For years, plenty of people including myself asked why did Disney purchase the rights of Avatar? Who thought this was a good idea? It was announced in 2011 and then took three years to just break ground on the land, then another three to open. Needless to say, people had their doubts. Even me! Truth me told, I wildly dislike the film Avatar. I think it’s incredibly overrated and gawk when people tell me it’s their favorite film. I can easily get a better film and story from Disney’s Pocahontas, which Avatar is pretty much that, but in space. But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the brand new land at Animal Kingdom.
As time progressed, and we began to see more and more of this future immersive land, i started to get excited. Disney was promising big things and I was hoping (for theme park fans and Disney’s sake) that I walk into this land, look around and say to myself, “You know, Avatar isn’t such a bad film.” And so I ventured out!
I had already gotten to sample the food at Satu’li Canteen before the land even opened and I was impressed to say the least. But the land as a whole is another being. It’s incredible and immersive. Beautiful to look at. The plants are gorgeous and so well interwoven with our own, it’s difficult to tell which one’s are real and which are “part of the land.”
I rode both rides, Flight of Passage four times and Na’vi River Journey twice. Journey is a beautifully stunning ride. A calming boat ride which takes you deeper into the world of Pandora. The effects are a perfect mixture of screens, animatronics, and lighting. Enough to make you sit in awe. And don’t get me started on the Shaman AA.
And Flight of Passage is one of the most immersive attractions I’ve ever experience. I truly believe it is now the best attraction at Walt Disney World. It’s Soarin’ on steroids. The queue alone is the best queue Disney has ever created for WDW. Once on the ride, you feel the banshee breathe between your legs. The ride itself really makes you feel like you’re flying, soaring through the air. It dips, sways, dives. You feel the wind in your face and smell the world around you. Passage is such a thrilling experience, people almost always clap afterward! I can easily say it’s now one of my favorite attractions at WDW and one I won’t mind waiting for in line up to 2 hours.
The merchandise is genius. Even though I don’t care for the movie, I want to own about five things already. Hello, new specialty mug! And of course, the food is delicious. We’ve gotten to sample almost everything on the menu and I hope this will become known as Disney’s best quick-service option. Read more about that here.
Enough with the talk, on with the photos!
As you’re walking into the land over the bridge which use to lead into Camp Minnie Mickey, you already begin to see the theming for Pandora. But a keen eye will be able to see the dragon fountain still remaining, hinting at what once almost was… The photo on the right is the other ‘exit only’ way out of the land. It leads straight into Africa behind Festival of the Lion King theater.
As soon as you enter the land, you’re greeted by this large interactive plant. Don’t be shy, the more who touch it, the more response you get, eventually spraying mist and water on unsuspecting guests. A great way to cool off.
You’re surrounded by foreign plant life everywhere you look. It can be stunning to see.
Want to look like a Na’vi? You can find a face painting station called Colors of Mo’ara all the way to the left of the land.
If you ever get lost, just say, “Meet under the floating mountains.” Okay, so really this is the central piece of the land. You can’t miss it, but they are breath taking. I especially love the water falls. And keep an eye out for other flying creatures hanging upside down under the rocks.
Time for Flight of Passage. Did you know you’re visiting the world of Pandora thanks to a tour group called ACE?
The queue begins outside, and then you journey into a cave.
Even the cave has a ton of details. You’re first greeted by a giant painting of a banshee on the wall.
Then you’re taken through an old RDA security door and eventually come into the nature of Pandora at night before discovering the lab.
Here is where you see the many experiments being done at the moment with Pandora. There’s so much detail, no one will blame you for taking your time through here. We were able to snag some videos of moving experiments in the queue.
And soon you see an avatar of a Na’vi, floating in the capsule.
And yes, it is an AA and it moves!
Right before the pre-loading area.
There’s two pre-ride videos. I thought they were done very well. The 3D glasses are huge, but it’s so they can fit over regular glasses. Great job, Imagineering. Almost time for the ride. Below are the two pre-ride videos, which I thought were done very well.
Every seat has its own little cubbie for loose articles. You’ll want to utilize this. And the seats are like motorcycle seats. As for the ride itself, it’s incredible. There are three levels of rows, like Soarin’ and the screen is huge. Your seat dips and dives, swaying side the side. The 3D is so good, I reached out to shield myself from incoming objects. Trust me, the ride is worth the wait!
And then of course the ride exits into the Windtraders gift shop with all of the glorious merchandise. Hi mug, you’ll be mine one day! The last two pictures of shirts are behind the counter and I believe are for APs.
Pongu Pongu is a little snack stand located between Windtraders and Satu’li Canteen. It serves four of the specialty drinks, one being a margarita, and this delicious snack called Pongu Lumpia. If you like pineapple, you’ll love it!
No Mickey Mouse here! Just ACE and RDA. And if you’re wondering why so much old RDA artifacts lie around, it’s because the land isn’t actually based on the movie Avatar. It is based on the world of Pandora, and our current timeline is years after the last film (there will be five), so the events of the first Avatar film are way in the past. This was a perfect idea because that way, if you haven’t seen Avatar, you won’t be clueless as to what is going on. YOU DON’T NEED TO SEE THE FILM TO ENJOY THE LAND!
Time for the Na’vi River Journey!
Unfortunately, this queue was pretty standard. You basic zigzag, minimal theming. It’s like they forgot to save some of the budget for it….
As you can see, the ride is beautiful. Very colorful and there’s plenty to see. You’ll see new details every time. While we couldn’t take video or photos of Flight of Passage, we got a POV video of River Journey. Check it out.
Plenty of locations to take photos.
Keep an eye out for Pandora wildlife.
The land even has its own percussion show. And when it isn’t being performed, guests are allowed to play with the drums themselves.
Truly immersive detail. You never know what to look at.
Hang on, is that a monkey pushing a rock? Sometimes, once you see something, you can’t un-see it.
Pandora at night is something wildly different.
You’ll definitely want to experience the land during the day and at night.
Everything just glows. It’s beautiful.
The ground does not interact with your feet as it was once advertised, but it is still awesome to see.
If you thought you saw everything during the day, you’re mind will be blown come sundown. Just get there earlier because the land floods with guests at night. We didn’t stay long because it became to ridiculous.
So thoughts on Pandora? I’m in love with it. It’s one of my new favorite lands at WDW, and one of my new favorite lands overall. This should definitely be a huge win for Disney, whether you’re a fan of the movie or not. And you know what? I have to admit it…. It succeeded. The land makes me want to watch the film again. So yea, maybe Avatar isn’t so bad after all. The food is fresh, the rides are incredible, and the land is immersive. This could very well be the start of what’s to come for Walt Disney World. Looking at you Toy Story land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!