The long wait is over and Walt Disney World will officially open Pandora – The World of Avatar, the breathtaking and highly anticipated new expansion to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, this week to what will surely be huge crowds and long queues for the two new rides.
Luckily, we were able to experience this incredibly unique new land last weekend during a special preview event for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. As such, although there was a long line formed in anticipation of our 3-hour time slot, the actual area itself — though a bit smaller in terms of overall footprint on AK once you’re inside — didn’t feel cramped at all. That will change once Pandora officially opens but it will be best to visit on slow days, possibly first thing in the morning but also must be experienced at night when the bioluminescent lights glow all around and will respond to guests’ movement.
The centerpiece of Pandora are the towering floating mountains that have been visible for quite some time at certain vantage points throughout AK, but it’s also the little details that are generously laid out just about everywhere you look. Once you step through into Pandora, you’ll soon forget that you’re in Walt Disney World as there is zero trace of Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald or any other Disney character or related theming (even in gift shops). Friendly representatives from Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) stay on point with the overarching vision of Pandora instead with bright, crisp outfits that look better in real life than they did on social media.
What is most striking is the constant, almost lyrical flow of motion and of the feeling that Pandora is “alive”. Water flows here and there, down creeks and a multitude of waterfalls of differing heights. Hanging dog tags of people who have undergone the Na’vi-human hybrid experiment sway in the wind outside the entrance to Windtraders, which sells a variety of Avatar-inspired merchandise. Native plants to Pandora also interact with guests, spitting out water to attack their “prey” if nearby movement is detected or, in the case of the “flask reclinata”, releasing a welcome mist all over if it is touched.
The real centerpieces of Pandora, however, are the two attractions housed inside. The Na’Vi River Journey is a slow moving water-based dark ride that allows guests to experience a bioluminescent rainforest filled with creatures from the movie such as the viperwolf as well as hunting Na’Vi roaming about in packs, and it culminates with an extremely realistic-looking Na’Vi Shaman of Songs near the end of the ride.
The best attraction, perhaps one of the best in all of Walt Disney World, is the incredible Avatar Flight of Passage ride in which guests connect with a Na’Vi Avatar and ride a banshee in Pandora in glorious 3D. Think Soarin’ on 10, but also with the realistic motion of Star Tours, and it’s still not exactly descriptive of how immersive and exhilarating the ride is. The wait time will be quite long but the wait will be worth it. The queue alone is impressive enough — you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a science laboratory from the movie.
Overall, Pandora – The World of Avatar is a wonderful addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, bringing a little much-needed fantasy to the theme park, and is highly recommended for Avatar fans and casual fans, but knowledge of the blockbuster film is not required to enjoy it all.
Pandora – The World of Avatar officially opens with a dedication ceremony that will be live streamed on Disney Parks Blog on Wednesday, May 24 starting at 9:25 a.m.