This weekend Disney is officially openings it doors (stargates?) to Pandora: The World of Avatar. We’re assuming you’ve already seen the film – $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office, not sure what to think if you haven’t seen it by now – but the park is an entirely different experience.
So to give you an idea of just what to look forward to, here’s a brief visual tour.
Pandora: The World of Avatar
Welcome to the “Valley of Mo’ara.”
As you cross into the bridge into Pandora, the first otherworldly sight to catch your attention is the Flaska Reclinata, an enormous living plant that sprays water and steam when visitors touch its purple innards. Don’t worry, it’s not gross.
As you follow the path, you’ll notice a community drum circle where the Na’vi hold special ceremonies. But that’s not what catches your eye…
I’ll admit it – I’m not the biggest fan of the Avatar film, but even I can acknowledge how breathtaking the fantastical yet somehow realistic environment was. Say what I can about the movie itself, but there’s no denying that James Cameron and Jon Landau are unparalleled visionaries. It’s as if Jackson Pollock got the chance to play God for seven days.
The “real thing” did not disappoint as the floating mountains are an architectural and engineering marvel. With waterfalls flowing effortlessly down the mountain and floral ecosystems popping up, it gives the park a real lived-in landmark. As random times throughout the day, I caught myself staring up in between texts, checking the itinerary or just sipping water. Your eyes are drawn to it.
These pictures don’t do the feat justice just as if I were to show you a photo of the Grand Canyon vs you seeing it in person. The scale is unimaginable.
Did I mention the plant life? Tarzan would have a field day here.
Pandora’s natural habitat is teeming with plant life of varying color, shape and size. I’d say a rainbow, but the array of tones present here makes rainbows look like monochrome dog vision. Green foliage, blue petals, purple stalks, pink floral patterns. Big, bright and beautiful seemed to be the motto.
Helpful Alpha Centauri Expedition tour guides (from the company responsible for trips to Pandora) were on hand to explain the various environments on the planet. Sadly, they were only there for the press event. Here’s to hoping they become a staple of the public attraction.
Avatar: Flight of Passage
I first saw Jurassic Park when I was five. I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, I want to be there” (this was before the dinosaurs had developed a taste for human flesh). With Flight of Passage, you literally are there.
In less than 6 hours, I rode Flight of Passage three times. It’s addicting, exhilarating, breathtaking and, like all great rides, just the slightest bit scary. Words can do justice to the immersive 3D simulation experience of “flying” on the back of a banshee across Pandora’s forests, oceans and caves. It really does transport you to a new world while doing barrel rolls and other roller coaster-esque maneuvers.
It’s also nice that the lead in to this ride is a pleasant walk through a colorful path set in the “mountains.” There are rocks and fauna and pools of water to ogle at as you make your way to the ride.
Past all of the nature you’ll find the Pandora Conservation Initiative, current home of the Avatar program. This is where you feel like you’re on the set of Avatar. There are precise details from lab equipment down to personal items (I saw a cookbook on the for-show shelves). The avatar in the tank is the main attraction, of course.
The Na’vi River Journey
The Na’vi River Journey is beautiful, but it’s difficult to enthusiastically take in the tranquil and slow exhibit after riding Flight of Passage. Make sure you hit this one first when you go unless for fear of unfair expectations.
Having said that, the bioluminescent look at Pandora at night was still impressive. Though it’s not a thrill ride, it should be appreciated for its beauty and for the strangely realistic animatronic Na’vi at the end of the ride.
Overall, how often to get the chance to tour an alien jungle rain forest?
Those are the big ticket items at Pandora: The World of Avatar. Hopefully, you can see just how attractive this park is in real life as it has completely sold me on the upcoming Avatar sequels. Between the stunning visuals and the Flight of the Passage simulation ride, there’s more than enough here to raptly keep the attention of both small children and the adults hoping watching them and hoping for some fun of their own.