A slightly-late look at Avatarland

Hey there!  Have you heard?  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is adding a massive park expansion and theming it to James Cameron’s recent film “Avatar”.

What’s that you say?  Of course you’ve heard, because you are a Disney fan and have not been living underneath a rock for the past few months?  Ah, yes, I AM a little late reporting on this. 😉

Oh wait, what’s that from the person in the back?  You say you DIDN’T know, because you don’t live under a rock but you just don’t follow Disney news obsessively?  Ah, well then, glad to help!  So yeah.  Animal Kingdom.  Avatar.  Happening.



NO WAIT, there’s more!  (Don’t go! I’ll stop deprecating myself now and put up some real info!)

James Cameron et al and a model of the planned expansion. (C) The Walt Disney Company.

James Cameron et al and a model of the planned expansion. (C) The Walt Disney Company.

First things first: after months of rumours and unconfirmed buzzing, Disney finally confirmed the Avatarland expansion a few weeks ago at the D23 Expo in Japan.  A short while later (still like, two weeks ago), they released concept art and a few details of what would be included in this expansion.  Here’s an excerpt:

Disney is working with James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to bring the land of Pandora from the movie “AVATAR” to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

Apparently everyone will get the chance to “encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”

Bioluminescent plants.  Huh.

Bioluminscent... like THIS??  Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company

Bioluminscent… like THIS?? 😀 Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company

So, I’ll take a moment here to relate that I have not seen “Avatar”, nor do I have plans to.  As such I wasn’t excited to hear the rumours confirmed, but at the same time, I’m not qualified to say “That movie is AWFUL what are they thinking?!”  I will say that I have reservations about this expansion for one reason I think is legit, and even that can be argued, so I’ll just put it down here and say it’s fine by me if you feel differently, I’m just admitting my bias: I don’t think Animal Kingdom is the place to have such a major, heavy movie tie-in.  Animal Kingdom has been dedicated to the theme of Earth, conservation, and nature.  And while Pandora/Avatar do promise to keep the conservation and nature themes going, it severs the ties to our planet; it takes you out of the Earth and its history, and into a work of fiction.  Even the abandoned “Legendary Beasts” concept for DAK was based in our own historical mythology, not a recent work of fiction by a Hollywood creative team.

But, your mileage may vary. 🙂

I will also admit that if they can pull off the “awe-inspiring floating mountains” in a way that lives up to their pictures, I will be impressed enough by this to bake them cookies.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Meanwhile, the concept art and announcements actually strangely lessened my resistance. A little.  More so though, did this:

As part of the largest expansion in the history of the Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will also offer all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River …. The Park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island® and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris®.

New nighttime spectacular!  This is a big deal; for many years they have held off on having nighttime entertainment at DAK due to not wanting to upset the animals. (Like fireworks are OUT.)  Water screens and swirling animal imagery sounds perfect!  And live music… isn’t that a first for a Disney nighttime show?  That actually sounds really impressive!

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, I’m not sure of.  I just mean I need to find out what that is all about, because it’s hard for me to imagine it. I’ve done the Jungle Cruise at night, is it like that?  Is it just that the drivers will go off-script? 😉  No, I keep faith that Disney will put research into finding out what they can or cannot expect the animals to do at night and build the nighttime safaris around that, rather than building the show and forcing the animals to be out in it.  Animal Kingdom has been dedicated to its animals and I expect them to keep that up.

So, if there are new opportunities and entertainment at Animal Kingdom, I realized, that really isn’t a bad thing.  Would I like it more if it were not tied into a specific movie I don’t plan on seeing?  Yes, yes I would, but it’s not up to me to decide now is it?  And I would like to hold out hope that fun is fun and, much as I ignore Terk every time I see her walking around DAK, I can ignore any blue people. 🙂

Concept art (c) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (c) The Walt Disney Company.

So you know what?  I’ll probably end up OK with this. I usually end up OK with the stuff they do once I get there.  But I hope they keep the hardcore movie references to a minimum because it’s not really fair to go to a DISNEY park and be all “what, you’ve never seen Avatar??  You won’t get this then.” ;P

Construction on Avatarland will begin in 2014, and right now the expected open date is 2017!  Are you wary, or excited about Avatarland? Or mixed feelings, like me?  Leave a comment and let me know!


2 thoughts on “A slightly-late look at Avatarland

  1. I’ve seen it. I am qualified to say “That movie is AWFUL what are they thinking?!”

    Oh well. It’s Disney. And historically I love DAK, so it’s not like I’m gonna stop going. They know that, too, don’t they? We’ll see what they do with it, I suppose!

    • I know, they must know perfectly well that they’re not going to HURT their attendance any by doing this and at best, they’ll attract new visitors. So it’s win/win, I guess. LOL, but I really hope it’s more like the pictures and less (much less) like the movie. 🙂

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