One of the most anticipated openings at Walt Disney World in Orlando is happening this weekend! Pandora – The World of Avatar, a brand new land inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is scheduled to open to the public on Saturday, May 27th.
Based off James Cameron’s Avatar movies, this 12-acre addition to Animal Kingdom began construction in January 2014 at an estimated cost of $500 million. Visitors to this new land will explore the fictional moon, Pandora, and be immersed into theming that includes floating mountains, alien wildlife, and bioluminescent plants.
We had the opportunity to tour Pandora – The World of Avatar during a pass holder preview event this past weekend. Many would say that this fictional land doesn’t fit into the “real world” of Animal Kingdom, but once you’re inside and see the beauty of it, you’ll see exactly how it fits in.
While the alien plant life is all man-made, it’s placed within the lush landscape that’s all around Animal Kingdom and looks as if it is truly real. The centerpiece of the land is the magnificent floating mountains that loom overhead and can be seen from everywhere.
Check out some of these photos of the plant life I took walking around the land.
Besides taking in the sights, Pandora – The World of Avatar has two attractions, the Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. We got to ride both of these, which is one thing to be thankful for because with the crowds that will be making their way here once it opens, lines will be long.
Na’vi River Journey is a short reed boat trip through a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Shaman of Songs. This is a dark ride, like Pirates of the Caribbean, but there is no real back story. It’s more of a sightseeing trip where you encounter some of the creatures that live in the rainforest while you pass glowing plants finally seeing the Shaman – one of the most advanced animatronics ever built by Disney Imagineers.
Avatar Flight of Passage is the ride that will draw people to this section of the park and Disney knew that from the start which is why they built the queue area large enough to accommodate a 6 hour wait time! Walking through the queue takes several minutes and along the way, you’re treated to more amazing views of plant life.
The ride itself is similar to that of Soarin’ over at Epcot. In this case, instead of being on a hang glider, you’re riding on the back of Banshee, a mythical creature used by Na’vi hunters on Pandora. In order to get to your Banshee, you undergo a few steps during the queue. The first is a briefing where you’re given some backstory on these animals and the second is where you’re matched to an Avatar.
Since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, let’s just say it’s pretty cool. Once you’re through the pre-show, it’s on to mounting your Banshee. You’re assigned an individual Link Chair which you sit on like you would a motorcycle. Once seated in the chair, or Banshee, the 3D ride transports you into a journey around Pandora. Like Soarin’ you’ll feel the wind, get a spritz of water and even feel the Banshee “breathe” as you sit on it. The entire theater moves up, down, sideways, back and forward as you view the World of Avatar from your Banshee.
The ride itself is amazing, although I thought the projection could be much crisper. Projection technology has come a long way, and it should be a little clearer that it is. That aside, it’s one of the most unique rides you will find at any of the Walt Disney World parks.
Besides these two rides, there’s not much more over in Pandora. Windtraders and Colors of Mo’ara are two gift shops where you can pick up Pandora themed merchandise. Pongo Pongo is a counter service drink stand where you can purchase unique Pandora themed alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, beer and margaritas. Satu’li Canteen is the land’s fast-casual dining spot that’s themed as a mess hall. It serves a unique menu for breakfast and lunch as well as beer and wine.
Pandora – The World of Avatar is going to breathe new life into Animal Kingdom, just like Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land is set to do over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when they open over the next several years.