Reflections of AVATAR

Here is what the land of Pandora will look like during the day...
Here is what the land of Pandora will look like during the day…

The D23 conference in Tokyo has released photos of the new AVATAR attraction coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We brought you this article over the weekend, but we have since updated with several important new photos. It is an amazing look at the world of Pandora both day and night.

...And here's what that same land will look like at night."
…And here’s what that same land will look like at night.”

As Imagineer Joe Rhode noted:  “Above and beyond the key attractions, the land of Pandora itself is filled with experiences. The land comes to life when you interact with it and seem to be a living creature itself.”

On a flight the other day I had a chance to catch a few minutes from Avatar–in particular–the moment when they fly on Banshees through the floating mountains. I thought, if they could create a floating mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, that would be an awesome site.

So it was with great enthusiasm and excitement that this week’s D23 announcement from Tokyo offered a scale model of an Avatar land with a floating mountain.

James Cameron, Walt Disney Parks & Reosrts Chairman Tom Staggs and Imagineer Joe Rohde View a Model of the AVATAR-themed land coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
James Cameron, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Imagineer Joe Rohde View a Model of the AVATAR-themed land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.

It appears that this mountain may be taking it’s cues from none other than Spaceship Earth, which uses support pylons to hold the globe into place. It appears that roots hanging down from the mountain will obscure the sheer steel structure that will keep that mountain in place. This will be so amazing and beautiful that people will be shooting pictures of this for years to come. They will truly feel like they have arrived in Pandora.

The rock in the background of this image becomes a trail of stone that leads to and supports the floating mountain.
The rock in the background of this image becomes a trail of stone that leads to and supports the floating mountain.

Also exciting was the idea that not one, but at least two attractions will be featured in this new addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There will be a boat ride that will sail through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Whether this is more Jungle Cruise, or Pirates of the Caribbean or something else remains to be seen. Perhaps it will be more like the boat ride attached to the castle and Fantasyland of Shanghai Disneyland. But the artwork appears incredible in its imagery.

Artist rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land at night, coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort
Artist rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land at night, coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

Finally we know that there is some opportunity for guests to “discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.” This appears similar to the concept that had floated around earlier of a Soarin’ like experience. There are many ways to make this happen, though an earlier drawing suggested a smaller set of Soarin’ type theaters. But that may have only been conceptual. In Imagineer Joe Rhode’s words, ” We know that Disney fans and Avatar fans want to visit this beautiful planet of Pandora, and they will! They will fly across the planet on the wings of one of those giant creatures…”

Guests WIll Discover What it Feels Like to Soar into the Sky Riding a Banshee When AVATAR Comes to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
Guests Will Discover What it Feels Like to Soar into the Sky Riding a Banshee When AVATAR Comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
It's uncertain the actual purpose of the edifice, but below Tom Staags is a building that appears very similar to the Soarin' building.
It’s uncertain the actual purpose of the edifice, but below Tom Staags is a building that appears very similar to the Soarin’ building.

I assume there will be meet ‘n’ greets, retail, as well as food & beverage. It’s my conjecture that this land may still very well connect up with the Rain Forest Cafe. Landry has well-proven it’s ability to do other thematic concepts beyond a rain forest, especially with T-REX at Downtown Disney. I’ve never felt like they needed two Rainforest Cafes at Walt Disney World. Most people have no clue that the restaurant sits only a few feet away from the old Pocahontas theater in Camp Minnie-Mickey. It would be an obvious opportunity to re-theme this restaurant and connect it directly with AVATAR.

If there is disappointing news in all of this, it’s that all of this is expected to open not in 2015 or 2016, but in early 2017. Again, that seems a life-time away. But I am encouraged that this attraction appears to be on track for being of an extraordinary quality. Meanwhile, Construction of the new Festival of the Lion arena is well underway in Africa, allowing Camp Minnie-Mickey to close in 2014 for construction.

Construction for the new Festival of the Lion King show now to be held in Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Construction for the new Festival of the Lion King show now to be held in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

And we’ve received word of a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, and water screens showcasing animal imagery all combine on the Discovery River. Sounds like something akin to World of Color. Also, Kilimanjaro Safaris will have a new nighttime version as well. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2017 to see these new additions.

This image captures other nighttime entertainment that will be in the parks as well, including live performers on Discovery Island.
This image captures other nighttime entertainment that will be in the parks as well, including live performers on Discovery Island.

There have been many naysayers and critics attached to this project. And more than countless comparisons are being made to the Harry Potter project down the road at Universal. All I can say is bring on the competition! It makes Orlando a great place to be in the years to come! All of this is very exciting!

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