LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Disney's Animal Kingdom unveiled a world out of this world on Wednesday morning, as they invited media into the massive mountains floating in the sky, the rainforests pulsing light, and the breathtaking explorer flights soaring above an alien moon on the backs of great winged banshees.
Pandora -- The World of Avatar, starting on it's opening date of May 27th, will transform, transfix, and transport Walt Disney World Resort guests to an all-new Disney land beyond belief -- 4.4 light years away from Earth.
Grand preview dedication ceremonies, special for media, were set with artifacts found throughout the Pandoran landscape. The stage was a tapestry of sights and sounds. Drummers even pounded out traditional rhythms as colorfully dressed performers led a procession full of pageantry and artful banners fluttered in the morning sky.
The newest addition to the Disney World parks is inspired by the blockbuster motion picture, Avatar, from filmmaker James Cameron. The 12-acre property will immerse guests in the lush world of Pandora in a time frame a generation after the human-Na'vi conflict in the Oscar-winning film. This was all brought to life through the collaboration of two master storytellers, as Disney worked with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment in a multi-year project to bring to life the mythical world of Pandora.
“Working with Jim and his team was a dream come true for us, as we pushed the limits of creativity and innovation to bring the digital world of Pandora to the real world of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “Now anyone who has ever dreamed of visiting this extraordinary world can explore the astonishing landscape and ecosystem, soar on the back of a banshee and actually become part of the AVATAR adventure.”
Helping to add to the fascination guests will feel, Pandora's breathtaking, otherworldly beauty will glow at night through bioluminescent flora and special nighttime programming.
Pandora is also home to the Na'vi, the indigenous blue people in the film. Cave paintings show the Na'vi culture, while totems they weaved point guests down pathways threading through the overgrown rainforest, punctuated by bizarre sounds of alien animals and plants.
Disney recruited some of the most creative sculptors in the world to help shape the new land, with the overriding message of connecting everything to the value of nature -- and the transformative power of adventure and conservation.
“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.”
While inspired by Cameron’s film, Pandora – The World of Avatar was not envisioned as an extension of the film.
“It’s not the movie AVATAR that we are portraying,” said Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “It is the planet Pandora where you can come, you can visit, and have your own unique adventure. Rather than reliving the adventures of characters from the film, you’re going to come to the planet where those things happened — and have your own set of adventures you can own.”
And what an eye-filling, sky-filling planet it is.
Guests will cross an entry bridge, rusted over across the years, following a winding forest pathway to where the surreal landscape first comes into view. The exotic Valley of Mo'ara will spread before them.
So many other sights, sounds, and scenes lie with the land. Adventures roam verdant pathways underneath floating mountains laced with waterfalls dropping to quiet ponds. They venture deep inside a bioluminescent rainforest amid the sounds of Pandoran creatures roaming the underbrush.
Two extraordinary attractions anchor the new land.
The first ride, Avatar Flight of Passage, sends explorers swooping and soaring on a simulated flight above the awe-inspiring world of Pandora on the back of a winged banshee. Floating mountains, rushing waterfalls, vast seas, and a dense jungle pass under-wing -- this is a multi-sensory experience that is unlike anything Disney has created before. “You are grounded on a winged predator and flying through these amazing environments with special effects to add to the thrill,” Rohde says.
The second ride, the Na'vi River Journey, puts families in reed boats of eight, as they follow a sacred river deep into the bioluminescent rainforest under a canopy of exotic glowing plants, passing rock formations and Pandoran creatures. The journey even involves an encounter with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.
With the adventure at an all-time high, the day can get pretty tiring. Thankfully, adventurers can recharge at Satu'li Canteen, the fast-casual restaurant for Pandora housed in an old Quonset hut. And if one does not want to eat, there is plenty to do still, as Windtraders stocks Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more. And there is also Pongu Pongu, a specialty-beverage kiosk that serves up cooling refreshments and a treat called Lumpia (loom-pee-ah), a pineapple-cream cheese spring roll.
Finally, Pandora – The World of Avatar also expands the day-into-nighttime adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including new after-dark experiences such as the majestic Rivers of Light show, sunset safaris, live-entertainment street parties and vivid, animated imagery bathing the Tree of Life, centerpiece of the adventure park.
Pandora opens Saturday, May 27th, at Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom.