Pandora - The World of Avatar opens officially on May 27 and will features three new attractions in what Disney's calling the largest expansion at Disney's Animal Kingdom to date. Visitors will fly through the skies of Pandora on Flight of Passage, drift down a Pandoran river at night in Na'vi River Journey and walk through the exotic flora of the land via the Valley of Mo'ara. Disney gave fans a new look inside the land in a story today on ABC's Good Morning America. (If you didn't know already, Disney owns ABC.) Take a look, if you missed it... or want to watch it again.
Here's what we learned from the video that we didn't know before: The video confirms that visitors will be assigned an "avatar" for their ride on Flight of Passage, during the pre-show for that flying theater experience. We only got the most fleeting glimpse of the ride vehicle, but they do look a bit like the Tron roller coaster seats from Shanghai, where you lean over and straddle a seat to ride. Put the two together, and it appears that it's your avatar that will be doing the actual ride on the back of a Mountain Banshee, but that you will experience it virtually with your flying theater seat and the 3D screen in front of you. Here's how Disney describes Flight of Passage, in a release sent today:
Avatar Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – a faceoff with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx.
We first detailed the show building for Flight of Passage in the Avatar construction plans we leaked back in 2013. We expect Flight of Passage to have four show theaters, with multiple levels of ride vehicles within each theater. (For a rough point of reference, think of the way that The Simpsons Ride at Universal loads.) The ride will have a 44-inch height restriction.
Na'vi River Journey will provide a more "restful" experience than the dynamic Flight of Passage. It's an indoor boat ride with no height restriction. Here's Disney's blurb:
On the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent rainforest. The eight-seat reed boats float past exotic glowing plants and Pandoran creatures into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical journey culminates in an encounter with a breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy through her music into the forest.
The animatronic Na'vi Shaman of Songs will be the central character in the ride, which will carry visitors through the bioluminescent forest of Pandora. You'll also be able to experience that bioluminescent forest with a night-time walk through the Valley of Mo'ara. Disney's promoting repeat visits to the land by pointing out how its appearance will change from day to night, as the exotic plants created by Walt Disney Imagineering from concepts by Avatar creator James Cameron glow and react to visitors' presence.
The Na'vi native from the Cameron's 2009 film, the highest-grossing movie of all time, will be found only in the two rides — they won't be walk-around characters in the land. But their presence will be obvious throughout, designers promised, with their craftwork and artifacts on display in the Valley of Mo'ara, the Satu’li Canteen restaurant and the Windtraders shop.
Disney hasn't announced it yet, but we've heard from multiple insiders that the land will feature interactive merchandise that will allow visitors to engage as more active participants in the land, rather than just tourists passing through. The obvious reference here is the interactive wands available at Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but insiders promise that Avatar's interactive merchandise will be even more technically impressive.
The land's restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, will be located in a Quonset hut that's been refurbished as a dining hall, now that the conflict between human miners from Earth and the Na'vi has been settled. Disney is calling the restaurant "fast-casual," suggesting a Be Our Guest lunch-type of ordering system, with counter ordering followed by delivery to your table. The menu "is inspired the healthful bounty of Pandora – wholesome grains, fresh vegetables, and hearty proteins," Disney says. The nearby Pongu Pongu bar will serve fanciful, Pandoran-inspired drinks.
Guests will enter Pandora via a bridge next to the new Tiffins restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The story is that you are traveling with Alpha Centauri Expeditions and the walk across the bridge will transport you light-years away, to the Alpha-Centauri solar system and Pandora. Across that bridge, visitors will find mountains floating more than 100 feet in the air, with cascading waterfalls, streams, pools and an overabundance of Pandoran flora.
With four theaters on the 3D attraction, plus a boat ride, and a walk-through, hour capacity should be robust for the new land. But with Disney's PR channels dropping full throttle to promote the land, we expect the number of visitors to far exceed that capacity for at least the first summer of its operation, leading to some epic wait times.
But will those Pandora visitors be new visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort, or people just switching from other Disney attractions to this one? In other words, will wait times go down at other Disney attractions as people queue for Pandora, or will wait times across all parks increase as new fans flood into the resort?
We'll find out in May. Until then, what are your Pandoran travel plans?
Update: Here's the second promo story from ABC this morning, featuring James Cameron with Whoopi Goldberg from The View. This one includes some on-ride video from the Na'vi River Journey.
And here's the Nightline story, which is an expanded version of the GMA spot:
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