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Avatar © Disney
© Disney

Friday, November 15, 2013 | This article is listed in the sections Magazine, Amusement parks and Zoos and animal parks.

Avatar is coming to the Animal Kingdom

Disney first announced plans to built a new area themed to the Blockbuster Avatar at Animal Kingdom around two years ago, responding to the huge success of the Harry Potter themed attraction at its competitor Universal. "Avatar is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney. We can’t wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of Avatar in person.” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a press release in 2011. The back then announced plans have been pretty much kept in the dark ever since – up till now ...

Avatar © Disney
© Disney
Boat ride through Pandora
This year's D23 Expo, Disney's ultimate fan event, was held in mid-October in Japan and finally revealed new details on the Avatar Land concept for Animal Kingdom. The construction is supposed to be completed by 2017. Thus, the fear that Disney had dropped the project in the meantime has vanished into thin air – the published artworks and descriptions whet the appetite for more.

"Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give parkgoers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of Avatar with an unprecedented sense of reality.”, declared Avatar director James Cameron. The new details lead to the assumption that the innovative filmmaker, who is teaming with Disney Imagineers, really carries out such a vision.

Bioluminescence is the magic word

Avatar © Disney
© Disney
"Tree of Life" with glowing leaves
The only certain thing is that there will be at least two new rides, both probably designed with newly developed technologies. One will be a boat ride through the Pandora Jungle, the very same mythical world inspired by World of Warcraft which has already made a sustained and lasting impression on most cinemagoers. When looking at the artworks, it appears to be a family-friendly dark ride where bioluminescence, i.e. the ability of a living organism to produce light, plays an important role. Expectations are sure to be high as to how Walt Disney Imagineering is creating the effect without giving the landscape of Pandora an artifical look. The other attraction is a flying simulator ride which will let visitors soar into the sky, above the glowing world of Pandora, riding a Banshee. This shall be realised by using a simulation as done in the ride Soarin, but the technology and systems are likely to be newer. Joe Rohde, veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, stated not too long ago that the final decision regarding the flight to be experienced in 3D or not hasn't been made yet.

Avatar © Disney
© Disney
Soarin goes Pandora
Although these two rides are sure to be absolutely brillant, the area itself will probably steal the show if the whole idea around the project by Cameron and Disney Imagineering really comes into being. In the world of Avatur visitors will wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants and encounter native fauna and awe-inspiring floating mountains known from the film. In addition, they are planning to transform the Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom's landmark, into the Mother Tree known from Avatar – an artwork shows bioluminescence leaves on the giant tree.

There should be no doubt that the new Avatar Land will massively revalue Animal Kingdom, including Walt Disney World in Florida. Time will show whether or not it is a smart move to counterbalance the "Pottermania” right next door at Universal, the more so as the opening is expected no earlier than 2017 which gives the rival enough time to upgrate its range of attractions. Another key factor is whether or not Avatar 2 will be a success in the cinemas ...

© parkscout/MV/AF

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