SamsDisneyDiary #90 - Pandora The World of Avatar

#90: Pandora – The World of Avatar

Welcome to the Valley of Mo'ara - Notice PCI and ACE - you will find them through the valley
Welcome to the Valley of Mo’ara – Notice PCI and ACE – you will find them through the valley

A new adventure awaits at Walt Disney Worlds Animal Kingdom. Encounter winged creatures that you can fly and rivers that glow. Can you find these things in Africa or Asia? No. Where in the world? Well, they’re not in this world.

As you make your way through the oasis working left past the Tree of Life and the Island Mercantile, you start to notice something different…a small, yet inviting, path on the left. The path appears to lead to Tiffin’s, a signature sit down dining on the edge of Discovery Island, and the incredible Nomad Lounge, a topic for another blog.

Just past them is a bridge, a bridge that leads to a strange and different, yet familiar place. As you cross the bridge, you travel in both time and space… Welcome to the Valley of Mo’ara where your exploration of Pandora begins.

The all-new land within Animal Kingdom provides a unique experience, completely disconnected from Animal Kingdom itself.   You have entered Pandora, where everything is familiar but different; it’s a surreal experience.   Rather than making a straight line to the latest attractions, the Valley invites you to explore.

The sign that greets you resembles a national park’s welcome. It’s then that you realize that the Valley is part of the Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI) and presented in partnership with Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE).     PCI is the collection of scientists, conservationists and Xeno-biologists researching the Pandora ecosystem – you’ll find references to ACE as the tour company leading expeditions to Pandora.   ACE is responsible for the safe passage from Earth to Pandora (Quite a trip across that bridge!)

Even in the daylight, the trees and vegetation are from another world - almost glowing
Even in the daylight, the trees and vegetation are from another world – almost glowing

References to ACE and PCI can be found through the Valley – all tying together the theme.   As far as theme, it is everywhere – you are completely disconnected from Animal Kingdom. This is a new, different world that awaits discovery; from the strange “glowing” plants and strange animals, the Valley itself deserves time to be explored.

I’ll have to admit, that I have never seen the movie and purposely chose not to watch before visiting the land. Needless to say, my expectations were low – what could they possibly do to keep me interested in a property that I don’t understand?   I was delighted to be curious as to everything I was seeing; what is that creature? What is that plant? Is that a cloud or a mountain or an island? Experiencing the land has me wanting to see the movie, and the 4 new Avatar movies that are in the works.

Walking through the land, I expect that it represented a recreation of the movie, like Cars Land in California Adventure.   As I later learned, that’s not the case. Tim Warzecha, Disney Imagineer, said it best Pandora serves as neither a prequel nor sequel to the 2009 movie, but rather is a more standalone experience.” Regardless of where you’re at in Pandora, it’s always a generation or two past whatever film James Cameron is working on or has just released.” (Four more sequels are expected in 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025)

The plants appear to glow, even in the daytime
The plants appear to glow, even in the daytime

You’ll find some interesting items to explore and details all around.   The new land features 2 attractions, 2 food & beverage locations and 2 merchandise locations – the Noah’s Ark or Disney themed lands.

In the first attraction, journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs. The Na’vi River Journey is a trip down the sacred Kaspavan River aboard a reed boat, crafted by the Na’vi. The experience takes you deep into the Na’vi culture, with a song around every bend. You’re surrounded by strange animals and glowing plants. Behind the scenes, the Shaman of Songs is one of the most realistic audio animatronics to date, and an amazing look at what is possible. And, as I’m told – The Shaman of Songs was not in the movie. Could he be in a sequel? Does it matter?

More views from the Standby Queue to Flight of Passage
More views from the Standby Queue to Flight of Passage

The second attraction is the centerpiece of the Valley, Avatar Flight of Passage. The queue, the longest at Walt Disney World and arguably best themed, could be considered an attraction in itself. And it’s been reported that the stand by queue can accommodate a 5 hour wait; let’s hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon.  Most of the pictures of the queue in my photo report, and that you have seen, come from the standby queue; the Fast Pass queue by passes most of the theming.   In the standby queue, you make your way up, around and into the mountain and get unique views of the waterfalls throughout the Valley of Mo-ara.   You make your way through accent caves covered with primitive drawings of banshees and other wildlife along with Nav’i handprints.

After the cave, we cut through a former military bunker that’s abandoned, rusty and dusty and into the nighttime forest; then it’s into another bunker full of experiments and tests being conducted by PCI biologists.

All of this is preparing you for an experience like no other…a ride on the back of a mountain banshee. During the multiple pre-show rooms, you’ll learn that the banshee is one of the most important and culturally significant animals to the Na’vi, and the first flight is a rite-of-passage.   You’ll go “soarin” over the unfamiliar and vast moon in the 3-D simulator.

Even more interesting plant and animal life along the queue for The Na'vi River Journey
Even more interesting plant and animal life along the queue for The Na’vi River Journey

Interesting side note, both Nav’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage are in the same show building, the river being the bottom level while Flight of Passage takes up the rest (at least 3 floors).

The Flight of Passage exits into one of the two merchandise locations, Windtraders. Here you can become a Na’vi and purchase your model (think D-Tech Me experience from Star Wars Weekends) or purchase your own Banshee to take home, the most popular souvenir from the new land.

Colors of Mo’ara, the second merchandise location, features Na’vi inspired face painting along with other themed items.

The land also includes a quick service, Pongu Pongu – featuring glowing Pandoran beverages including a Mo’ara Margarita and Night Blossom. The second food location is the Satu’li Canteen counter service. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Satu’il offers wood-fired beef and chicken along with chili-spiced tofu, fish and steamed pods – a Na’vi favorite.

Overall Pandora, the World of Avatar, is a welcome update to Animal Kingdom and a great place to just explore – the Wilderness Explorer has even been extended to Pandora. You are indeed lost in Animal Kingdom completely disconnected and in a whole new world.

All I can think to myself is… I can’t wait to travel to the outer rim in the fully immersive Star Wars Experience in 2019!!!

Check out SamsDisneyDiary the Podcast for more details

Complete Photo Report Below….