During the course of every rumor trail, including huge projects like Avatar and Universal’s upcoming Diagon Alley, there’s a turning point where the rumors either disappear or take a much more credible form that we can begin to believe in.

avatarHS aerial

Last week, Avatar, much hinted by Disney, reached that point as Disney finally broke some news after a colossal gap in communications since their first word that they were considering this for Animal Kingdom.
At totalorlando we’ve long suspected that something big was troubling the project up in the board room.  Disney seemed inexplicably reluctant to move with the project despite unprecedented pressure from local rival parks.
It seems that Disney and james Cameron had been going around in circles according to Jim Hill’s article.  Something that followers of the Avatar creator might well expect.  The master of the Titanic movie could possibly be described as rather ‘picky’ when it comes to new projects and the possibility that things got strained between he and Disney more than cross our minds now.
Thankfully, Disney have at last ‘gone public’ with their collaboration and Avatar looks set to appear in the Animal Kingdom, but not until a severely delayed launch in early 2017.
With a hint of a dark boat ride, a floating island and a ‘Soarin’ style flight through Pandora on one of the Banshees (or Ikran in Pandoran speak), the new and yet to be named land will also host restaurants, stunning landscapes and minor attractions in what looks set to be a far from ordinary development for Disney.
Let’s hope that Tom Staggs and James Cameron can keep things on track for 2017!
Another reason for the mighty delay in bringing Avatar to the parks is also explained in Jim Hill’s post.  Disney want Tokyo DisneySea to take on the Avatar theme.  The shared costs will be much appreciated by the Walt Disney Imagineering team, and of course the Disney board.  The Japanese are already reeling it seems from other shared park developments, such as their version of Toy Story Mania.
Hmm, who would have dreamt that making Magic was so political?

 

Next up is the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings rumor.
Jim again suggests that this is definitely not going to happen at WDW.  Insiders at Disney have denied that this is a viable project.
Suggestions that Lord of the Rings could well have been used to ‘shape’ James Cameron into resolving his differences with Disney and the Avatar project offer an insight into just how troubled Disney might be by the lack of a new headline attraction area that can compete aggressively with the Harry Potter developments a few miles north.
Although Lord of the Rings now looks well off the table, it is also worth considering that Disney definitely don’t play games.  If Avatar stalled, the Hobbit would definitely have been a viable alternative for Disney.
Although Avatar ‘jars’ slightly with the Animal Kingdom’s general ‘nature’ theme, Avatarland might well be a sign that Disney will use animals in their parks on a much lighter and ever decreasing basis over the next decade.

avatartreeoflife

The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom also looks set for a huge makeover as preparations to transform the Animal Kingdom’s signature emblem into a night time spectacle take place some time in 2014.
Expect a lot of scaffolding and netting as the Imagineers systematically strip the tree of the faded and jaded old leaves and replace loose branches that have recently being falling off.  Once complete, a mind numbing wiring job will bring the tree to life by illuminating 10’s of thousands of leaves each evening.
(Think of a Glow with the Show style of effect and some!).
The tree will combine with effects on the Discovery River to transform Disney’s ‘early closing’ park into a full day park at long last and also will include a night time version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Can’t wait.