Grand Opening: Pandora - The World of Avatar

May 27, 2017, 9:18 AM

Themed entertainment's answer to the Broadway hit 'Hamilton' came roaring to life right on schedule. The predictablly gate-crasher expansion at Disney's Animal Kingdom is under siege by a tidal wave of guests on its (right-on-schedule) opening day.

From the Orlando Sentinel: "Keeli Garza made reservations in a Disney World hotel with the intention of taking advantage of the Extra Magic Hours benefit, which would get her into Pandora — The World of Avatar an hour earlier than the general public. But when she and a friend arrived at 7 a.m., folks were already being held back from Pandora, which was at capacity."

Replies (17)

May 27, 2017, 9:19 AM

People Magazine: “Zoë Saldana was moved to tears by her experience in Pandora – The World of Avatar. The actress, who starred in the 2009 blockbuster that inspired the new expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, says her first visit to the alien world was overwhelming.

‘I’m trying to find the words that best describe my feelings, because I was here yesterday for the first time and I brought my family,’ Saldana told PEOPLE at the grand opening on Wednesday. ‘And it’s only through my family’s and my friends’ eyes that I’m able to give myself a moment of pause and absorb all of this.’

“Both Saldana and her Avatar costar Sigourney Weaver said they cried after riding the new Avatar Flight of Passage attraction, which allows guests to fly aback a winged banshee through the eye-popping alien world of Pandora. (The immersive, breathtakingly scenic experience takes the high-flying euphoria of EPCOT’s Soarin’ to spectacular new heights.)”

Edited: May 27, 2017, 10:37 AM

All quotes from the Hollywood Reporter

First impression: “…Disney has delivered on this vision with unparalleled detail and incomparable immersion. As I crossed into the Valley of Mo'ara—a new part of Pandora specifically envisioned for the expansion—I was transported into “a whole new world” even Jasmine and Aladdin would envy. Floating mountains filled the sky, Sturmbeest roared from the surrounding rain-forest, and an Alpha Centauri Expeditions' field guide (park employees who stay in character at all times) warned visitors not to get too close to the Chalice Plants; as lethal as they are lovely to look at, the carnivorous flora are apparently capable of swallowing their prey before digesting them with an acidic enzyme.”

Regarding ‘Na’vi River Journey’: “The river journey begins relatively dark and quiet, but both the bioluminescence and music increases as the gap is closed between passengers and this spiritual character. Drenched in detail and incredibly expressive, the female Shaman — which Warzecha later described as Disney's “most advanced audioanimatronic” —closed the journey by blessing me with a rousing song and dance ritual.”

Regarding ‘Flight of Passage’: “Sitting before an enormous, enveloping screen, visitors are whisked away on a seat-of-the-pants adventure. On top of delivering an incredible sense of speed and flight, the immersive attraction incorporates a number of effects to realistically sting the senses. As my Banshee barreled over the ocean, for example, a whale-like beast breached the surface and sprayed me with water; following a near collision with the sea behemoth, I then found myself clutching the ride vehicle as I narrowly escaped a crushing rip curl.”

Conclusion: “This same sentiment extends to the entire park expansion. I spent nearly a day-and-a-half in Pandora, but felt I only scratched the surface of what it has to offer. While I wound up riding both attractions multiple times, I wish I'd spent more time leisurely exploring the park in the evening, when it transforms into a bioluminescent feast for the eyes.”

May 27, 2017, 9:37 AM

All quotes from The Verge:

“After touring the land this week, it’s safe to say that Disney’s Pandora is an important step forward in immersive entertainment. It doesn’t merely give visitors the sense of stepping into the world from the film; it makes the case that a physical park may have been the perfect format for the story of Avatar all along.”

“The Florida humidity (and a flash rainstorm) during our visit lent the entire park the feeling of being in a true rainforest, but it was at night that Pandora really came alive as an alien landscape. Black lights are hidden everywhere in the park, and after the sun sets, the entire place glows with purples, blues, and yellows, evoking the haunting bioluminescence portrayed in the movie. It’s gorgeous unto itself — climbing the mountain that serves as the entrance to Flight of Passage provides a breathtaking view of the valley below, with the floating mountains framing the rest of the park in surreal shades of color — but it’s also undeniably Avatar, and unlike anything I’ve encountered in a Disney park.”

“Perhaps the most magical bit of alchemy is the way the rides themselves affect the overall experience of visiting the park. Obviously, a theme park land could never capture the size and scope of the world in Cameron’s film — hence setting the park in its own standalone valley. But the breathtaking Flights of Passage effortlessly links the experience and visuals of the film, in all its CG glory, with the tactile reality of the physical park.”

“It’s literal world-building, and after touring Pandora I not only felt an affinity for the planet and its various inhabitants; I was eager to re-watch the film and see how it played now that I’d actually been to the world myself.”

May 27, 2017, 9:46 AM

From Pop Sugar, regarding ‘Flight of Passage’:

“As the ride begins, the immersive 3D screen suddenly transports you to Pandora as you zip through mountains, above the ocean, and into a bioluminescent cave. At times the ride is scary. As these rides go, things do jump out at you. The ride is also incredibly calming at times — a nice balance that is much appreciated by nervous riders like myself.

“Disney rides, however, are not complete without that one tiny detail that revolutionizes theme park rides at-large and leaves you stunned. For me, that detail on Flight of Passage was the sensation of the banshee's movement and breathing beneath you. It may sound silly, but it feels remarkably true to life . . . if true life involved floating mountains and all that.

“Leaving the ride, I instantly thought to myself, "I can't wait to do that again." Not only because the ride was so exhilarating, but also because I was still trying to figure out exactly how Disney pulled it all off and did the impossible.”

May 27, 2017, 9:48 AM

The Motley Fool on 'Flight of Passage:

"Flight of Passage on the other hand is as good as its moniker wordplay is not. If I had to sum it up in two words, I couldn't -- not here anyway -- because an expletive would be involved. It's that good. It's a simulated ride on a banshee, and while the setup is hokey and unfamiliar to most given the staleness of the Avatar franchise -- the 3D attraction itself is breathtaking. You can hear and feel the banshee breathing between your legs. Mists kick in as you glide along a waterfall or skim the ocean's surface. You feel truly immersed in the attraction."

May 27, 2017, 10:00 AM

From Inverse, on ‘Flight of Passage’:

“You slide and glide and turn on a dime as your Ikran cuts beneath massive cresting waves and between branches in the thick forest. There are floating rock formations in the distance, and Na’vi herding animals calling out below. It makes you feel like an environmentalist for a place that doesn’t actually exist, and then want to go to South America to see the equivalent on earth.

“The ride sprays a light mist across your face, adding to the sense that you’re really in this fictional land: a faint floral smell helps with immersion, as well.

“This is not, of course, a roller coaster, or any kind of scare ride; it’s thrilling, but not because there’s any sense of danger. It’s all wonder, and an experience you’ll want to repeat many times over."

May 27, 2017, 10:02 AM

Opening day reports on Twitter say that there is already a two hour line to get into Pandora, then a four hour wait to visit an attraction. Not me, baby. No way. People are crazy.

May 27, 2017, 10:07 AM

From CNET:

“Disney does here what it does best, wrapping you in a detail-rich world where you're the star of your own adventure. Not only is the park's visual landscape stunning, but there are layers of culture to explore. Eat funky-looking alien food, buy accessories to dress like a Na'vi and even learn how to speak the local language.

“The landscape seamlessly fuses real vegetation and fictional plant life, with some rusted and repurposed structures still around from the mining company in the film.

“At sundown, the plants, rocks and water glow with bioluminescence, bringing new energy into the night. In this fictional world, everything is physically and spiritually connected.”

May 27, 2017, 10:23 AM

Heard reports that waits for Pandora were so long that Animal Kingdom had to close to capacity. Anyone there willing to elaborate?

May 27, 2017, 10:37 AM

Nerds & Beyond:

"This is easily one of Disney’s best things they’ve ever done. The detail in the land is astounding, and visually, there’s so much to look at with all of the different plants and details that were added. There’s great photopass spots in front of the floating mountains, and along all different parts of the area."

Regarding ‘Na’vi River Journey’: "There’s bioluminescent plants and effects that Disney has outdone themselves with. The music is beautiful and really adds to the attraction. At the end, there is the Na’vi and the animatronics are amazing! This ride is beautiful and Disney has really captured magic here."

May 27, 2017, 2:04 PM

Orlando Sentinal:

"There's a sale at Penny's!"

Seriously though unless you're in the media who would want to go to an opening. Crazy crowds, packed like sardines, unheard of wait times, and not everything is running smoothly. I'd give it a half of a year.

May 27, 2017, 3:50 PM

Silly people. Pandora will be there next month, next year. No point having a lacklustre experience today.

Edited: May 27, 2017, 5:53 PM

James, I don't think they closed the park, but Pandora was filled to capacity and folks had to wait to get into the new land. [Update: As of about an hour or so ago, Pandora was closed to new "travelers" - probably so they could clear the area out for EMH]

Interesting thing to me is that according to the WDW app, all four parks are busy, which means they are not robbing visitors from themselves. A good sign. And the heavy crowds at DAK definitely mean people are coming to see Pandora. Wonder if they are the same people who have been blasting it for the last seven years?

Edited: May 27, 2017, 7:33 PM

Rao KILLS it !

May 27, 2017, 10:00 PM

So if there was a wait just to get into the land, were return tickets given out or did folks have to wait the whole thing in Standby like Guardians of the Galaxy seemingly did yesterday?

May 28, 2017, 6:26 AM

@TH Creative Ha! You just like it when I am on your side! ;)

@James I did not read about any return tickets. I think that as folks left the Pandora area, others were admitted, so the line was constantly moving, just really really long. Not sure if it was an all day occurrence or just peaked out at two hours. I am sure if things continue, Disney will adjust their operations - they want people spending money, not standing in line!

Anyone know how crowded it was at DAK's EMH last night?

May 28, 2017, 7:11 AM

Just got done doing both attractions in Pandora. DAK wasn't suppose to open until 8 but I arrived at 7:15 and by that time they had already started letting guests into Pandora. I did Flight of Passage first, with a wait of around 20 mins (advertised 90 min wait when I entered the queue) Overall, its a fantastic motion simulator with some unique twists. Is it a game changer? Absolutely not. I then did Na'vi river Journey. It was advertised as a 3 hour wait but actual wait time was 90 mins. It was fun and relaxing but not what I would label a "must see" (although that animatronic has to be the most impressive animatronic I've ever seen). My guess is that Disney is purposefully inflating wait times to discourage overcrowding--at least for this weekend. I'll give you my final thoughts later. Overall, a very solid addition to WDW and DAK specifically but nothing earth shattering (looks like we'll be waiting on SWL for that).

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