involvement of Cameron.

Star Wars is completely different. That has decades of history, & a built in fanbase that will always be there. Technically, there doesn't NEED to be a rush for Star Wars. Those folks aren't going anywhere. In terms of theme park attractions, it had 1 in Disney parks. Star Tours. And for 24 YEARS (1987-2011), it remained untouched & alone.

So I guess I'm just saying both can coexist, it doesn't matter which one comes first. If it's new, people will experience the land & enjoy whatever attractions are there.

When someone has paid for theme park admission, they're doing everything.

If Disney opened a brand new land based on "The Rescuers", that would be the first place guest head at rope drop because it's new.

Avatarland will be packed, regardless of what people think of the movie (or it's sequels).

January 14, 2015 at 3:55 PM · Russell- Not always---True Lies and The Abyss didn't "outperform"...

True Lies had a worldwide gross of $378-million, plus another $80-million in rental revenue. That's outperforming for sure and especially for a movie that cost $115-million to produce. It ranks #215 on the highest grossing films of all time. Just for comparison Back to the Future is #213 and Raiders of the Lost Ark is #207. Do you consider those two well known hits under performers?

Yes, The Abyss fell short of expectations, but not True Lies.

January 14, 2015 at 4:04 PM · I know Star Wars wouldn't fit in Animal Kingdom, but I'd have preferred they made an Australia land or something instead.

Sadly, Expedition Everest may be the last big attraction not based on an existing source material for a while :/

January 14, 2015 at 4:22 PM · The film won't flop or be a dud. One reason - James Cameron. Look at his track record. Look at the gross records for Titanic and Avatar, look at how massive those were in terms of money. One and two biggest grossing movies of all time by a massive margin in the entire movie industry. It's on his name this attraction is being built.

However, i don't hold up much hope from Disney to deliver this product in a timely manner.

January 14, 2015 at 4:41 PM · Hopefully the sequels will garner some more buzz for Avatar for generations to come. With a movie coming out almost 8 years after the original it will really have to work to reach an entire new audience and really work to help it resonate in the minds of new audience-goers, the way Cameron did with Titanic, Terminator, and Aliens.

I read a very interesting article (wish I could remember the name of the publication) that discussed how successful the film might be in this new land. The thing that stuck the most with me were the statements: Name a quote from Harry Potter. Name a quote from Star Wars. Name a quote from Titanic. Now name a quote from Avatar. I came up empty just like the article was suggesting. Same thing with the characters in the film. Does anyone really remember the name of any of the cast besides maybe Jake? (and I mean anyone of the average American population, not us Theme Park Insiders who research and study these things)

I think this area will be fantastic looking and will probably break ground on a new world of theme-park immersiveness the way the WWOHP Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley both did. I'm just concerned for what happens after those sequels aren't in theaters anymore.

January 14, 2015 at 4:51 PM · It's great that Disney is finally adding new attractions to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. What took them so long? Can somebody explain to me why Disney doesn't take successful rides from their overseas parks and build carbon copies of those attractions in America? This would be a quick way to upgrade several parks that desperately need new attractions.

Over 90 percent of the U.S. population will never visit the parks in Paris, Japan and China. Wasn't the rationale for building WDW in Florida: 90 persent of Americans living west of the Mississippi had never been to the California park? Seems like the same rationale could be applied to the overseas attractions, only more so.

January 14, 2015 at 5:39 PM · Again, a theme park land is determined by the quality of the attractions, not the source material. Cars was one of the worse Pixar films, but every loves the land at DCA, so why can't the same apply to Avatar? If the New Fantasyland landscaping is an indicator, I'm sure Disney is really going to knock it out of the park with this one.
January 14, 2015 at 7:58 PM · Giving Disney one full year of additional time to build Avatarland is a blessing. They may put a few extra bucks into the project, or simply take more time and be able to avoid shortcuts that cheapen the project. Additionally, I would love to see them at least partially move away from phased openings, a la New Fantasyland.

The worst thing they could do with such a huge undertaking is feel pressured, and make it less than it potentially could be (ie: Hollywood Studios park)

As for the land itself, I tend to agree with James ^^ that the quality of the attractions counts far more than the source material. I'd rather ride Expedition Everest than a poorly made Batman roller coaster at Six Flags, for instance.

January 14, 2015 at 9:36 PM · Here's a correction to my post above. It should have read:

"Over 90 percent of the U.S. population will never visit the parks in Paris, Japan and China. Wasn't the rationale for building WDW in Florida: 90 percent of Americans living east of the Mississippi had never been to the California park? Seems like the same rationale could be applied to the overseas attractions, only more so.

January 14, 2015 at 11:48 PM · I fully expect Disney will use this as an excuse to drag their feet even more on this project (though they'd never say such a thing publicly). It's been 3+ years since they announced Avatarland, and they've only just recently begun to go vertical. I could easily see them taking another 3 years just to get Phase One open, with Phase Two following 12 - 18 months later (assuming they're going to go with a phased opening, which I'm sure they are). Kind of a pathetic timetable, but Disney seems to have lost the ability to build things quickly.

What's doubly depressing is that the only attraction I'm really interested in - the boat ride - will surely be relegated to Phase Two. And that's assuming the ride hasn't been cut entirely, a rumor that has been floating around (though Cameron himself recently talked about there being "rides" plural, so hopefully it's still happening).

The really interesting side story to all this is that AVATAR 2 will now be released in direct competition with STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII in December of 2017. Given that Cameron and Disney are (at least nominally) in business together, you wonder what each side thinks of that.

January 15, 2015 at 8:03 AM · Anon said "outperformed", and in that metric, True Lies did not outperform. The expectations for the film was that it would be a huge blockbuster. It had one of the highest budgets for a movie ever ($115 million) at the time or its release (1994), and the expectation was for it to at least break $150 million domestically. If you go back and look at the reporting when it was released, True Lies was a bit of a disappointment, and certainly did not "outperform"---It was doubled up in 1994 by both Forest Gump and The Lion King, and almost got beat by The Santa Clause, all films that cost a fraction of Cameron's film.

I don't think I ever made an argument of Avatar over Star Wars, and I realize that Disney's purchase of the Avatar right proceeded the purchase of Lucasfilm. However, does Avatar move the needle in terms of theme park interest, especially when compared to Harry Potter, which this development will be eternally linked? I think the answer is no, and Imagineering has some serious work ahead to convince people that they are still the tops in theme park design and development.

Also, I would agree with you Anon that people were not clamoring for 3 Hobbit movies (even Peter Jackson was struggling to turn the source into 2 movies and had to tap other Tolkein works to expand The Hobbit into a trilogy), and you see how that has panned out at the box office. However, I would say that the audience wanting to see Middle Earth sequels is still larger than those wanting Avatar sequels.

Go back to December 2009---Yes, Avatar was highly anticipated, but became a phenomenon because of the visuals and the need to see it on a large screen and in a premium format (IMAX, 3-D, and 3-D IMAX), something that few films have been able to recapture in the 5 years since. At the time, it had the largest percentage of premium format sales of any film in history, and still holds near the top of that list even with the advent of other premium formats like HFR. I certainly wouldn't bet against James Cameron to be able to recreate the success he has found in the past, but I wonder if he can recapture lightning in a bottle 3 more times with completely original source material (meaning he's not culling from books, comics, or graphic novels, simply his own characters and stories pulled from the original movie). I definitely understand the connection between Avatar and DAK, particularly with the heavy handed tones of conservation (something that many criticize about the movie), but I question whether there is enough overlap between the theme park audience and the true fans of the Avatar world that will draw a significant uptick in DAK attendance. I guess we'll find out in 2017, but I'm not holding my breath.

January 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM · "the expectation was for it to at least break $150 million domestically."

So that is your metric for outperform? True Lies domestic is $146,282,411, which close, a hair short. It was the third ranked movie of 1994 domestically and worldwide.

"It was doubled up in 1994 by both Forest Gump and The Lion King, and almost got beat by The Santa Clause"

What you conveniently didn't say was in Worldwide distribution, The Lion King was #1, Forrest Gump was #2, True Lies was #3, and The Mask was #4. Santa Clause didn't even make it. Santa Clause was #14 because it made $45 million in foreign markets. Even I won't say Santa Clause didn't outperform Worldwide because it did, but domestic box office was three times foreign and some might think this is a disappointment.

If you're trying to measure the expectations based on the budget compared to the box office, films are expected to get at least double the box office relative to budget. With this metric, True Lies exceeded and outperformed, which is MY METRIC. Granted, the budget at $115 million was the highest of all films in 1994. You make it seem like it is common to expect $150 million to be broken relative to budget. No other film reached $150 million domestically except for The Lion King and Forrest Gump, but 12 films reached $200 million Worldwide and 6 films reached $300 million Worldwide. True Lies is ranked #3, a high rank.

Russell, we disagree. I'll leave it at that.

"you see how that has panned out at the box office."

It done quite well for itself. Hobbit purists are pretty negative about the movie, but they haven't stayed away. The movie has dropped off at the end, but $700 million is not to be described as underperformance.

January 15, 2015 at 9:14 AM · "Russell, we disagree. I'll leave it at that."

We've been down this road before, and we'll continue to disagree about how international distribution has changed over the past 20+ years.

I don't think the Hobbit films have underperformed, and they've actually done quite a bit better than some suggested when New Line/WB made the trilogy announcement, but they've still failed to match the original LOTR trilogy. However, the budget was controlled by filming all three simultaneously (just as the Avatar sequels), and they've actually performed remarkably well considering some of the backlash from fans on tapping stories completely unrelated to the Hobbit text The real question is will the Avatar sequels find the same success, but with even larger budgets than the original (reported as the most costly film of all time at a total net cost over $500 million), and will that success (or failure) translate into interest in the theme park world. I have little doubt that the Avatar sequels will be profitable, but will they rekindle the phenomenon of the original, and pique enough interest to drive people to want to visit DAK in the way that Harry Potter has done for Universal. To me, it's not the slam dunk that Star Wars obviously will be or what LOTR would be under the right creative team.

January 15, 2015 at 10:07 AM · "I have little doubt that the Avatar sequels will be profitable, but will they rekindle the phenomenon of the original, and pique enough interest to drive people to want to visit DAK in the way that Harry Potter has done for Universal."

The Harry Potter movies are very accurately translated from the books. Of course, it does rush some exposition, but that is not a hinderance. LOTR is a different beast. The LOTR books are so complicated that the movies had cut out much material and change many characters and plot points. So I would think the LOTR fans will not entirely happy of a theme park version.

There is no doubt that Star Wars Land will be a success and it is a true competitor to Harry Potter. That's why the knock on Avatar on whether it will match Harry Potter is misplaced. Avatar is the most appropriate IP to be installed at Animal Kingdom. It is a long term decision to slowly overwhelm Universal.

First with Frozen, Second with Avatar, and Third with Star Wars. The third punch is the knock-out.

Disney was never the right company for Harry Potter. Many people (fans) argue Disney would have made cheap decisions. I would agree. At that time, Michael Eiser was in charge who did California Adventure, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Paris Disney Studios. Be glad he wasn't in charge of Tokyo DisneySeas. Universal changed expectations and now Disney will too. Disney cannot confront Harry Potter directly. It does have Star Wars though.

Avatar is right for DAK. There is no doubt James Cameron will fix the numerous shortcomings of the original. Lack of merchandising, quotable lines, memorable plot points. I'm sure the collaboration will make the sequels more Disney-like. No more foul mouthed Sigouney Weaver. Maybe they'll add a hidden Mickey. The only thing missing is direct financial participation by Disney. Maybe Disney will buyout Avatar in the future.

January 15, 2015 at 10:00 AM · I'm not sure why it's a one or the other debate?

Aren't the plans for both Pandora and Star Wars lands?

Even if the sequels end up under-performing I am excited to see major enhancements to both parks. That is a win for all theme park fans visiting.

I am more concerned about delays, the kid in me wants these projects now not the snail's pace which has been Disney's calling card lately.

January 15, 2015 at 10:27 AM · "That's why the knock on Avatar on whether it will match Harry Potter is misplaced."

It is totally appropriate, because it was Disney's first move in reaction to the success of WWoHP at Universal. I agree that Star Wars is a more apt comparison, but Disney's move to purchase the Avatar IP was a direct response to Universal's success. The Star Wars purchase ultimately will be the IP that directly competes with WWoHP, but you could argue that buying Lucasfilm from a theme park perspective was done solely to quell criticism of the lack of buzz surrounding the Avatar development and how it didn't come close to stacking up against HP.

I agree that Avatar is right for DAK, but did Disney need to go out and spend money on an IP when they had the Beastly Kingdom plans already in hand. Does the IP even add anything to the land? I would argue that it really doesn't, and Disney could strip the Avatar from the new DAK development and get the same response from visitors. They could have themed it after the failed Disney-owned John Carter property, and I don't think most people would even know the difference.

January 15, 2015 at 10:41 AM · MY WDI sources tell me that it is full speed ahead on Avatar land construction. No delays. Expect the 2017 Phase One opening to go as planned.

I'm still interested to see how the film delay might affect the promotional side of things for WDW, but none of this is delaying the construction of the land.

January 15, 2015 at 10:43 AM · "did Disney need to go out and spend money on an IP when they had the Beastly Kingdom plans already in hand."

Beastly Kingdom is dead. Universal already stolen the concept with former Imagineers. The twin dragons roller coaster was made over for Harry Potter. Disney can never go back to it.

"Does the IP even add anything to the land?"

Yes. Avatar is the new Beastly Kingdom. Think about it. The Avatar dragons has already been created. The story, landscapes, and characters are fleshed out. There is no need for Disney to create new backstories that no one really cares about.

"you could argue that buying Lucasfilm from a theme park perspective was done solely to quell criticism of the lack of buzz surrounding the Avatar development and how it didn't come close to stacking up against HP."

That is a stretch. You have to be a prophet to predict the odds of that to happen, yet Disney hasn't cancelled Avatar in a panick so this statement doesn't quite ring true.

"They could have themed it after the failed Disney-owned John Carter property, and I don't think most people would even know the difference."

Huh? The oddest argument against Avatar that I've seen. Having no buzz for Avatar is one thing. Disney can at least promote Avatar Land to the fans that do like and remember it. This means mostly foreign tourists. With John Carter, it is a dud out of the gates.

January 15, 2015 at 10:48 AM · If Avatar Land provides a great immersive setting and terrific rides, I don't think it will matter how little cultural impact the original movie had (unlike Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Hobbits, etc;) or how good the seqels are...whenever they arrive.
It's a bit of a horse-before-the-cart situation, but the Haunted Mansion movie has NO effect on that being one of my favorite rides. And I only liked the first Pirates of the Carribean movie, but the ride is still a favorite also.
Just as Twilight Zone Tower of Terror does not require that one has ever seen a single episode of the show, Avatar Land will be a success if the Land itself is entertaining to be in.
What "Avatar" the IP property provides is rather unique directions of creative potential (if only the same could be said for the plot of the movie) and a night show that doesn't require fireworks that scare the animals - thanks to a planet that goes all glowy at night.
Personally, I didn't think Avatar was such a smart route to go at first. Now I figure, as long as the Land is fantastic looking, it will be a success.
January 15, 2015 at 11:22 AM · "True Lies had a worldwide gross of $378-million, plus another $80-million in rental revenue. That's outperforming for sure and especially for a movie that cost $115-million to produce. It ranks #215 on the highest grossing films of all time. Just for comparison Back to the Future is #213 and Raiders of the Lost Ark is #207. Do you consider those two well known hits under performers?"

You answered your own question in there. True Lies did not "outperform" because it cost so much to make. BTTF and Raiders, despite being in the same range in total gross, cost a fraction, $19 million and $18 million, respectively. "Outperform" means to exceed initial expectation, which is typically linked to a film's budget.

January 15, 2015 at 11:34 AM · "Huh? The oddest argument against Avatar that I've seen. Having no buzz for Avatar is one thing. Disney can at least promote Avatar Land to the fans that do like and remember it. This means mostly foreign tourists. With John Carter, it is a dud out of the gates."

My point is that they could theme these attractions and guest areas to virtually anything and deliver the same experience as one overlayed with the Avatar theme. I don't think the purchase of the Avatar IP provides much bang for the buck. Linking this land to the films where most people don't even remember character names or places, just the visual look, seems to be a foolish waste of money. Disney could have created a land much like they are now and call it Bandora, the World of Zantar, and not infringe on Cameron's copyright and not have to shell out big bucks for his IP and megalomaniac ego.

"yet Disney hasn't cancelled Avatar in a panick so this statement doesn't quite ring true."

Of course not, because they were already in too deep financially with payments to Cameron for the IP and initial development costs. They were probably well over $10 million into the project when Disney finally had Lucasfilm under the umbrella. Too much work had been done, and likely promises made to Cameron to squash the project or rework it into a Star Wars project. The Lucasfilm announcement came a little over a year after the Avatar announcement, and shortly after the first pre-vis leaks for the DAK development surfaced, so it was pretty clear that Avatar was already past a point of no return.

January 15, 2015 at 11:49 AM · "I'm still interested to see how the film delay might affect the promotional side of things for WDW, but none of this is delaying the construction of the land."

My guess is that it probably helps long term in that the land will have been open for a bit before the first sequel hits. Disney will be able to attach promotion with actual in-park footage to the film and companion marketing, and have all of the technological and operational kinks worked out before fans see new material from the Avatar universe and feel the desire to explore the theme park world. When it opens, the land will not be mobbed with people who just saw the new movie with super high expectations. Sometimes a slow roll and diminishing expectations can really help the long term success of a project.

January 15, 2015 at 12:01 PM · "My point is that they could theme these attractions and guest areas to virtually anything and deliver the same experience as one overlayed with the Avatar theme."

If you think Disney can do a "Chinese" knockoff and succeed, you're the first. Disney has done pale imitations before. Think California Adventure's Six Flags-Knott's knock-off. That'll work.

I know you don't like Avatar for legitimate reasons. A knockoff makes even less sense.

Disney can't cross-promote the new land with the movie and 3 sequels because it will be known that Disney is simply too cheap. That's really an odd position to be in since Animal Kingdom is full of IP to its Mickey ears. Maybe it will produce its own version of Avatar titled, "The Blue Alien Creatures of Bandora" and it will perform like "The Dinosaur" movie. It will create a ride call the "Flying Red Dragon" ride and get people to go and people will call it an Avatar-like ride.

"so it was pretty clear that Avatar was already past a point of no return."

Yes, $10 million plus another $4 billion. Stop digging, right? Or maybe they know what you're doing.

January 15, 2015 at 12:08 PM · "I know you don't like Avatar for legitimate reasons. A knockoff makes even less sense."

I'm just saying that they could have used an existing IP that they already owned (like John Carter or even something like Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Raimi's Oz, or the recent Malificent; or simply go with a generic theme). The Avatar IP does not push this over the top as a "must see" for those who aren't already theme park fans. Certainly it adds capacity and interest to a park that's severely lacking in both, but in a climate where parks are trying to increase their customer base, Avatar does not necessarily bring new revenue into the fold, definitely not in the way that HP did or in the way the Star Wars likely will....

BTW, I found it interesting that one of my fellow BGW bloggers told me that when she was in Diagon Alley last September, she saw Joe Rohde walking around snapping dozens of pictures. What's funny is that she was the only person who knew who he was despite his unique appearance.

January 15, 2015 at 3:15 PM · Thanks to Anon Mouse and Russell Meyer for a great discussion! Kind of like dueling pianos. Both of you make a lot of good points and raise interesting questions.

These questions got me to wondering, does Disney has another ace up their sleeve? Even though Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, it doesn't even rank in the top ten movies in merchandising profits. I believe that the next three Avatar films will completely ignore the storyline of the first, be geared to kids and be an attempt to vault Avatar near the top of the merchandising list. When viewed in this context, I believe that the Avatar IP rights make a lot of sense.

For the curious, here's the top ten movies ranked according to merchandising sales.

My family and I disliked the first Avatar film, but we all think the theme park attractions can be spectacular regardless.

January 15, 2015 at 12:26 PM · "Avatar does not necessarily bring new revenue into the fold, definitely not in the way that HP did...."

Curious, this doesn't square with "existing IP (like John Carter or even something like Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Raimi's Oz, or the recent Malificent; or simply go with a generic theme)"

Harry Potter is unique. I already conceded Avatar is not Harry Potter in the same way, but neither are the other existing IPs. So is it just the $10 million that we're concerned with?

That $10 million is a lot, but you have to realize the advantage of cross promotion from the addition 3 sequels. John Carter and a generic theme is already a minus. Alice In Wonderland and Malificent have some fantastic environments that Animal Kingdom can appropriate.

My question is the $10 million well spent or is using existing IP an actual minus, then its like a drain to fix a mistake. Plus, I don't think Disney will spend hundreds of millions for new attractions based on existing IPs that they don't have full confidence in. It just becomes an issue of how much money they can save.

Knowing Disney of the past, all they done is save money. I'd rather let them spend the $10 million as it is a commitment.

January 15, 2015 at 12:34 PM · I agree that HP is unique, but I also think that theme parks need to spend their IP dollars wisely. I don't think using Avatar is a detriment to the project, but I do think that they are paying a lot of money for an IP that won't bring a huge return on investment. As I said, they could theme the attractions and guest areas to virtually any fantastical animal environment and probably get the same revenue bump as they are from Avatar. Sure, the Avatar sequels provide the ability to cross promote, but does the investment offset the potential rewards. At this point, I would say it's looking like a wash.

I do think Disney has confidence in Avatar, though they'd probably have more confidence if they could control the development of the films. They appear to be moving pretty fast, by Disney standards, at going vertical with the new land, so they're all in. There's no sense in them to turn things back or to cut their losses at this point, so fans are going to get the best Disney has to offer from the project. Phase 2 may be another story though. However, when all is said and done, I wonder if Disney paid too much for an IP that ultimately doesn't move the needle.

January 15, 2015 at 3:03 PM · "At this point, I would say it's looking like a wash."

A wash means it will lose money because a business does not exist to breakeven. This means the margins will lower overall for the park division since the Animal Kingdom expansion does nothing to maintain margins.

At minimum, it shouldn't lower the needle.

January 15, 2015 at 8:20 PM · I am very excited for both the Avatar films and the Avatar expansion at DAK (and disappointed to hear the films are delayed - which is, sadly, par for the course for Mr. Cameron of late). Anyway, once the first film and new land are open I am sure I won't be the only one taking time out of his busy schedule to go experience them.

Not to start a war, but I certainly find Avatar to be a MUCH more exciting expansion option than King Kong. Yeesh, talk about something that doesn't move the needle! zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

@Anon Poster 209.44.133.160 That merchandising sales list is very interesting. Disney owns four of the top five, and the gap between #5 and #6 is huge. And Frozen - my goodnesss - what a beast. No wonder Disney is milking the franchise for all it is worth! However, the merchandising aspect is not that good of an argument against Avatar since Potter (surprisingly) is not on the list either and yet Universal is doing quite well off Warner Bros' signature franchise.

January 16, 2015 at 10:08 PM · Just watch the movie again, it has "theme park attractions" written all over it. It's a natural.

This could be the next Cars Land, people. How can you judge it before it even opens?

January 16, 2015 at 10:13 PM · Disney overpaid for Avatar to keep it from Universal. Universal was in talks to update Terminator 2 3D to Avatar. I also think Iger is giving Cameron anything he wants to woo him to the studio because after these movies his contract is up at Fox. No one else would put up with the delays for an attraction that is reusing an existing ride system. Cameron self funds his movies and he probably badly needed the cash that Disney gave him for the Avatar land to finish his films.

From a business sense this makes sense. You have to pay more to keep a property away from your biggest rival and you can corner the market on blockbuster action movies if you can get James Cameron to leave Fox which will be worth spending 400 million on a glowing blue monkey Soarin clone.

January 17, 2015 at 10:27 AM · @ James Rao: Sorry if I wasn't clear. I intended to say that Disney believes Avatar merchandising can be as big as Frozen, and they have a plan to make that happen. The synergy from three new Avatar movies and a Disney Avatarland could result in massive merchandising profits for Disney and James Cameron. Three profit centers (movies, theme parks, merchandising) explain why this project is moving forward under the Avatar IP.
January 17, 2015 at 11:20 AM · Ahhh, gotta love the sequels to a movie that nobody asked for.... Meanwhile, Universal will open it's third HP area (Ministry of Magic).

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