The anticipation continues to build surrounding the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World! With less than a month to go to it’s official opening, we have put together a roundup of everything we can expect to experience in this new world. With all that has been released, so much still remains a mystery. One thing is for certain though: there is so much magic about to be had when Pandora – The World of Avatar officially opens it’s doors.
While we wait for the magic to begin, let’s journey through everything we have to look forward to:
Background of Pandora – The World of Avatar
Pandora – The World of Avatar immerses guests in a mystical world of massive floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and breathtaking new experiences. Fun and adventure await in this entirely new land found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Here guests explore an awesome alien landscape, encounter a larger-than-life Na’vi shaman and soar over Pandora on the back of a fearsome mountain banshee.
The largest addition in the history of Animal Kingdom, Pandora carries on the park’s tradition of celebrating the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action.
Based on Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron’s record-breaking box-office hit, AVATAR, the new land welcomes guests to the lush world of Pandora long after the human conflict with the Na’vi has ended. The dramatic daytime beauty of the land transforms to glow by night when bioluminescent flora and intricate nighttime experiences add a dreamlike quality to Pandora.
Pandora – The World of Avatar is a creative collaboration of Walt Disney Imagineering, Cameron and Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment.
“We are taking our guests on a journey to this world in an experience that’s as realistic and immersive as possible,” says Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “In the movie, the world of Pandora is a setting for the action and characters whose story we follow. Here, guests are the primary characters immersed in an extremely vivid, authentic experience.”
Guests to Disney’s Animal Kingdom cross the park’s Discovery River onto Pandora – The World of Avatar and continue along a winding rainforest path for their first glimpse of the land’s iconic “floating mountains.”
“When guests come across the bridge, they are transferred light-years away, to the Alpha-Centauri solar system and Pandora,” says Jon Landau, AVATAR producer, Lightstorm Entertainment. “It’s an otherworldly, fully-themed experience.”
As guests explore the verdant terrain sprawling beneath mountains that appear to float in the sky, they see waterfalls cascading down the mountainside into meandering streams and pools, and they discover two thrilling new expeditions: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
Avatar Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – an encounter with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx.
On the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent rainforest. Aboard reed boats, they float past exotic glowing plants and Pandoran creatures into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical journey culminates in an encounter with the breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy into the forest through her music.
“This is an attraction that the entire family can enjoy,” Rohde says. “We put you into a magical experience that comes to life through the bioluminescence, the plant and animal activity and the shaman’s music. There’s a wonderful harmony in the entire glowing scene during this lyrical, uplifting journey that builds to a really beautiful crescendo.”
In addition to the bioluminescent plants of Pandora, with species names like Spiny Whip, Dapophet and Vein Pod, other wonders of the land include the creatures that guests encounter and, in some cases, interact with.
“The landscape will be alive with creatures,” Rohde says. “We’re bringing to life everything from the largest creature you might encounter to the most microscopic. Animals will appear out of the underbrush – big Pandoran animals will appear at the edge of the forest, and you’ll hear the very complicated calls they issue back and forth.”
The thriving Pandoran landscape reinforces messages intrinsic to Disney’s Animal Kingdom such as transformation through adventure and conservation and stewardship. A similar value system underlies the AVATAR film, Landau says, and he’s hopeful guests are inspired to find meaning in their expedition through Pandora.
The artful storytelling on Pandora continues as guests stop for sustenance at the land’s Satu’li Canteen (pronounced “Sa-too-lee”), a Quonset-hut-style building with a spacious dining area that pays tribute to the Na’vi and their culture with special décor. The menu at this fast-casual restaurant is inspired by the healthful bounty of Pandora – wholesome grains, fresh vegetables, and hearty proteins. Guests can also grab a drink at nearby Pongu Pongu, where a friendly expat serves out-of-this-world beverages including a bioluminescent frozen cocktail and indigenous beers. There’s even a sweet snack that guests won’t find elsewhere.
Windtraders is a shopper’s delight where guests can choose from Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more.
The creative team employed exhaustive research to develop the realistic appearance of Pandora, a fictional exoplanetary moon mined by humans in Cameron’s movie. Set a generation after a great conflict, the Na’vi and humans are at peace, and the land is experiencing a rebirth. Pandora now welcomes Disney guests as eco-tourists.
Since 2012, Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment have collaborated to imagine and create Pandora through the talents of a team of designers, artists, sculptors, structural engineers, robotic technicians and a host of other professionals. The team traveled to rainforests and tribal areas and worked with artisans, weavers and carvers, including Bali artisans who contributed works to Discovery Island when it opened at Animal Kingdom in 1998.
Authenticity and realism were drivers in the creation of Pandora, and the result truly is a world beyond belief.
“The attractions have very deliberate emotional moments crafted into them, the way a good story does, the way a good film does.” Rohde says. “It’s not as simple as just coming to a place that looks realistic. It’s a place that’s been deliberately imbued with the emotions of awe, of wonder, of respect, of harmony.”
Take a ride down the Na’vi River on the Na’vi River Journey
Set sail on a river journey unlike any other. On a moon that is light years from Earth.
You are not alone, either. This riverscape pulses with sensational sights and sounds that fill your senses. And, at journey’s end, a very special surprise.
Aboard the reed boats of the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, adventurers float through an alien world beyond their imagination. That wonderment begins in the very heart of Pandora – The World of Avatar, the all-new land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
As guests approach the iconic floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora, a towering totem beckons. Paying homage to the mystical Shaman of Songs, the massive totem was delicately woven by the Na’vi, the indigenous people of Pandora, and celebrates the shaman’s deep connection to the life force of Pandora.
The totem also invites guests to venture further into grottos that lead to the mystical river – and an eventual encounter with the shaman.
At the water’s edge, guests board those reed boats. Barely have the boats cut the first ripples of water when a Na’vi warrior appears. With a nod, he grants passage to the human voyagers, and soon an amazing scene unfolds. A spectacular bioluminescent rainforest surrounds guests. By day or night, boats pass through this darkened world, pushing deep into a jungle alive with exotic glowing plants and traversed by Pandoran creatures.
Keen observers will notice that the animals and Na’vi are moving in the same direction as they make their way to see the shaman. Music is heard, which means the shaman is not far off.
“Na’vi River Journey is a very sweet, lyrical adventure through a spectacular visual environment that just becomes more and more spectacular as you go on,” explains Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. The bioluminescent activity of the plants around you unfolds in richer and richer scenes in really just a very uplifting, wonderful kind of journey.”
The journey builds to an encounter with the remarkable Shaman of Songs. Like most Na’vi, she is nearly 10 feet tall.
Music is central in Na’vi culture. Guests observe the shaman in the midst of a musical ceremony, playing an instrument and singing. Through her music, the shaman sends positive energy into the rainforest, telling of the sacred bond with nature that Na’vi and humans share.
Disney technology put fluid energy into every movement and gesture, Rohde said.
“The shaman is even more extraordinary than we expected,” said Rohde. “Her facial expressions, little movements in the cheek, tiny movements in the eyelid – each one of these carries an emotion she’s capable of conveying.”
It is part of Disney’s attention to detail that makes Pandora a world of adventure, he added.
“There is a real edge to our Pandora,” he said, “just like the rest of Animal Kingdom. When guests get here and really look around, they will see there’s this edge, this little adventurous edge on the land. Na’vi River Journey helps complement that edge.”
FAST FACTS: Na’vi River Journey
Background: A family-friendly expedition, Na’vi River Journey takes guests on an adventure down a gentle, mysterious river hidden within the sacred bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs. Among guest experiences on Pandora – The World of Avatar, all-new land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Method of transportation: 8-person reed boats; accessible to guests with disabilities
Experience time: 4.5 minutes
Queueing: Managed by Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE), the eco-tour company that brings humans to Pandora. ACE created the pathway and load station at the queue structure. ACE assemblers also built the rafts using Na’vi techniques.
Fly High Above Pandora – The World of Avatar on The Flight of Passage
Imagine straddling the back of a wing-flapping banshee, darting and swirling through the canyon updrafts, free as the wind. Below you: the otherworldly planet of Pandora – grand in its vastness, surreal in its bioluminescence.
Hold on tight! You can ride this beast. You can sense its banshee breath. That’s because you’re high-flying in an immersive new adventure.
A shining star of the theme park’s all-new land, Pandora – The World of Avatar, this 3-D expedition transports travelers on a sweeping, simulated flight over Pandora’s colorful landscape. Guests soar around floating mountains, plunge through ancient caverns and skim across roaring oceans, culminating in a realistic encounter with the fiercest king of the air, the Great Leonopteryx that boasts a 45-foot wingspan.
“In Flight of Passage, the sensation of flying is really visceral, really believable,” said Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “Not only do you have the more obvious aspects of flying – the swooping and curving – but we’ve put in crosswind, air density and banking.”
The Flight of Passage is actually three experience combined into one. The journey begins in the queue as guests begin an uphill trek around a massive root structure, over a land bridge above waterfalls to an authentic totem garden. Meandering passageways lead to a cave-like structure where the great–winged banshees, or Ikran as the Na’vis call them, are celebrated in paintings and majestic totems. Next, guests enter an old, once abandoned RDA facility with a laboratory partially restored. Here, there are scientific experiments in progress with references to habitat restoration, the ecosystem, water purification and the connection of all living things.
Next stop is the genetic matching room where explorers are scanned and genetic material is sampled to connect them to personal avatars in preparation for a flight experience. Once matched, adventurers board link chairs, don flight visors and prepare for the flight.
Next stop: a mystical world like no other.
Flying on the back of a banshee represents an important rite of passage for the Na’vi and as visitors to the alien world, guests will have a chance to be tested and guided through the wondrous journey. After entering a state-of-the-art theater, each guest straddles a single-seat simulator (like a motorcycle) that delivers a realistic sensation of riding a living creature. Guests will experience the swift and graceful movements of flight and even feel the banshee breathing beneath them. The multi-sensory experience uses cutting-edge technology and intricate special effects like never before.
This heart-pounding adventure transports explorers through the alien world of Pandora, offering lifelike encounters – splashing whale-like creatures, blowing wind, roaring banshees, and a threatening encounter with a flying predator. The exhilarating 4-minute flight through the sci-fi world of bioluminescence and floating mountains is orchestrated to a complex musical score recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.
“All of the mechanics behind it, all of the engineering, all the stuff that goes into the imagery is amazing,” said James Cameron, whose blockbuster film AVATAR inspired Disney’s new land. “You know, riding the Ikran is a thrill. You’re going to plunge. You’re going to dive. You’re going to swoop. It’s like dreaming with your eyes open.”
Avatar Flight of Passage will be a FastPass excursion at Animal Kingdom. Only explorers 44 inches or taller can fly on the back of these flying creatures.
No trip to Pandora – The World of Avatar is Complete Without Some Delectable Culinary Creations
Not only can you explore like a Na’vi and talk like a Na’vi – you can eat like a Na’vi, too, on Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Dining Na’vi-style is at the heart of Satu’li Canteen, the fast-casual restaurant in the new land at Animal Kingdom. The canteen calls out the friendship and cultural kinship that exists between the humans on Pandora and the indigenous Na’vi.
“The setting of Pandora – The World of Avatar is long after the Na’vi and the humans have reconciled their conflict, and we are invited as guests to visit Pandora,” said Stefan Hellwig, executive creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Satu’li (Sa-too-lee) Canteen is the land’s restaurant, with a design inspired by bases set up on Pandora by the Resources Development Administration (RDA) in the blockbuster “AVATAR” film. Once the main mess hall of the RDA base in the Valley of Mo’ara, the canteen is now owned and operated by the Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) tour company and has been redesigned into a beautiful museum-like dining room open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The interior has been transformed with colorful Na’vi items filling the walls and hanging from the ceiling – hand-woven tapestries, natural Pandoran elements and cooking tools decorate the interior.
Satu’li Canteen combines creativity and approachable flavors in a menu inspired by the healthful bounty on Pandora, with wholesome grains, fresh vegetables and hearty proteins. An on-stage grill is a prominent feature in the colorful dining room, “bringing all five senses into play,” said Ed Wronski, director, culinary development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.
Fast-casual Satu’li Canteen offers bowls that allow diners to customize their meal. Diners start with a base of quinoa and vegetable salad; red and sweet potato hash; mixed whole-grain and rice or romaine and kale salad. Next is either wood-grilled chicken, slow-roasted beef, sustainable fish or chili-spiced fried tofu. And the bowl is finished with charred onion chimichurri, black bean vinaigrette or creamy herb dressing.
“This is one of our first fast-casual restaurants that gives guests the ability to customize their meal,” said Wronski. “We played with the theme of Avatar, and ended up with the bowl concept that is healthful, lighter and with plant-based ingredients to tie back to the World of Avatar.” The guiding principle, he said, was to “balance creativity with dishes that are approachable.”
The menu also offers steamed “pods” – bao buns with either cheeseburger ingredients or vegetable curry served with root vegetable chips and crunchy vegetable slaw.
For little ones, there’s an option of grilled chicken or beef, fish or tofu with greens or rice; a hot dog wrapped in Parker House dough; cheese quesadilla, or a steamed “pod” (cheeseburger bao bun).
Dessert is Blueberry Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Curd or Chocolate Cake with a Crunchy Cookie Layer, Banana Cream and Goji Berries.
Satu’li Canteen offers draft beers, including Avatar Private Label Green Ale and Avatar Private Label Amber Ale; Pandoran blend sangria; wine on tap, including Banshee Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast); Banshee Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), and a non-alcoholic blend of tropical juices served in a souvenir cup with a removable, playable pan flute.
Satu’li Canteen is also the first Disney restaurant to offer Mobile Order, a new convenient option to order and pay for meals on-the-go using the My Disney Experience app. The service also enables guests to bypass the queue to order when they arrive at the restaurant. Using the app, guests can select menu items, customize their orders and pre-pay for their meals. When they arrive at the restaurant they will tap an “I’m here” button in the app, which will notify the kitchen to prepare the meal. When their meals are ready, guests will be alerted through the app to pick up them up at a designated window. Additional fast-casual and quick-service restaurants will begin to offer Mobile Order later this year. Disney Dining Plan is accepted but Mobile Order only accepts credit cards.
Satu’li Canteen offers 330 seats with an additional 190 seats outside.
Pongu Pongu Kiosk is located adjacent to Satu’li Canteen and is Pandora’s specialty beverage kiosk. “Pongu Pongu” means “party party” and this kiosk, as the story goes, was built by a human who befriended the local Na’vi clan and built a place to gather and socialize. The name came from all the “wild and memorable times” Na’vi and humans had together there.
The signature drink is the Frozen Nectar (frozen limeade with layered flavors of Granny Smith Apple and Desert Pear topped with bursting mango boba balls) that glows with bioluminescent colors reminiscent of Pandora’s flora. There’s also a Screaming Banshee Margarita and Avatar Private Label Ale. Drinks can be purchased in a tiki-inspired mug with an Avatar “juju” light-up cube.
For sweet snacking, Lumpia (loom-pee-ah), a pineapple-cream cheese spring roll, is also on the menu.
I don’t know about you but I know I am counting down the seconds to visit this new magical world at Disney World. Make sure to follow us along for any updates and even some live footage coming form directly inside Pandora – The World of Avatar. Are you ready to plan your adventure to check out Pandora – The World of Avatar yourself? Fill out the form below form below or send an email for a FREE, no obligation quote with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. As an agent with MickeyTravels, I’ll be on hand to help you with everything from finding your perfect package to nabbing those hard-to-get dining and FastPass reservations. I work with all Disney Destinations around the globe. Best of all, my services are absolutely FREE. Get in touch at 1.954.401.9577, via email at email@example.com, or follow along on Facebook.Photo Credits: Disney
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