Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the Pandora previews and got a first-hand look at what the Disney Imagineers have created inside Animal Kingdom. I will upfront with you…I have never seen Avatar the movie so I had no idea about the storyline, scenery, characters, etc. I went into this experience with no preconceived notions and, most importantly, no expectations mainly because I did not know what to expect.
A very visual experience
The first thing that I noticed: Pandora – The World of Avatar is a very visual experience. A lot of time and effort was put into making this land as visual as it could be. Lots of time put into making you feel like you were in a different land yet, at the same time, completely blending into the overall theme of Animal Kingdom. If you ask me, I would say that Pandora has a very South American rainforest feel to it. It was a toss-up between South American rainforest or Southeast Asian rainforest. However, some of the other little touches in the attractions and the canteen give it more of a South American feel. I’m a fan of this because I feel that South America is under-represented at Walt Disney World. Yes, I realize that Pandora is based on a movie and the movie dictated the Imagineering but the little touches can push the feel subtlety one way or another.
The other thing about the land: it is big. The land takes up all of the former Camp Minnie-Mickey and old Festival of the Lion King site. Once you realize this, you understand how much wasted space there was in Camp Minnie-Mickey. This is much more effective use of the space. There are so many little areas where guests can linger and look at the scenery of the land. Lots of places for photo opportunities – don’t just look for the Photopass Photographers for photos – everyplace is good place to take photos.
Flights of Passage
This is the E-Ticket attraction for Pandora – The World of Avatar. It does not disappoint. All the photos for this attraction were taken in the queue and the pre-show rooms. No photos were allowed of the ride equipment inside the attraction nor any photos were allowed of the attraction.
The best description of the attraction is it is a combination of Soarin’ and Star Tours with more thrill. Guests get on their own ride vehicle which is designed much like a motorcycle. A lot has been said about how the ride vehicle is difficult for larger guests. It is also difficult for smaller guests. I rode in a vehicle next to my 11-year old daughter who is on the smaller side. She felt like she got squished by the back of the ride vehicle after it comes up and “locks the rider in place.” I did not get this sensation.
The attraction takes guests on a banshee ride through Avatar. Not knowing anything about the movie, again, I enjoyed the scenery and visuals that the attraction brought guests into. Lots of up and downs as guests go through Pandora. Very fast-moving and you really felt like part of the land. You knew that there were guests in vehicles next to you but you really did not see them during the attraction experience. It felt like you were the only person on the attraction. Something that separates it from other 3D/4D simulators in the market.
Navi River Journey
Disney’s Imagineer Team steps up the “boat ride” attraction game with Navi River Journey. The riverboats take guests through the rivers of Pandora. Again, this is another place where the Imagineering team focused on the visuals. On this attraction, they focused on the bioluminescence. It is a very dark, in terms of lighting not theme, attraction. This allows the bioluminescence really shine through. The bioluminescence provides most of the lighting for the attraction.
I rode this attraction twice. Once to take pictures and a second time to enjoy the attraction. On the second journey, I noticed a lot of things that I did not notice on the first time through even when looking at the same scenes. There are a lot of little details, like a lot of Disney attractions, which take multiple times on the attraction to fully see.
The centerpiece of the attraction is the shaman toward the end of the attraction which really show how far Animatronics have come since Disney started creating attractions in the mid-20th century.
My preview was one of the Disney Vacation Club previews which took place between 9 and 11 am. This meant that we got to experience breakfast at the land’s quick-service location, Satu’li Canteen. Breakfast, if you follow the blog, is a meal that I usually pass on. On this day, I had been up since 7 am to get ready for the preview. By 10 am, I was ready to eat something.
The menu is varied and has something for everyone – even the kids menu which had something for my picky eater to enjoy.
Throughout the restaurant are those little touches which make Disney is what it is.
Like I’ve mentioned a number of times, Pandora – The World of Avatar is a very visual experience. As a visitor to the land, I would highly suggest getting a Fastpass for the Flight of Passage attraction. This is the E-Ticket attraction and people are treating like one. I arrived to the preview right as it opened. As a result, I was able to walk-on the attraction with no wait. When I left the preview just two hours later, the attraction had a 40-minute wait (even with smaller preview crowds). This wait-time will get longer when it opens to the general public. Navi River Journey is also eligible for Fastpasses. In my opinion, I would not use a Fastpass for this attraction unless you are not a thrill attraction person. Another way to use a Fastpass for this attraction is to use, if available, one of the “bonus” Fastpasses that you can receive after you use your initial three Fastpasses for the day.
There is one negative to Pandora – The World of Avatar. It only has two attractions. In my mind, two attractions do not make a land. It needs a three attraction to truly become a land. Maybe, in the future, a third attraction will come to the land when the sequels to original movie come out.
Thanks for reading!