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Breaking Down Avatar Land

With about two years of construction still to go, many people have yet to make up their minds about “Avatar Land.” Will it be a huge hit, or an unnecessary expansion? Is this what guests want to see, or could the money and resources have been better spent elsewhere? It’s hard to say just yet, but let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Cons

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1. Avatar came out in 2009.

Sure, it was (and still is) the highest-grossing movie ever. But so what? It was a huge phenomenon that has since faded from the pop culture radar. Director James Cameron’s proposed sequels have been delayed, postponed, and then delayed again (the franchise’s second installment is currently slated for 2017… 8 years after the original). The reality here is that Avatar was fun in the moment, but is now just another blockbuster. Incorporating it into the Disney Parks just doesn’t feel relevant anymore.

2. Pandora doesn’t necessarily fit into the theme of Animal Kingdom.

A fictionalized land located on the surface of a far-off moon, Pandora is all about the make believe. Its creatures are larger than life and it is home to blue-skinned humanoids. Animal Kingdom, on the other hand, is all about connecting us with our animal kin; it features up close and personal encounters with real animals and lets us explore the nature all around us. How will Avatar Land fit in?

3. Nighttime shows might disturb the animals.

I’m all for Animal Kingdom expanding its hours and holding nighttime shows, but the reason for not doing this in the first place was to protect the animals that reside on the savanna. There aren’t many details about the “Rivers of Light” show yet, and so the safety of the animals remains a concern for many Disney fans.

Pros

New Details on ÒRivers of LightÓ Nighttime Spectacular Coming to DisneyÕs Animal Kingdom

1. The proposal sounds awesome.

It’s impossible to tell until we can actually see the thing, of course, but from what we’ve heard so far, Avatar Land has the potential to be an incredible addition to the park. A 3-D flight simulator a-la Soarin’? A winding river boat ride through Pandora? Glow-in-the-dark plants and bio-luminescent pathways? Floating mountains? I’m in.

2. Including Pandora expands on the original premise of Animal Kingdom.

Ever heard of Beastly Kingdom? It was a proposed pavilion in Animal Kingdom’s early stages, a land that would represent dragons and unicorns and all things fantasy, and connect them to the animals that we know today. The idea was scrapped and Camp Minnie-Mickey was produced instead, but doesn’t Pandora seem to fit in perfectly with this premise? The characters and creatures of Avatar are mythical, magical, and most certainly beastly. I think it’ll be a good fit.

3. Animal Kingdom can currently be done and over with in just half a day.

Whenever I plan a trip, we pretty much dedicate only one morning to Animal Kingdom. We hit the Early Magic Hours, stay through lunch, and then head off to a different park that has more things to do. Expanding Animal Kingdom’s hours and including a nighttime show is a great idea that will give guests a whole new way to explore the park. Something like this has been long overdue, and judging by the concept art, “Rivers of Light” is going to be amazing (as long as it doesn’t bother any animals).

We’ll have to see how things progress, but right now, I’m totally in for Avatar Land. I don’t care so much about the actual film mythology (I’ve actually never seen the movie, whoops), but I really like the concept and I dig the idea of a glow-in-the-dark Tree of Life. What do you guys think?

 

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The Basics of Avatar Land

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The widely-anticipated expansion of Animal Kingdom currently scheduled to hit Disney Parks in 2017 is well underway—but what exactly is it? Right now it’s being referred to as “Avatar Land,” and will take the shape of the extra-terrestrial world of Pandora as seen in the 2009 blockbuster, Avatar. Imagineers have played this one pretty close to the vest so far, but here are a few things you can expect from the expansion:

– The new land will be built in the former area of Camp Minnie-Mickey. Character greeting spots previously held here have been moved to Discovery Island or discontinued completely. Festival of the Lion King has been relocated as well.

– Imagineers have been working closely with James Cameron, director of the franchise, to make the pavilion appear as close as possible to the world developed in the movie.

– The expansion will see new hours coming to Animal Kingdom; the park is expected to stay open later at night to accommodate evening shows and glow-in-the-dark attractions.

– Avatar Land will be designed as a “walk-through attraction,” with amazing sights and sounds at every turn; this currently includes floating “Hallelujah Mountains,” as well as bio-luminescent and interactive plants.

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– Two main rides are assumed so far: a boat tour through Pandora and a 3-D flying ride similar to Soarin’. The boat ride is expected to be (at least in part) housed in a dark, indoor showroom (concept art pictured above). The flying ride will be similarly constructed, and will allow guests to ride on enormous flying beasts called ‘Banshees’ as they take an aerial tour of Pandora.

– The pavilion will include several themed restaurants and gift shops.

– Some suggest that the Tree of Life will be getting a glow-in-the-dark makeover to tie the park’s landmark back to Pandora.

– Reports indicate that a new nighttime show called “Rivers of Light” will be taking place along Discovery River, and will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens, and swirling animal imagery.

 

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Favorite Rides

The attractions at Walt Disney World are iconic, innovative, and immersive—but which one’s the best? It depends on your taste, but here’s my list of the park’s top five greatest rides. (Disclaimer: I’m no thrill-seeker! You can keep your Rock n’ Rollercoaster and your Tower of Terror.)

5. Pirates of the Caribbean

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This classic Magic Kingdom ride is such a must-see that it inspired an entire movie franchise. It takes you on a boat ride through deep, swash-buckling caverns as 18th century inhabitants pillage, plunder, and party all around you. There’s nothing really thrilling about this ride, save for a small drop at the end—the enjoyment comes from the atmosphere and attention to detail as you traverse the water-way. A fun legend surrounding the ride helps add to its captivating theatrics; many Disney visitors have long-since acknowledged that Pirates is haunted by a (mostly) friendly ghost named George, who will break down the ride if you denounce him in your boat.

4. Haunted Mansion

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Speaking of ghosts, another one of my favorites is the Haunted Mansion. Similar in style to Pirates, Haunted Mansion takes you via Doom-Buggy through the ghoulish residence of Madame Leota. The technology on this one is pretty impressive, and there are so many undead beings floating around that you’ll have to ride multiple times to catch all the details. But don’t worry—this ride never gets old.

3. The Great Movie Ride

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This Hollywood Studios landmark doesn’t have the universal appeal of some original Magic Kingdom favorites, but as a lover of all things movies, it’s a must-do for me. I’m hooked right from the queue, which features a clip-show of great films throughout the years. When you are seated in your vehicle, everything is flashing dazzling lights and you really feel like a part of Hollywood. The live-action part of the ride is always entertaining, and can change each time you return. This one truly lives up to the name.

2. Kilimanjaro Safaris

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Instead of taking you on a journey through the movies, Kilimanjaro Safaris brings you to the African savannas. This ride in particular has the most potential for a completely unique experience each go-around, and new animals are constantly arriving at the location. It’s an adventure unlike anything else at Disney, and has become a landmark attraction over the years. As an animal-lover, I really enjoy this up-close encounter with the parks’ residents.

1. Soarin’

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Fly over California in this amazing attraction located in Future World, Epcot. Your vehicles are only a few feet off the ground, but their swinging momentum coupled with the dazzling scenery in front of you really makes you feel weightless. Some of the scenes are even accompanied by scent to add to the immersion. This ride always has a really long wait, but it’s definitely worth it, and the journey’s ending is unforgettable.

 

Honorable Mentions: The Jungle Cruise, Test Track, & Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin

 

Images provided by buzzfeed.com, pinterest.com, grumpymickey.com, and thegreatmovieride.tripod.com.

 

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Animal Kingdom Overview

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One of the most unique parts of Disney World is its famed Animal Kingdom, which strays away from the traditional theme park format in order to bring vacationers an authentic adventure into the heart of Africa and Asia. The park features up-close animal encounters, wild safari rides, and a even a run-in with an animatronic yeti! At the heart of it all is the Tree of Life, Disney’s special homage to the idea that we are all connected.

Animal Kingdom is divided into the following areas:

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The Oasis

This area of the park is dedicated to nature: it features several walking paths filled with exotic trees and animals, each of which ultimately leads you to the Tree of Life.

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Discovery Island

Discovery Island lies at the heart of Animal Kingdom, and is home to the Tree of Life. Seeing this breathtaking landmark is a must for your trip, and if you’re bringing PIXAR fans along, be sure to check out It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the 4D show based on A Bug’s Life.

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Africa

Inspired by the village of Harambe, Animal Kingdom has recreated an authentic African community. This cultural experience features traditional African cuisine and entertainment, and is home to the one and only Kilimanjaro Safaris. These rides take you directly into an African savanna, where you’ll get up close to giraffes, hippos, alligators, and – if you’re lucky – even lions!

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Rafiki’s Planet Watch

This area of Animal Kingdom is perfect for the vacationer that wants to learn more about the animals that call Disney home. Rafiki’s Planet Watch features a unique backstage look at the animals’ habitats, and even has a petting zoo area for young kids.

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Asia

A land that is sure to delight vacationers of all ages, Asia features both stunning architecture and thrilling rides. If you’re looking to explore the culture, check out the Jungle Trek or Flights of Wonder, where you can observe animals in their natural habitat. Feeling brave? Be sure to stop by Expedition Everest, Disney’s highest roller coaster, where you’ll head into the heart of the mountain and contend with a ferocious yeti.

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Dinoland, U.S.A.

Dinoland is a tribute to the animals of our past, and is filled with prehistoric attractions and dining experiences. Little ones will want to check out The Boneyard (where they can dig up dinosaur fossils), and adults will want to take a spin on Dinosaur, a thrilling trip through time.

Images courtesy of micechat.com, wdwlive.com, and disney-pal.com.

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