Disney World reveals more detail from its upcoming 'Avatar' land

November 20, 2016, 11:18 AM · Walt Disney World today revealed more detail from its upcoming Pandora: The World of Avatar land, now under construction at Disney's Animal Kingdom for a summer 2017 debut.

Avatar director James Cameron and Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, who is overseeing the Pandora land, appeared on stage at a Destination D event at the resort this morning to describe some additional details from the project. The two played in character as having just returned from the "real" Pandora — the fictional planet in Cameron's 2009 3D hit — to describe what they saw there and what Disney World visitors will see when the land opens next summer.

Disney previously had revealed that the land would include two rides: Flight of Passage and the Na'vi River Journey. In 2013, we leaked the plans for the at-that-time unnamed flying theater ride — think of a next-generation, far-more-active Soarin'.

Today, Disney dropped a teaser video for the Na'vi River Journey:

This Shaman of Songs will be the central figure in the indoor boat ride, which will carry riders through the bioluminescent forest of Pandora. The shaman's music will provide a unifying narrative theme for the ride, which will provide a more "restful" experience than the dynamic Flight of Passage, according to Cameron and Rohde.

Disney this weekend removed scaffolding to to reveal the bridge that will carry visitors into the new land, whose entrance is located next to the new Tiffins restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The conceit is that visitors are traveling with Alpha Centauri Expeditions to the planet of Pandora, located 4.4 light years from Earth. There, they will see the floating mountains of Pandora, encounter the planet's unique plant life (some of which will interact with visitors), experience the two attractions, eat in the Satu'li Canteen restaurant, and maybe stop for a drink at the Pongu Pongu stand or shop in the Windtraders store, which will feature Na'vi crafts, science kits... and of course, a supply of plush creatures from Pandora.

What visitors will not find are walk-around Na'vi. Cameron said that Pandora's inhabitants will not be part of the land, save for their appearances inside the rides. That makes Pandora's approach to resident characters consistent with Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter — the richly-detailed, immersively themed single-IP land with which Pandora is designed to compete — in which the named characters from the Harry Potter films do not appear, outside of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

Pandora: The World of Avatar will kick off a string of three major new single-IP lands at the Walt Disney World Resort, to be followed by Star Wars and Toy Story lands at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Disney has not yet announced pening dates for those lands.

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Replies (19)

November 20, 2016 at 12:14 PM

Disney continues to be the king of anamtronic characters - and that is the most impressive one I think I've ever seen.

I know there's already been enough complaints made about "screen based" rides at Universal, but there really is something magical about being immersed in a ride, and having real, tangible, sets and characters all around you. The more real the characters, the more real the experience.

How Avatar-Land plays out will yet to be seen, but so far, it looks like Disney is about to hit its first home run in the USA since Cars Land, and the first in Orlando since...jeez, I can't even remember when. Expedition Everest?

November 20, 2016 at 12:29 PM

I am, as Pat Benatar sings, "All fired up!"

Is there any video of the Cameron/Rohde Destination D discussion? A transcript? Anything? I want to know MORE! Seems like we've been waiting for Pandora since 2011 - oh wait, we have! Oh well, it looks like the payoff will be worth the wait after all!

November 20, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Wow. Avatar came out all the way back in 2009? That seems crazy!

I think this project is going to be a home run. Assuming the floating mountains turn out well, I really think it's going to be immersive, and I can't wait to see it!

November 20, 2016 at 2:02 PM

Why??? Honestly I dont get it. Wasted space.

November 20, 2016 at 4:33 PM

What do they call summer in Orlando, will it be a June opening to match universal studios new water park opening.?

November 20, 2016 at 4:45 PM

B Goodwin - Did they ever fix the yeti on Expedition Everest? I wouldn't consider something that only worked properly for a few month a home run.

November 20, 2016 at 11:52 PM

Can't wait to check out this new land in October, our next Orlando trip! And, hopefully, it will draw crowds away from the Magic Kingdom.

November 21, 2016 at 2:43 AM

I've still never seen this film.

November 21, 2016 at 3:13 AM

That AA looks amazing in that little clip. I'm still looking forward how you sit on the banshee and if this Soarin ride is 3D

November 21, 2016 at 9:28 AM

The film was breathtakingly beautiful in 3D. Watching it on Blu-Ray, I couldn't care less. So if the visuals of this boat attraction are on par with the theatrical presentation (and it appears it will be), then this is a must see. If it's biggest draw is the IP, then it will be a C-ticket for me personally at best.

November 21, 2016 at 3:33 PM

"Just you wait ... just you wait ..."

November 21, 2016 at 8:03 PM

I still think Avatar is a poor choice for Animal Kingdom, but that animatronic is absolutely impressive. If the entire land can match that quality, it may wind up being far better than I'm expecting. Otherwise, I wouldn't be surprised if this is a land most people visit once and don't feel a huge desire to return to.

November 21, 2016 at 9:16 PM

For those who are saying practical sets are not Universal but yet Disney, consider the following:
Disney for one has been known to make boat rides. Not rides that include you falling from a tower or being attacked/chased by villains. Don't get me wrong I love these types of rides. Yet it is very easy to place AAs and practical sets whereas Universal has a full on action scene; kinda hard to include practical sets and AAs..
Think about it before comparing two VERY different types of rides made for a different audience. It doesn't have to be Uni V Disney all the time. I'm really looking forward to this land and it's rides too.

November 21, 2016 at 11:32 PM

AJ: You're only making an exception for Avatar and not the whole park that is not repeatable. If some people do write off Avatar, the park will be in major trouble, but there's little risk that will happen.

November 22, 2016 at 4:17 AM

We are about seven months away from opening ... "Just you wait ... just you wait ..."

November 22, 2016 at 10:44 AM

I'm looking forward to this new land with the hope that it far exceeds the visually-stunning but moronically-scripted film.

November 22, 2016 at 5:32 PM

Some Disney Insiders at WDW Magic are saying that's the only humanoid AA in the entire Pandora land/attractions. Three other AA's of other types besides. That would be a shame if true. I thought there would be lots more than 4 AA's.

November 23, 2016 at 12:59 PM

Mr. Pastor, Mr. Hillman, Just you wait ... just you wait

November 24, 2016 at 11:01 AM

TH, if you know something, why not just say something? This "just you wait" business is getting tedious.

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