On Aug. 15, Disney announced the official name of Avatar-themed land currently under construction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek shared updates on what is now known as Pandora – The World of Avatar, including details about the land and two attractions, during this weekend’s D23 Expo 2015 in Anaheim, Calif.
Chapek turned the floor over to Imagineer Joe Rohde, who was joined on stage by “Avatar” director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau. Cameron and Landau represent the Lightstorm team, Walt Disney Imagineering’s partner in making Pandora a reality.
Pandora’s name not only represents the habitable moon of James Cameron’s 2009 film, but Disney’s emphasis on creating an immersive environment. Pandora is designed with several signature elements based on the movie: floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest, and the winged creatures known as Banshees.
The Avatar-themed land, as with the overall changes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is designed to transform from day to night. These shifts will offer guests a different atmosphere that captures how the natural world transforms and offers different rhythms and spirit, providing two different experiences for Pandora.
Pandora will include two attractions, which are also designed to reflect the extensive research and world-building Cameron did to make the movie. Avatar Flight of Passage will be the land’s E-ticket attraction, which Rohde characterized as being in the thrill ride category, and the centerpiece to Pandora. Disney guests will be able to soar on a Banshee for an aerial view of the land, representing a Na’Vi rite of passage.
The second attraction, as described by Rohde, will be a family-friendly boat ride that will allow everyone to experience the land, its animals and its glowing plant life.
“The water-based ride is this very fluid, very romantic, very lyrical journey into the bioluminescent forest, which because of where it is on the planet is in a permanent state of bioluminescence,” Rohde said.
Dining and merchandise locations will also be part of Pandora.
During their presentation at the D23 Expo 2015 session, Rohde, Cameron and Landau praised the other team’s collaborative spirit and contributions to the project. Rohde called Pandora the “perfect fit” for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The trio also emphasized two goals for Pandora – The World of Avatar. First, it aspires to a level of detail that would encourage guests to think of of the land as real. It should hold up to the careful, prolonged scrutiny of guests who may, for instance, spend an hour staring at the floating mountains. Second, the hope is that guests will have a transformative, meaningful experience after visiting Pandora, that spending time in the land will remind them that the Earth itself is an extraordinary planet.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts also hosted a pavilion at D23 Expo 2015. One of its two sections was devoted to providing attendees a closer look at Pandora – The World of Avatar. Disney Imagineers took guests on a guided tour of the miniature model, with the experience presented as a tour run by Alpha Centuri Expeditions (ACE) for eco-tourists.
Pandora is part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, which will include adding nighttime experiences to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with “Rivers of Light” and an extended Kilimanjaro Safaris adventure. Both these experiences are expected to open spring 2016, and will help the Walt Disney World Resort theme park transition into a full-day park.