Summertime Destination: The Alien Moon of Pandora
Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World in Florida
In 2009, James Cameron blew audiences away with his blockbuster hit Avatar. The film broke several box office records and became the highest grossing film of all time. As of today, Avatar still holds the title of highest grossing film with fans eagerly awaiting a sequel scheduled for release in December of 2020. While fans may be disappointed with the long wait, Walt Disney World Resort has provided an experience to both alleviate the wait time and build on the anticipation for the sequel.
Last summer, Disney World’s Animal Kingdom became a gateway to Pandora - The World of Avatar. Disney Imagineers recreated the gravity defying floating mountains and the bioluminescent alien flora which looks drastically different at night. This visually stunning world has few attractions, but is definitely worth spending time wandering the paths, riding the attractions, and sampling Na’vi cuisine.
Perhaps the largest attraction of Pandora is the Avatar Flight of Passage. This 3-D ride is one of the most immersive experiences out there. Riders fly high above on the backs of mountain banshees, the flying beasts seen in the movie. While flying on the banshees you can smell the fragrant air and feel the splash of water. Disney Imagineers have even simulated the feel of riding on top of a banshee - you can feel the seat and leg holders vibrate beneath you, similar to riding a horse.
The Na’vi River Journey provides a calmer experience into Pandora’s nightlife and bioluminescent rainforest. While waiting to board, guests can inspect the intricate weaving which serves as a map for the rainforest of the Valley of Mo’ara or read different facts and tidbits about Pandora’s plant and animal life.
This gentle boat ride on the Kasvapan River utilizes a variety of effects to portray the various flora and fauna of this alien world. The dark river ride allows just enough light to see some of Pandora’s amazing wildlife and glimpse the Na’vi, the 10-foot tall, blue humanoid people of Avatar. At the end of the ride, guests come face to face with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs - an audio-animatronic which both sings and moves.
Disney has certainly worked it’s magic in recreating the Valley of Mo’ara with its floating mountain range and exotic landscaping. The outstanding attention to detail is breathtaking. During the day, Pandora appears to be an alien jungle filled with oversized plants and impossibly large floating mountains. With its lack of typical theme park marquees, it’s quite easy to get lost among the winding paths within Pandora. When the sun goes down, the landscape changes entirely. The lush greenery disappears into darker tones of blues, purples, and occasionally yellow.
When hunger hits, guests can grab a bite to eat at the Satu’li Canteen, a quick service restaurant, or Pongu Pongu, a snack stand. Guests may be shocked at the somewhat exotic twist to foods such as rice bowls with boba toppings or cheeseburger pods or baos found at the Satu’li Canteen.
Connoisseurs of Asian cuisine may smile at the unusual inclusion of pineapple popping boba as a topping for both food and drink. Desserts include chocolate cake, blueberry cream cheese mousse, and pongu lumpia—a spring roll filled with pineapple cream cheese. Try the beautifully colored Night Blossom drink that tastes like apple and pear limeade with a pineapple boba topping.
Wait times for attractions can be lengthy due to the novelty and popularity of Pandora, especially during summer and holiday hours. Wait times for Flight of Passage have been reported to be 2 to 5 hours and 90 minutes to a few hours for the Na’vi River Journey. The Disney FastPass allows guests to select up to three attractions that they wish to skip the line.
All things considered, Pandora is an amazing experience and an indescribable sight to behold.
Plus, how else can you tell people that you visited an alien moon?