Pandora The World of Avatar is a themed land at Disney's Animal Kingdom based on James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar. Announced in 2011 in response to the success of Universal Studios's successful The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it replaced Camp Minnie-Mickey. It opened in May 2017 and features two rides: Flight of Passage and the Na'vi River Journey. With Disney not owning the Avatar series at the time of the land's opening, the creative team has stressed the shared conservation themes and that it functions as a fulfillment of the park's initial concept of featuring imaginary animals in addition to living and extinct ones.
Set many years after the events of the original Avatar film or any of its sequels (referred to as "the documentaries" by cast members to commit to immersion), a space ecotourism company called Alpha Centauri Expeditions (or A.C.E.) has now established a more peaceful relationship with the Na'vi, who are now much more welcoming to human visitors, and established a base camp in the Valley of Mo'ara. Nature has reclaimed much of the human military base and abandoned mech suits. The Avatar production process has been refined to allow visitors a less restricted connection to their Avatar and take flight on a Banshee. On a boat ride through the rivers, a Shaman of Songs welcomes visitors to join in on a special ritual in the bioluminescent forest.
The park was originally created as the result of 20th Century Fox wanting to license out a theme park based on the original movie and its sequel in order to raise interest in the other two planned sequels that were planned at the time. In an interesting turn of events, Disney would end up purchasing Fox's movie division the same year that the now-four Avatar sequels finally entered production, effectively making this a Disney theme park that they made before they actually owned the property in question.
An in-universe website for the land can be found here.
Pandora The World of Avatar provides examples of:
- Bioluminescence Is Cool: Perhaps the big justification as to why to put Pandora in Animal Kingdom. What better way to make a "half-day park" justify staying open after dark than something that becomes cooler at night?
- Dragon Riders: Guests can become these on the ride Avatar: Flight of Passage, where they learn to ride their own Banshees.
- Early-Bird Cameo: A lot of flora and fauna that will be seen in the Avatar sequels can be first seen at this theme park.
- Floating Continent: The Imagineers have managed to translate a few floating mountains into a physical reality with cleverly obscured support structures.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Averted with Flight of Passage, which makes it very unlike other narrative-based rides. Although the riders have a few brief close encounters with some of Pandora's predators, their flight goes entirely as planned with no major interruptions.
- Mega-Corp: A.C.E. not only is responsible for getting you to Pandora, but all the merchandising sold within the land is produced by them and they seem to have inherited most of RDA's technology and assets.
- No Biochemical Barriers: The atmosphere problem presented in the film has been Handwaved away as this particular part of Pandora having conveniently human-friendly air because of a special plant that removes the dangerous gases from the atmosphere of the valley.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The Mountain Banshees, or Ikran, as the Na'vi call them, look very much like dragons and can be rode on as a means of transportation. Also, baby versions of them can be kept by humans as pets. The Great Leonopteryx, also known as Toruk, is also resembles a dragon to an extent.
- Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Electronic Banshee toys that can perch on your shoulder, presented as baby Banshees, are among the headliners for The Merch offered in the land.
- Spiritual Successor:
- This land is one to a land that was originally envisioned for Animal Kingdom but never built, the infamous Beastly Kingdom, which was slated to be a land where fantasy creatures lived. It even had several major attractions similar to those featured in Pandora, most notably a gentle boat ride along with a thrill ride. Pandora, in a sense, fulfills Beastly Kingdom's vision in that it is a land that fantasy creatures call home.
- Flight of Passage is this to Soarin', as both rides simulate flying across different locations, only that Flight of Passage is a much more advanced take on the concept.
- River Journey can be considered one to Living with the Land, given that both rides take guests through animal-filled ecosystems.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The ride video character for Flight of Passage, Dr. Jackie Ogden, is one for Sigourney Weaver's Grace Augustine, as a middle-aged female scientist studying Pandoran wildlife. She's even a curly-haired redhead. Although her presence is quite justified; since this takes place after the movie, Augustine is dead.
- Time Skip: To well after the film and any of its planned sequels.