Pandora – The World of Avatar (and Media Excitement!)

Pandora: The World of Avatar takes guest experience to a whole new level

Some years ago, we enthusiastically praised Universal’s Diagon Alley.
As far as theme park upgrades go, the Harry Potter based area took ‘immersive experiences’ to a brand new level.
The blogosphere mumbled about Disney being taken aback by the shear audacity and skill behind the very speedy project that barely seemed to take a few years to build from start to finish.

If the good folks at Disney were taken aback, they sure took there time in showing it, with Pandora: The World of Avatar being the only large scale project to appear in the parks since New Fantasyland over at the Magic Kingdom.

The slow development of the Pandora project has frustrated so many people who’d expected to experience the new area years ago.
From what the TotalOrlando team saw this week, the reason for that might be very simple; Perfection!

When you are long term champion, you have to show strength when the challengers come for your title.  Believe me, Universal have some thinking to do if Disney’s latest launch is something to go by.

Camp Minnie Mickey is now a Magical Landscaped Paradise!

If you’ve ever been to Animal Kingdom, you might just manage to make out the old stream that Donald, Daisy and co were walking by.  The stream, minus ducks, is still there, leaving the only visible clue about Pandora’s location within the park.
Currently, Pandora is accessible from the Discovery Island area as you cross over a bridge way that runs by Tiffins and Pizzafari.
Eventually, a further route will connect Africa, over towards the Festival of the Lion King area.

The Ambience is Stunning and Surreal, It Really Feels Like Pandora

Stunning mountains and waterfalls tower over Animal Kingdom’s Pandora!

If you would love to experience the ‘Awe’ of being transported millions of miles from Earth, and setting foot on Pandora’s mysterious ground, Disney have ‘Aced’ the concept of immersive experiences.
The whole experience ‘threw’ me, as a slowly explored my way around this new alien landscape.
The scenery can’t be explained in words, nor can it be captured as accurately as I’d wished with a camera.  That’s no hype and the reasons are simple; it’s all in the detail!
For example;

  • Planted landscaping that beats anything we’ve ever seen at any park or botanical garden
  • Lots of running water, and in ways that you’d not normally see on earth
  • Random sounds that stir the imagination, and remind you that it’s not ‘Earth’ (no scary sounds though)
  • Smells that remind you that you are on Pandora, a land rich in minerals and nature.
  • Those magnificent rock formations, floating islands, towering mountains.
  • Forced perspective like we’ve never seen before (effects that make objects look distant)
  • Imaginative Interactive fun stuff for the kids to enjoy (bongo drums, Pandora style!)
  • The whole experience of being in the Land itself is worth the visit to Pandora!

Fabulous by day, a spectacular visual experience by night!

Pandora Bioluminescent Walkways

Pandora’s bioluminescent walkways and features will burst into light at night!

Experiencing Pandora by day was a beautiful experience, but the bioluminescence of Pandora will truly bring some of those ‘key scenes’ from the movie to life.
Although the park closes at 9pm, regular summer guests might be able to catch a hint of what’s in store before they head back to the parking lot.
If you are staying on Disney property, you will be treated like royalty by Disney, with an additional 2 hours to enjoy the glowing night life of Pandora’s lush landscape.

The moment we’ve been waiting for:  The Attractions!

It would be truly fair to say, that Pandora: The World of Avatar consists of three rather than 2 attractions.
In conventional terms, there’s the Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey.
The land itself however, as you might have guessed from our opening words, truly merits your attention for a good hour or so.
We would happily spend some quality vacation time just soaking up that Disney Magic from the walkways.

The Na’vi River Journey

Imagine, traveling through space to work on repairing the Eco Systems of Pandora and then relaxing each day in the serene waterways of Pandora, under the natural luminescent glow from the beautiful plants and restful nocturnal creatures?
From beginning to end, the Na’vi River Journey commences with a flowing journey, with no sudden drops, or bumps.
The imagineers want you to enjoy the rhythm of nature and the adorable Na’vi music.
We won’t spoil the experience for you (some bloggers will) but be prepared to meet the main female Na’vi character (Neytiri) along the journey.

In a nutshell
A soothing gentle ride through a nocturnal Pandoran paradise!
Perfect for guests of all ages.
The magic of the attraction lies within the restful audio and visuals.
No height restriction.

Avatar Flight of Passage – like ‘Pandoran Soarin’ on Steroids’

Another level of guest experience – Disney’s new breed of simulator rides debuts at Pandora!

It’s so easy to be lazy and draw parallels to other existing attractions, but I think that it needs some kind of benchmark.  Forgive us for not doing this attraction enough justice by saying that the ride is like the incredibly amazing Epcot attraction.
With two journeys under my belt now, I can confirm that this is a thrill ride more than a ‘whole family attraction’.
The whole experience builds up beautifully from the two pre-ride experience areas as you are ‘DNA matched to an Avatar.
The theming of the line wait area is exceptional and the detailing of the building is truly impressive.

From there, you head out into your ‘roost ledge’ to prepare for your maiden voyage aboard your Banshee.
In tech terms, the Banshee resembles a very futuristic cut down ‘Light Cycle’ from Tron, rather than a flying lizard creature.
(Think of those climb aboard motorcycle arcade game seats)
The focus here is on experience and the Imagineers have designed the single seats to offer the best possible view of Pandora throughout the flight.

Once your flight commences., the 3D panorama is breathtaking.
Again, much like the Pandora landscape outside in the park, the Avatar Flight of Passage truly exceeded my expectations.
The visuals are inspired by the movie and the freedom of movement that the Banshees provide makes the whole concept possible.
For families concerned about some scenes from the movie, there’s not a hint of violence on this ride.  This is Pandora at peace now.

In a Nutshell
A thrilling aerial tour of Pandora’s sea land and mountains!
Takes simulator rides to a totally different level – nothing like it!
Lasts around 4.5 minutes
Quite a ‘sporty’ 3D simulator effect!
No dangling feet to spoil the view
No ‘centre, middle, top row’ disadvantage in the visual effects
Height restriction 44″
Larger guests might not be able to ride (we didn’t notice any test seats at the line entrance)
Guests affected by motion sickness might want to sit this out.
There’s no ‘GREEN or ORANGE’ choice like Mission Space!

Food and Beverages within Pandora – The Land of Avatar

Satu’il Canteen

This was another huge surprise.
Perhaps for the first time within a theme park, parents can dine with tasty ‘adult food’ and sit with their choosier kids as they enjoy their ‘kid food’.
Thank you Disney!  I’m not sure if you did that just to please my family, but the Satu’il Canteen definitely got my vote!

It’s always hard to judge food quality from a press event, so we will return again soon, but from what we saw, the offerings had a lot of appeal and the quality should be repeatable.
We thought that the menu options were different to tempt foodie diners, but, as mentioned, some nice menu items for kids too!

Again, I felt that Disney really are pushing hard on experience here in Pandora, and the Satu’il Canteen stands out as a counter service restaurant with a difference.

In a Nutshell
Good family dining spot for families
Interesting choices for parents tired of ‘park food’
A nice selection of kid friendly meals that break the ‘burger/nuggets/pizza’ habit.

Satu’il Canteen Menu

Build a Bowl ($11.49 to $12.99)

Slow roast sliced beef
Chopped wood fired grilled chicken
Fish Filet
Crispy fried Tofu
Quinoa and vegetable salad
Red & Sweet Potato Hash
Mixed whole grain rice
Romaine & Kale salad
Charred Onion Chimichurri
Black Bean Vinaigrette
Creamy Herb Dressing

Pandora Timeline

  • 1994 James Cameron began working on the first Avatar movie
  • Dec 2009 Avatar (movie) premiered in London
  • Sep 2011 James Cameron and Disney sign long term licensing deal
  • Jan 2014 Construction commenced at WDW Animal Kingdom
  • May 2017 Pandora – The World of Avatar officially opens to the public on May 27th

Our Opinion – on Pandora The World of Avatar

Spanning over 8 years of development, the pure genius of the combined efforts of James Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineering have at last been unboxed at WDW Animal Kingdom.
It’s no secret that Cameron is a very detailed guy.
It’s also not a secret that Disney are determined to stay ahead of the impressive work at Universal Studios.

The results are an emphatic success for all involved.
Although the area occupied by the new land is huge, much is taken up by backstage areas.
This creates a really appealing foreground for guests to call their front stage area.
The landscaping as mentioned, is truly remarkable.  That, is not an exaggeration.
Best of all, the area does not require miles of trekking from one end to another.
In terms of layout, it’s awesome, compact, but lacks nothing at all.

We could spend a good hour in Pandora, just admiring the detail.
I always feel that it’s the little things that create that elusive Disney magic, and please see for yourself, your eyes, ears and nostrils will be bombarded with that ‘hard to explain’ magic.

The Avatar Flight of Passage is the ‘big ticket’ experience in Pandora, but the more tranquil boat ride creates ‘something for everyone’.
A fact that Universal often sacrifices in an effort to grab headlines over entertaining younger kids with immersive content.
Disney’s long standing heritage in family friendly story telling continues in style at the Animal Kingdom!

If we could describe our day at Walt Disney World’s launch yesterday, it would be a sentence like;

“Walt Disney World’s Pandora – Land of Avatar is an unmissable voyage to another magical world of sensory delight.”

If that sounds like marketing hype, we apologize for using familiar words, but the statement is a very accurate testimony to 6 years worth of Disney World creativity!