7 Reasons Disney World’s Pandora: World of Avatar Is Its Best Land Yet
There's a reason it's rumoured to have cost $500m...
Disney World is as much an experience as a theme park.
Sure, that sounds schmaltzy af, but the reality is that with a landmass the equivalent of TWO Manhattans, and four theme parks, 27 themed hotels, two water parks, and a bunch of other ridiculousness for you to explore within, it’s a city-sized adventure playground for all.
So the unveiling of a brand new land in one of its theme parks is a big deal. And that’s before you take into account that said land is based on the biggest movie ever made (a $2.8bn haul ain’t too shabby). Oh, and said land is rumoured to boast a price tag of around $500m.
MTV was present at the launch of Animal Kingdom Park’s ‘Pandora: World of Avatar’ land, and it is unsurprisingly full of the ambition, creativity and grin-inducing wonder you’d come to expect from the brains of the biggest movie and the biggest theme park on the planet. Here's why...
1. Its environment smacks you in the face (in a good way)
Part of Avatar’s success came thanks to its impressive world-building and stunning production design. Floating tree-dabbled cliffs with cascading waterfalls that rose above the clouds, soaring Banshee bird-dragon things, and 10”ish blue Na’-vi striding through the forestry were just the beginning.
While it’d be impossible to recreate all the above IRL (hey, if you know where we can create said bird-dragons, please do let us know), Pandora does a phenomenal job of bringing the CGI world to life.
An enormous (we’re going to guess, 100ft high) ‘floating’ island formation stands strong in the middle of the area, with rushing water, colourful fauna and other mountains (optical illusions FTW) falling into the distance.
It’s an eco-tastic, serene and unique space to wander around, and one you won’t want to leave.
2. It's faithful to the movie in ways that will blow your mind
Hundreds of journalists descended upon Orlando for the land’s official opening; a launch made all the more jaw-dropping by the appearance of none other than James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Walt Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, who opened it with style.
“I never thought I’d see the day when the Pandora I imagined could be made physically real,” said Cameron. “Working with Disney to bring this world to life has been an amazing experience, and the result is something I think everyone will love for generations to come. It really feels like you’re stepping into a dream.”
From the extensively researched and recreated fauna, flora and animals (over 25 species are listed on a handy guide for you to tick off), to the insanely detailed rides (more on those in a second), it’s an Easter Egg-tastic treat for fans both present and future.
James Cameron has spent his entire career striving to make art immersive, and this is as experiential as it gets.
3. Na’vi River Journey is basically 'Pimp My It’s A Small World'
It’s A Small World is one of Disney World’s oldest and most iconic rides. Na’vi River Journey takes that initial concept (lovely, lazy water ride through an imaginary land full of rickety robotics) and updates it in retina-dazzling style.
Hop aboard a reed boat, and float through a bioluminescent rainforest full of glowing, dazzling plants, phenomenally realistic Pandoran creatures, and a special mystical encounter with the Na’vi’s Shaman of Songs.
It’s beautiful, bewitching and brilliant.
4. Avatar Flight of Passage is the best ride Disney’s ever made
Disney World has almost 50 rides across its four parks, and it’s impossible to argue that Avatar Flight of Passage is one of - if not - the best.
The extensive queuing area is a treat in itself, guiding you through caves rife with ancient Na’vi paintings, colourful shrubbery, and a jaw-hanging science lab full of weird lifeforms and an actual, physical 10ft Na’vi floating in a giant test-tube.
Move onto the ‘pre-ride’ experience, and you’re treated to some fun Kinect-style motion sensor LOLs, an intro to the ride mechanics (it’s a motion rollercoaster, but not as you know it), and you’re soon shuffled on, to be ‘mind-melded’ with your chosen Avatar.
What follows is, frankly, an astonishing rollercoaster/immersive 3D CGI cinema smorgasbord, as you’re propelled through the air aboard a banshee, and soar, dip and dive through Avatar’s world - from forest to caves, out onto its unforeseen oceans, and high into the clouds.
It’s sensory overload, with smells (yay 4D), sights (imagine IMAX on steroids) and gyro-motion (you’ll feel the wind in your hair) combining to make you feel like you’re very, very much there.
Other rides have used this technology, but never to such stunningly seamless effect.
WATCH FOOTAGE FROM THE RIDES RIGHT NOW
5. It paves the way for Avatar’s future
It may have been a boggling eight years since Avatar was released, and we may still have another three frustrating years until its sequel hits cinemas, but Pandora gives more than a few hints of what’s to come.
Disney World’s version of Pandora is set after the events of the final Avatar film (Avatar 5, hitting cinemas in - oof - 2025), in a world where human and Na’vi live peacefully alongside each other.
Not only do you get a glimpse at the technology and symbiosis to come, but the Flight of Passage ride gives you a first-hand look at the other areas of Pandora we’ve yet to see on-screen.
All we’ll say is that every moment soaring above (and through) the ocean is a show-stopping marvel (HAI GIANT SPACE WHALE) and we can’t wait to see more.
6. Everything is (hippy) awesome
One of Avatar’s defining themes is its commitment to a brighter, more ecologically balanced, harmonious, and decidedly less destructive future.
So it’s a hippyish joy to see character actors around the land doling out zen-like platitudes, banging drums with joyous abandon, and promoting tolerance and cool vibes.
It’s an eco-friendly mantra that extends to its restaurant, with the Satu’li Canteen serving up some strong vegetarian options, as well as the healthiest (but still NOM-miest) food we’d experienced in the park so far.
7. It's just as spectacular at night
Anyone who’s seen Avatar will remember its striking nocturnal scenes, as the forest (and everything in it) transforms into a neon-gasm of incredible colours and sights.
We’re happy to report that returning to Pandora at night is equally as great, as ultraviolet lights shine down, illuminating everything from floor to cavernously high mountainside into a rainbow of purples, greens and blues.
In a word, PURTY.
MTV Travelled With… Virgin Holidays, who offer 7 nights in Orlando from £925 per person, which includes scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Orlando, room only accommodation at Disney’s All Star Music Resort with car hire included. Price is per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a standard music room with Disney’s Ultimate Tickets. Price is based on a departure on August 31 2017. To book visit www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 739 0025.