This trip was hosted, but you already know all thoughts below are all Dani!
Before I say anything…just know…this post is going to be picture heavy and probably long. You’ve been warned! OK. So I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at Disney for a small media preview sneak peek of the new world Pandora – World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We were toured around the land and the attractions by the team of Imagineers and Avatar movie producer that put the place together from idea to execution.
The world is the first expansion ever to Animal Kingdom and is also the first world that is totally immersive, where Disney castmembers are truly part of the experience and will have backstories and play a real part in the story Pandora is telling. Another way Pandora is fully immersive… you won’t see huge signs announcing the rides, and you won’t even see Disney’s standard garbage cans throughout. You’ll see garbage cans that fit the Pandora story, and when you get a chance, take a look at the cast members’ name-tags and let me know what’s different there.
This land in Pandora takes place generations after the movie Avatar, and generations after any forthcoming Avatar franchise movies take place. (spoiler alert lol) So, you do not have to know the movie Avatar to enjoy this land. Everyone in Pandora is either a Na’vi, or an ex-pat who decided to live there after the conflicts. (This is why the cast member humans are there.)
Everything in Pandora is beautiful and thoughtful. The world was created by one of the Oscar winning producers of Avatar, as well as the creative and talented Disney’s Imagineers. The entire land gets you all in your senses. It’s like a magical tropical jungle land. Surprising sights like floating mountains, 15 ft flowers, hand-painted, hand-woven details engage your eyes. An audio landscape of different jungle sounds (that changes depending on where in the land you are) excites your ears. And the texture of every.single.thing. in the land treats your hands.
There are a few areas where you can impact the world of Pandora too. The drums you can play with your hand reverberates throughout the land, and that 15 ft flower I mentioned before responds to your touch by spraying out spores! (a mist of cool water)
At night, the entire place glows with beautiful bio-luminescent light (even the floor beneath you) and the audio landscape changes yet again! This land took about 4 years to go from idea to reality. The details and thoughtful beauty of Pandora shows it was time well spent.
There are two attractions in this land. The River Ride and Flight of Passage. OMG! You guys! Both are the most stunning rides I’ve ever taken. Even the queues you’re waiting in are entertaining and tell a story for you. Your entire family will enjoy both of them, and you’ll have to ride them both at least twice in a row to possibly attempt to see all that is shown to you.
The River Ride:
This is a slow moving boat ride that is fine for all ages. It is a journey through the forest to find the Shaman. The music is beautiful and the technology is so incredibly advanced and unexpected. Wait til you see the Shaman. Her movements are so fluid, and she is so intricately created. Take a peek at the ceiling while you’re on the line waiting to ride. You’ll see a hand woven, hand painted map of the river ride hanging above you. It is detailed and gorgeous.
Flight of Passage:
This is a thrill ride where you legit get matched with an Avatar and ride on a banshee throughout the world of Pandora. Yes, I just said that. This is the most sensual (in the 5 senses meaning) ride I have ever taken. You feel the banshee breathing between your legs, you feel the wind as you fly around, water spray on you when you dodge a huge whale splash (yeah, there’s oceans on Pandora) and smell the flowers and fauna in the jungle, hear all the animals and Na’vi as you soar around. It is intense.
In reality you’re on a motorcycle style seat and you are strapped in tight. You are truly enclosed the entire way around your midsection. That seat whips all around as you’re flying on the banshee. It’s a lot of fun and visually STUNNING and fast moving. And I don’t usually geek out about stuff like that. You have to be 44 inches tall to ride. Oh, and again, even the queue is an attraction. It tells you the full story of the ride, the Na’vi conflict with the “bad guy” company RDA and now ACE the company that is here to study the Na’vi and help restore the land. You go through the labs while you wait to ride and there’s a really cool reveal:
I was so happily surprised by the food in Pandora. There’s a small Tiki Bar called Pongu Pongu and the larger Satuli Cantina in Pandora. It is a quick service restaurant, but they use real plates and silverware, which is a step up from the norm. You will not find french fries and pizza here. Nope, no junk food. You will find healthy items like oatmeal for breakfast and for lunch, sustainable fish, lean meats, veggies, quinoa and tofu!
We got a chance to taste the meals, and they were all delicious and fresh. You create your own bowl with a variety of bases (rice, quinoa or greens), toppings (beef, chicken, tofu, fish, veggies) and sauces (the chimmichurri was bomb!). Even the kids menu is healthy! You’re on Pandora so you don’t have the same foods as back on earth ya see. So instead of a regular cheeseburger you will find cheeseburger pods. (like steamed buns w/ cheeseburger filling)
Very cool item is the pre-ordering capability that you now have through your My Disney Experience App on your phone. As long as you’re paying by card, you can order in advance and check in, press “I’m here” and your food will be fired and ready when you come to pick it up. No waiting in line! This system is starting in Pandora but will be expanding to other lands and parks.
Pandora is a great addition to Animal Kingdom and I love that it’s like… you’re in Africa, you’re in Asia, and you’re in Pandora. A “real” place to explore. The whole world is dripping with creativity and technology. I can’t wait to go back! So grateful I was able to have this sneak peek, but now I need it to open up so my friends can go and I can have someone to talk to about it! On your next trip to Disney, you must visit Pandora at Animal Kingdom. You will absolutely enjoy it.