Theme Park Insider

Disney Releases New Avatar Concept Art

February 26, 2015, 1:07 PM · Disney today released a new concept art photo and teaser video for its Avatar land, now under construction in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The concept art image shows Disney's depiction of the floating mountains of Pandora.

Avatar concept art

The video shows outgoing Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs, Avatar film creator James Cameron and Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde walking through the Avatar design space at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California, where they show off some of the new elements in the land.

The centerpiece of Disney's Avatar Land will be a Soarin'-like 3D movie attraction, where you fly through the skies of Pandora. Framing on the show building for this attraction appears to be complete, with interior and facade work yet to come for a planned 2017 opening.

Avatar construction

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Replies (40)

February 26, 2015 at 1:16 PM · Wow, that looks exciting. For all the haters who feel that Avatar is unmemorable and has no story to tell, I think this may be an indication of how great a themed land based on the IP may be. My only concern with the lit up interactive floors is that the initial setup and maintenance costs would be too high to make that used substantially within the development.
February 26, 2015 at 1:25 PM · this land has unbelievable potential to be a game changer in theme parks
February 26, 2015 at 1:50 PM · I'm not exactly a hate of Avatar land, but it doesn't excite me, either. I think Robert penned an article in the past year or so regarding the emotional attachment of Harry Potter land and how fans feel a connection to the wizarding world at Universal. I think it'd be difficult for anyone to claim that same connection will exist for Pandora.

Don't get me wrong. The land could be well-themed and maybe there's a thrilling ride. And that's great. But there won't be the same successful merchandising push or built-in adoration for Avatar.

February 26, 2015 at 2:08 PM · As long as they keep the focus off the specific events and characters of the film (namely the invading mercenary/military stuff) and concentrate on creating an elaborate alien world there is considerable potential for success with Avatar. This latest peak suggests that might be the case. I'm cautiously optimistic.
February 26, 2015 at 2:17 PM · I don't need to express my support for Avatar, as I have done it multiple times before. But I am really excited by these images, it really looks like Avatar is going to be truly groundbreaking in the very least for its beauty.
February 26, 2015 at 2:18 PM · Is this post you were referencing, Anonymous? Form vs. function, or, why Disney's doing it wrong trying to copy Universal's Butterbeer
February 26, 2015 at 2:44 PM · Those islands aren't floating..... call me a hater if you like, but isn't that land only going to look amazing at night... in a park that is empty after dinner hours?
February 26, 2015 at 2:41 PM · Given that this land will open before the sequels debut, I wonder if the land might take the lead from the films in generating emotional connections to the franchise. Heck, Disney has shown before how to use an attraction to build a film franchise (e.g. Pirates). Obviously, with Avatar atop the all-time non-inflation-adjusted box office, people are familiar with Avatar. But maybe this land might cause more people to fall in love with it.
February 26, 2015 at 2:56 PM · Robert, I agree completely. Any news on if this land is opening in phases or all at once? I remember a while ago you had a report that it was opening in phases, but Disney has yet to indicate that.

And I don't know NB, that concept art looks pretty beautiful to me, and it is day time. But everyone has their opinions.

February 26, 2015 at 3:07 PM · I don't care about the movie, but as a 3D experiance in a movie theater it was fun for the time. From what I see here nothing reminds me of that. The floating islands look a mess and nothing tells me I'm on Pandora. This makes me feel they have sended most of imaginering home, oh wait they did...
February 26, 2015 at 3:09 PM · I imagined the ginormous mother tree of Pandora as the centerpiece with the floating mountains in the background. The vines on the mountains make it look like a weeping willow. It takes a bit of an effort to figure out what they strange thing in the middle is.

Considering that each Pirates sequel got worse and didn't translate to more Pirate attractions or improve the existing Pirate ride, I wonder if the Avatar sequels will provide a bare minimum of new material to the Avatar land. They have all the information they need to do plenty of new attractions.

February 26, 2015 at 3:46 PM · There are not many theme park operators that do landscaping as well as Disney. And there's no one at WDI who does themed landscaping better than Joe Rohde.
February 26, 2015 at 3:54 PM · I'm looking forward to Avatar. Hopefully, the attractions will match the concept. That walk through section of the video looks like the "acid trip" portion of the ET ride.
February 26, 2015 at 4:13 PM · This expansion is shaping up quite nicely indeed.
February 26, 2015 at 5:55 PM · NB writes: "Those islands aren't floating ..."

I Respond: They're mountains not islands ... And that dragon on Gringotts ain't moving.

Swing and a miss.

February 26, 2015 at 6:15 PM · TH, it's nice to see you on here again. I was merely pointing out a fact. The "islands" in the movie float. Surely, Disney could manage that feat of imagineering. I am sure this will be a great addition for the five guests that stay in Animal Kingdom after dark....
February 26, 2015 at 6:37 PM · NB, if anyone comes up with a way to make massive mountains float, without any support, for the entire year... that person will be doing a lot more than just designing theme park lands...

You also realize that Animal Kingdom is getting a new nighttime show, a new nighttime safari, and all of the rides will remain open along with new nighttime entertainment.

... not to mention Pandora itself for all of the nighttime guests. There will be plenty of people around after dark.

February 26, 2015 at 6:50 PM · NB writes: "The "islands" in the movie float."

I Respond: Yeah and the dragon in the movie ... um ... moves ... And parks for free if it is staying at a theme park's resort hotel.

NB writes: "I am sure this will be a great addition for the five guests that stay in Animal Kingdom after dark..."

I Respond: That is an interesting comment coming from the guy who praised an expansion by predicting it would "look amazing at night." So people will leave a theme park rather than stay and see a new themed area that looks "amazing at night" or (for that matter) a new night time production ("Rivers of Light") that is slated to premier in 2016?

Take those "five guests" and multiply them by ten thousand.

February 26, 2015 at 7:16 PM · TH, you take this stuff too seriously. Take every bit of nonsense I post with a grain of salt. How did the poor Ukrainian Ironbelly get dragged into this?
February 26, 2015 at 7:43 PM · It's a great time to be a theme park fan. First Harry potter part one then new fantasyland and the Harry potter part 2 and now this!!!..... Time to do the Carlton Dance.
February 26, 2015 at 8:04 PM · I'll say this much, as good as this looks, it doesn't look quite as impressive as the older concept artwork and that's a bit concerning. Hopefully it will still be great.
February 26, 2015 at 9:23 PM · My thought for the most realistic floating mountains is Hi-tech helium or other light gas balloons with appropriate light weight "decorating". Secure them with cable s disguised as vines and have them move freely in the air. Hurricane comes along and fill then with air and tie them down to the ground. I'm sure it's been thought of and there's reasons it's not feasible, but it seems to make sense.
February 26, 2015 at 9:19 PM ·
February 27, 2015 at 1:10 AM · With all of the guests flooding into 1 themed land at night, It may be way too crowded in pandora. This hasn't happened before. Even with Carsland looking so great at night time, other sections of CA adventure also look great, especially paradise pier. Avatar is not enough to incite me to visit, but it does look cool in the concept art.
Floating mountains look fine, sheesh just use a little imagination folks.
Anon, I'd imagine the giant tree is not included because AK already has a giant tree.
February 27, 2015 at 2:47 AM · *laments what might have been for Beastly Kingdomme*
February 27, 2015 at 3:38 AM · (Chuckle)
February 27, 2015 at 4:30 PM · Oh please! You take backhanded swipes at WDW -- playing your standard UO fan-boy role. And when you get called out for being a chump you flutter a fan and morph into Sen. Lindsey Graham ... "Oh my, I do declare ... Y'all take this chatter so seriously."

(Chuckle ... again)

February 28, 2015 at 11:08 AM · Did it take an hour or a full day for you to come up with a real zinger? I don't recall being "called out", but I am sure in your "I am smarter than everyone else" mind, you see it that way.

You could just ignore my posts, but something tells me your OCD or need to have the last word wouldn't allow that.

Pandora will be yet another child level thrill factor land with dazzling veneer, and may or may not contain a cloned version of Soarin' with 3D. All this on the heels of sequels to a movie nobody asked for.

March 1, 2015 at 8:52 AM · "child level thrill factor land with dazzling veneer" describes just about everything in Orlando, with the exception of a few coasters scattered about the landscape. People go to Orlando for child level thrills with dazzling veneer! Oh, maybe if you want to set Universal apart you could say they specialize in pre-teen level thrills with dazzling veneer, but you have to go south to Tampa or out of the state entirely if you are wanting teen or adult level thrills. And what exactly are adult level thrills? Cedar Point? Magic Mountain? Maybe Vegas might offer a better selection depending on your tastes?

And speaking of sequels nobody asked for: JP World, anyone? Kong: Skull Island? But, as we have discussed many times before, just because the franchises are lacking doesn't mean the attractions won't be good.

March 1, 2015 at 11:40 AM · Hi James, just taking my annual USF fanboy jabs at Disney. No need to dignify with a response. I know someone who tries to ignore me, but after a day or two, the obsession takes over and I will see a snarky response worded to make me appear intellectually inferior.
March 1, 2015 at 12:31 PM · NB, I am not sure I have ever made a post that dignified anything! ;) But I'll go back to lurking in the shadows where I belong....
March 1, 2015 at 7:25 PM · James, I wasn't referring to you....
March 1, 2015 at 10:41 PM · Can I get in this? If Avatar is truly trying to compete with Harry Potter then where is the full immersion? There was no food being consumed in the movie so nothing to base it off of. A poster even says the walk through looks like ET that was created more than 20 years ago. I'm sorry but those plants don't look anything like the movie's vibrant alive color and texture. TH you have to lay off the drugs man and that goes for the rest of you. We are here to have a good time and discuss like human beings and not neefherders. We all know TH likes to repeat everything we say in quotations and bring up what we said six months to prove that he is right and we are wrong to say to at the most 20 to 25 people. It's better to either ignore or argue it out knowing that it is all in fun. Because if you let anyone get under your skin then something is going to get said and then the admin has to get involved. No one wants that.

I like what is new, what is hot, what is the best bang for my buck in a given area. I know I'm going to spend a lot more on a trip to Orlando than say Gatlinburg for the same amount of time. I get more going to Universal than Disney for equal dollar amount. I spent several half days and one full day at Harry's World. I can't see myself spending that amount of time at Pandora. I'm sure it will be a great attraction as will as Kong but those are just attractions and Harry is an immersive experience. I don't think having just the content of one movie is going to match 7 movies and numerous books and still more books yet to come. Do I think Kong can match Harry, not a chance. Harry is one of those special ip's that you can loose yourself in like Star Wars or Star Trek. Those are true immersion properties and have avid fans. Avatar wasn't a great movie by acting or story telling. It was a beautiful visual spectacle that wowed everyone into seeing what a 3D movie should look like. Nothing has come close in that respect. Even though it grossed the most doesn't mean it's the best movie out there. Pandora can only be as good as the movie and it will be visually stunning with a lack of content to be truly immersive because it only has one movie to back it up.

March 2, 2015 at 4:34 AM · NB, I know that, and you know that...but does TH know?

AB, there are three more Avatar movies on the way, so additional content is coming. However, I still don't believe Disney is advancing this change in direct competition to anyone. They know that DAK is viewed as a half-day park, so they are wanting to change that perception. All of their upcoming additions (including the night time river show) point to increasing the guest experience to a full day event. Just think how much more money Disney will make if a guess who normally left around 3:00 stays until 9:00? Or 10:00? Dinner, snacks, souvenirs... six or seven more hours of spending per guest, and more time at Disney means less time elsewhere....

March 2, 2015 at 9:54 AM · The centerpiece of the new land is a "Soarin'-like 3D movie attraction"? Really? Because that's lame. Star Tours is okay, Soarin is silly and a little boring, but the concept is PLAYED OUT. Plus, frankly, it tells me they're doing it on the cheap. Rather than create an innovative ride, they're giving me a 3-D movie with a chair that moves around.

That's certainly not enough to draw me to Animal Kingdom.

March 2, 2015 at 5:18 PM · Okay I am back from my regular treatments ... What'd I miss? Did Universal stop charging hotel guests for parking? Is security still confiscating contraband H2O?
March 3, 2015 at 8:40 AM · TH, no on the first, yes on the second... your passive aggressive attempts to divert attention and simultaneously troll are what I deal with from my two teenage daughters on a daily basis. It was a valiant effort, however.

James, My points about Avatar jive with a good majority of the Disney die-hards. Even they don't want this franchise in their beloved resort. The ones that cheerlead the new land do it out of some twisted loyalty as anything that company does is pure genius. It is an obvious knee jerk reaction to HP, which they turned down because JK wanted "too much creative control". How is dealing with James Cameron working out for you?

"I love Avatar" said not one child under the age of 10.... ever.

I have a direct quote from a reputable source who I hold in the highest regard - "Avatar at Disney Animal Kingdom will never draw crowds like the exquisitely themed and magical additions to the Universal Orlando theme parks known as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley" - NB @ themeparkinsider.com

March 3, 2015 at 9:58 PM · Those same Disney diehards scream "bloody murder" when a castle shutter gets a slightly different shade of paint. You sure you want to park your opinion in their lot? And if you're saying no children under 10 will want to visit this exciting new Avatar land, then great! With the youngest member of my family being almost 12, I am not sure how that result is a bad thing for me and mine. And just out of curiosity, where will the under 10 year olds be instead? Swinging wands and prancing about in robes whilst singing frogs frolic in the half empty queue for Gringotts?
March 4, 2015 at 12:37 PM · James, my loyalty and subsequent disdain for Disney went out the window in 2004... multiple trips, lack of thrill rides (except Tower of Terror, which I love) and very little riding / value for the money spent due to insanely long lines turned me off forever.

Disney seems to be grasping at anything to keep up with Universal's recent successes. Potter has a cult-like following of all ages. Diagon Alley has a convention / cosplay aura about it. My point is, they should have picked something that kids are absolutely crazy about... too bad Frozen came out after this poor decision. That movie has captured the imagination of the Disney target demographic and will be a huge success for years to come.

I am not saying children won't want to visit Avatar land, they just won't be doing it the way these Potter die-hards do with USF.

March 4, 2015 at 8:15 PM · Disney has, as you noted, its own die hard fan base and has had them for years. They are both a blessing and a curse. But I am glad Universal has a property (sadly not their own) that appeals to a similar rabid fanbase. Expansion and success at Universal is imperative to keep Orlando interesting. However, Disney is not feeling the pain of Harry Potter at all. If anything, the additional traffic to Orlando is bleeding over into more guests and money for Disney as well. So again, I don't believe Disney is doing anything that could be considered "grasping" in regard to their recent expansion and growth. The Magic Kingdom changes were designed to create more room in the park for the overwhelming masses of humanity that come each year. The Epcot changes are to capitalize on the amazing success of Frozen. The rumored DHS changes are coming to reinvogorate the park and take advantage of the $4B Star Wars IP. And finally, the DAK changes are designed to transform a much maligned half day park into a full day adventure. Again, these decisions all make sense independent of anything Universal is doing in Orlando. Imagineers may want to strut their stuff more and show what they can do in response to Universal's great attraction design, but every expansion decision is calculated to fill a need within the resort, not to answer some "cola wars" style challenge from a competitor that is still a distant second in both attendance and earnings.

And once again, NB, I am sorry that your past experience at overly crowded Disney parks is now limiting you to only enjoy one of the many theme park destinations the greater Orlando area has to offer. It is too bad you were never able to visit the Disney parks during the offseason when they are only as crowded as Universal is during their peak season. Disney is actually quite wonderful when it is not summer or Christmas.

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