First previews begin for Pandora - The World of Avatar

April 29, 2017, 2:21 PM · Walt Disney World has begun allowing outsiders to get a first look at the most anticipated new development of the year — Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Today's preview allowed invited local reporters access to the land's two new attractions: The Soarin'-style Flight of Passage and Disney's first all-new indoor boat ride in the U.S. in nearly three decades, the Na'vi River Journey.

As previously reported, Flight of Passage is a motion theater ride where visitors straddle ride seats that allow them to share the experience of their "avatar" riding on the back of a flying Mountain Banshee on the world of Pandora, the setting for the 2008 blockbuster James Cameron film. The queue for the ride sets up the story and includes some magnificent decoration, including the avatar animatronic above.

On Na’vi River Journey, visitors board eight-passenger reed boats for a four and a half minute voyage through the bioluminescent forest of Pandora, culminating in an encounter with the nearly 10-foot-tall Na'vi Shaman of Songs.

From the park's press release:

Music is central in Na’vi culture. Guests observe the shaman in the midst of a musical ceremony, playing an instrument and singing. Through her music, the shaman sends positive energy into the rainforest, telling of the sacred bond with nature that Na’vi and humans share.

"Na'vi River Journey is a very sweet, lyrical adventure through a spectacular visual environment that just becomes more and more spectacular as you go on," Creative Director Joe Rohde said. "The bioluminescent activity of the plants around you unfolds in richer and richer scenes in really just a very uplifting, wonderful kind of journey."

In addition, reporters were allowed to sample some of the new Asian-fusion-inspired "other worldly" cuisine at the land's Satu’li Canteen.

Pandora - The World of Avatar opens officially on May 27. Disney will begin scheduled previews for annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club in mid-May and show off the land for a major media event on May 24. With the land now being shown to media, we need some catchy social media hashtag that fans can use to track whether the land soft-opens to the public. (Like #PotterWatch, #ChanceofReign, or #BayWatch for Universal's recent openings.) Suggestions?

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Replies (46)

April 29, 2017 at 2:36 PM · How about #FlightOrFight, as in Flight of Passage is open, or we simply bum rush the place. :)
April 29, 2017 at 2:37 PM · The shaman AA is groundbreaking! Ok, it helps that na'vi are huge, so maybe more place for the mechanisms inside.
April 29, 2017 at 2:52 PM · The shaman figure is an extraordinary piece of animation. Far superior to anything that's ever been attempted in themed entertainment. And as the world marvels at the attractions in PTWOA it should be noted that Disney's success with this IP serves as a harbinger of what is to come with Star Wars at DHS
April 29, 2017 at 2:56 PM · Just do #JourneyToPandora !
April 29, 2017 at 3:20 PM · Do we know if any of the reporters on site informed the Disney reps that Universal is "one big IP away from blowing open Orlando"?


April 29, 2017 at 4:03 PM · Just so impressive
April 29, 2017 at 5:51 PM · That animatronic is creepy as heck! The long arms make it appear especially awkward.

If you want to see a well done animatronic, see Kong.

April 29, 2017 at 6:04 PM · Animatronic is got some amazing movement, but yeah agreed on the creepy aspect.
April 29, 2017 at 7:04 PM · The way the Navi is swinging her arms reminds me of the Yeti before it broke. Nonetheless, let's hope for the best.
April 29, 2017 at 7:05 PM · Check out the videos of Pandora on YouTube. All three of the animatronics are fantastic! Also, nice use of screens on Na'vi River Journey and the queue for Flight of Passage is very impressive, especially the avatar in the tank. WOW! Overall, Pandora is a great addition to Animal Kingdom, now a legitimate full day park. Look out DisneySea, the best theme park in the world now has some real competition.

And yes, UO is one BIG IP away from blowing open Orlando. : )

April 29, 2017 at 7:31 PM · @TH Creative

Down in the horizon, there's Nintendo Land, waiting to stomp on SWL and Pandora land.

Makes me chuckle at the thought of it

April 29, 2017 at 8:14 PM · Wow, that animatronic is incredible!
April 29, 2017 at 8:20 PM · She is isn't awkward or clumsy at all.
She's amazing
April 29, 2017 at 8:24 PM · #QuetheBlue
April 29, 2017 at 8:29 PM · #TheRohdeOpens
True theme Parks are designed by artists
April 29, 2017 at 9:09 PM · With Avatar ,Star Wars and Nintendo Orlando will be back on top as having the best Theme Parks in the World .
Also Universal and Disney fans should come together as one and celebrate each other's successes as Theme Park fans when they both create amazing experiences we get to enjoy them.
April 29, 2017 at 9:31 PM · That ... is strange.

Robert, are you able to tour the land next month at all? Interested to read your take on it.

April 29, 2017 at 11:17 PM · I don't look at spoiler videos, but I'm looking forward to experiencing all this in the Fall. But I'm very disappointed that there are no AAs of the cool animals on Pandora. Isn't this ANIMAL Kingdom?
April 30, 2017 at 2:42 AM · Very well done and I've seen 2 great AA's and a boring boatride.
The whole area looks beautiful but doesn't resonate with me. It's just like the movie, all beauty no emotional connection. I'm sure it'll do great for the general Disney customer.
It's fun to see theme parks can push the limits (and budget) if external pressure is present.
April 30, 2017 at 3:46 AM · The animatronic is very cool. But to correct TH it's movement is not called animation. Animation is the the illusion of movement. That thing moves.
April 30, 2017 at 3:59 AM · It's also fun to see theme parks (like Disney's Animal Kingdom) push the limits when external pressure isn't present.
April 30, 2017 at 5:49 AM · DBCooper writes: "That animatronic is creepy as heck! The long arms make it appear especially awkward."

I respond: Um ... It's an alien. To a degree it's supposed to be creepy, right?

April 30, 2017 at 5:53 AM · Queue vid is up!

April 30, 2017 at 6:29 AM · Early review of 'Flight of Passage': "The actual flight is centered around beautiful visuals. Using the technology that we know from Disney’s Soarin’ attraction and many elements we are familiar with (distinct smells and quite frequent misting effects), Flight of Passage is still able to bring us a new take with its precise simulation and breathtaking vistas. The wind rushing matches perfectly with different speeds during your flight. The movements of the seat are perfectly in sync with the screen’s footage, so even motion sickness-prone individuals may be able to clear without issue. (I am one of those people.) The experience is genuinely moving.
You fly around the floating mountains, past many other Na’vi, across an ocean, under a wave, and wind up with a beautiful sun-soaked overview of Pandora. This is a sight-seeing flight from another world. I felt like Sebastian on the back of Falkor in “The NeverEnding Story.” When my flight ended and I “disconnected” from my link chair, I was instantly ready to go back. I visited a place of complete fantasy, but it felt so real. The beauty of it is something not easily shaken. If you allow yourself to become part of the story, by the end you will not only feel like you have flown, you will feel like you have truly connected to this world."
April 30, 2017 at 6:36 AM · Looks and sounds fantastic. Already planning a visit just because of Avatar, now trying to figure how to visit SOONER!
April 30, 2017 at 7:32 AM · Another review: "The transition between day and night in Pandora is staggering. If daytime in this new land is likened to a peaceful nature walk under floating mountains and gorgeous waterfalls, nighttime is an enlightening expedition through another planet that provides a steady stream of surprises around every turn."

Again, the word the writer chose was "staggering."

April 30, 2017 at 7:58 AM · From the same review: "Ultimately, it all circles back to that word “wonder.” If this was what Imagineering is going for, they seem to have nailed it – even in this early preview. We can only imagine the spectacle that will be the floating mountains when they are fully illuminated in their bioluminescent glory – which we are told will have an animated element to it.

There is true sense of surprise that is tied up in an admiration of the inexplicable. It’s not something that can be entirely captured in photo or video. This must be experienced in person to fully grasp the nature of what has been accomplished here."

April 30, 2017 at 9:25 AM ·

DBCooper your talking about the growling head animatronic right? Where is its arms and body? I'm curious! In terms of animatronics, universal is no where near Disney! Good try though!

April 30, 2017 at 9:29 AM · Huh, seems to break a bunch of the rules regarding the movie storyline. I think the movie rules transitioning to theme park experience is it's greatest weakness. Where are the gas masks we are all supposed to wear to not die from the toxins in the air? How does our DNA just match up? The movie has the wheelchair guy going to Pandora cause he had an identical twin. And the biggest question is where does one get away for a bit to have some hair on hair action?

However it is visually stunning. The magnetic sand "creature" was neat. Looks to be a pretty solid land from the glimpses we have so far. Will be interesting to see this at night.

April 30, 2017 at 11:22 AM · TH Creative, where do those reviews come from?
April 30, 2017 at 11:31 AM · Too much respect for Homeboy (R. Niles) to promote other sites. Copy/paste the quotes and you will find them.
April 30, 2017 at 5:23 PM · Pandora looks amazing. I think it will be important to slow down a little to really enjoy this land. We are so used to instant gratification these days, im looking forward to stopping and enjoying all the details, and really feeling like Im in a new place. For me the joy of Disney had always been in the wonderful surprises: street cleaners who paint wonderful cartoons on the ground in soap, (anyone else seen this?) etc...It seems like Pandora will have some fun and subtle elements for us to discover.
April 30, 2017 at 9:48 PM · After watching all the available videos online of Pandora, I can confidently say that Animal Kingdom is my new favorite park (sorry Disney-MGM/Hollywood Studios). This park is Joe Rohde's masterpiece! The lands are cohesive, the adventures/attractions are memorable, and the vistas are stunning. It would have been nice to have Beastly Kingdom, but I'm overwhelmed by Pandora as it is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!
And there is still more room for an expansion of Pandora and more additions to Africa and Asia (really hoping for a large scale attraction of The Jungle Book). The success of Pandora should also give Rohde the leverage to finally get Disney to fix the Yeti, as he has expressed his strong desire to do so. Congratulations DAK, keep it coming!
April 30, 2017 at 8:04 PM · Hmmm. Isn't disney, exploiting the indiginous natural resources and native's, much like the mining company. Just without explosions. How much are the inhabitant's being paid, to be slaves/guides?
May 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM · Animal Kingdom is my favorite park. This looks like an amazing addition. If they can give me one more themed coaster, then I would be totally happy with the offerings at Animal Kingdom.
May 1, 2017 at 11:21 AM · A Jungle Book ride would be interesting. Also a South America/North America land. Could do a lot with that in terms of rides and animals native to the continents.
May 1, 2017 at 12:44 PM · I read the reviews referenced by TH Creative, and I gotta damn, I wanna go NOW!
May 1, 2017 at 12:51 PM · #pandoorsareopen
May 2, 2017 at 5:00 AM · There's just too many screens...... cough cough :)
May 1, 2017 at 8:33 PM · If they have the technology, how much more could it have cost to add a 2nd or 3rd animatronic to the river ride?
May 2, 2017 at 12:49 PM · Looks like a trippy ride. Like E.T. 2.0. I wonder if they can put fangs on the Shaman and call it Vampira of Pandora. Even the costumes look devilish.
May 2, 2017 at 1:36 PM · Maybe they'll start giving out prismatic glasses for Na'Vi River Journey and rename it "Nights in White Satin: The Trip Revisited".
May 2, 2017 at 2:22 PM · Went with a cast member friend today, lots of trees, rocks, waterfalls, but not really a whole lot to do. Pretty but no substance. The ride (FoP) is a cool simulator though, River ride we did a few times, but wasn't that great.
May 2, 2017 at 3:48 PM · I watched the audio-animatronic video from Disney. The shaman's moves are eerily similar to Captain Jack Sparrow with the way its arms wave about. I still wonder if the boat ride will end up being Living with the Land 2.0.

Basically this is the Star Wars land we should have received in the first place, but because of poor timing and business negotiations it happens to be themed to Avatar. I don't believe this land would have come to fruition if the Lucasfilm deal would have been finalized earlier in 2011.

What Disney does have is what appears to be a visually impressive land that will certainly increase attendance for Animal Kingdom exponentially this year. Looking at the long term, I think that DHS will have an enormous increase in attendance once Star Wars comes on line. When this happens, Animal Kingdom and Epcot will become the third and fourth choice for families deciding which park to visit due to either capacity issues at DHS or their overall plan for their vacations places them in this order. If Epcot continues to flounder without any new attractions that aren't quick fix overlays, it will find itself sitting in a very lonely fourth place. It will also be interesting to see if Avatar resonates as a viable IP that the general public is familiar with in the next ten years or if this land will find its footing based on the theme-ing and attractions with visitors thinking, "there was a film based on this land? I've never heard of it."

May 3, 2017 at 10:36 AM · Kris V writes: "If Epcot continues to flounder without any new attractions that aren't quick fix overlays, it will find itself sitting in a very lonely fourth place."

I Respond: So if WDW adds two brand new attractions to Epcot that are based upon popular IP -- adding further support to new attractions at DAK, DHS and the most popular park on the planet (Magic Kingdom) -- then Disney sews up a solid audience. Four theme parks with a combined annual attendance of more than 60 million guests?

May 4, 2017 at 5:23 PM · If Cameron makes Avatar 2, half as overtly political and blaming of modern nations (as Avatar), it's going to get very akward for Disney.

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