The family-friendly Navi River Journey takes guests down a river within the bioluminescent rainforest. // © 2017 Steven Diaz/Walt Disney World Resort
Feature image (above): Colorful and exotic plants grow throughout Pandora — The World of Avatar. // © 2017 Steven Diaz/Walt Disney World Resort
When theme parks re-create well-known worlds from movies, they make sure that guests recognize the film’s places and characters so that they’ll be immersed in the stories they love. But, while fans of the blockbuster hit “Avatar” will certainly recognize the setting of Pandora's floating mountains and bioluminescent plants, Walt Disney World Resort’s Pandora — The World of Avatar theme park represents the fictional exoplanetary moon a generation after the events in the film.
The storyline for Pandora — The World of Avatar is that humans and the planet’s native Na’vi people are at peace, and eco tour company Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) has begun to transport visitors to the alien world, which is 4.4 light years from Earth. Since filmmaker James Cameron is planning four “Avatar” sequels, the new theme park might just give movie fans a glimpse of what’s to come.
“At Disney, we have a ‘How did they do that?’ standard,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO for The Walt Disney Company. “We love to create things, and when people look at them, they say, ‘How did they do that?’ and I cannot think of a better example of that than Pandora — The World of Avatar.”
The first thing guests will see when they enter the park is the Valley of Mo’ara, where they can hike under the mountains instead of over them. The 22 magnificent floating formations — the tallest of which is about 130 feet above the valley floor — are certainly a spectacular “How did they do that?” accomplishment, but equally amazing is the alien landscape that makes up the land beneath and around the mountains. It includes exotic plants — both real and “imagineered” — water features and Na’vi artifacts and artwork.
ACE field experts are available throughout Pandora to answer questions about the land’s flora and fauna, as well as to teach visitors the Na’vi language. The park is beautiful by day, but it’s absolutely breathtaking at night. When the sun goes down, the valley comes alive with a bioluminescent glow, and even the pathways shine with colorful shimmering patterns.
“This is like visiting an entire world of adventure and experience that’s really like nothing on earth,” said Joe Rohde, a creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. “The opportunity to have a fully immersed experience, truly as if you are on another planet, is very rare.”
One of the adventures to experience in Pandora — The World of Avatar is the Na’vi River Journey on the sacred Kaspavan River. Guests board a reed boat and embark on a voyage into the rainforest deep within the Valley of Mo’ara. Families on the tranquil journey will be surrounded by glowing plants and wildlife as they travel into the darkest part of the forest, finally reaching the Shaman of Songs, who fills the forest with her song about the connection between all living things.
The exciting Flight of Passage expedition gives guests the chance to see the world of Pandora from the air on the back of an Ikran, or mountain banshee. Flying on an Ikran is a significant rite of passage on Pandora, but first, riders must be linked with an avatar through a high-tech process of connecting DNA and brain waves. Once paired with an avatar, riders climb onto motorcycle-like link chairs and take off on a soaring 4-D adventure over the landscape’s mountains, oceans and forests. They’ll have encounters with the planet’s exotic creatures — on both land and sea — and experience sensory enhancements, such as aromas and mist. The state-of-the-art theater accommodates up to 48 guests for the immersive ride, which is projected on a screen that is 69 feet wide and nearly 100 feet high.
“‘Avatar’ introduced us to a stunning new world that is breathtakingly beautiful and exotic,” Iger said. “And now, everyone who has ever dreamed of visiting this extraordinary world can explore its astonishing landscape and ecosystem, see the Na’vi, soar on the back of a banshee and become part of the ‘Avatar’ adventure.”
Agents should encourage clients to explore the interactive ACE website before visiting Pandora. Here, they can learn about their expedition and even chat with an ACE field expert.