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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