Wow, has it been awhile as work got crazy busy and I also got married, but I’m back with some Disney information. Biggest news first is that over the Memorial Day Weekend Pandora: The World of Avatar had it’s grand opening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I was there on May 27 and will give you the rundown below. Suffice it to say the area is absolutely amazing and Flight of Passage is pushing hard to nudge out my all time favorite The Tower of Terror as my favorite attraction.
So first off, we arrived at the park right around opening and yes, as expected, there was quite the crowd. Disney had security opening up extra bag checks and metal detectors.
After several minutes going thru security and then the ticket line I made my way to Discovery Island where they showed they had learned a lot since New Fantasyland opened a few years ago. They had marked off several areas on the ground to indicate the line to get into Pandora and had a bunch of Cast Members helping direct guests and maintain said lines. In short the line was Stand-By to get into Pandora, which if you had a Fastpass+ reservation within 15 minutes you could go on and they’d scan to verify and let you in. As they day continued on, reports came thru of it being closed to “Stand-By” due to capacity and eventually re-opening. Which I’d believe as once inside you could use one FastPass+ then everything else was Stand-By (including the gift shop and food). Also to note in general Flight of Passage ended up staying around the 250 minute wait time and Na’vi River Journey hung out around the 200 or more minute wait.
Luckily for me, I’d managed to snag 8:20 AM FastPass+ for Flight of Passage and got to go practically straight into the area and on the attraction in just a few minutes. So Flight of Passage is the thrill ride for the area and is sorta best described as a simulator Soarin’ on steroids. Reading ahead is probably going to lead to Spoilers so skip past or read at your on risk.
So the gist of this is you’ve traveled to Pandora and are participating in a new program that lets you take part in the Na’vi rite of passage with the Banshees’. They have a bunch of AVTR’s already on a Banshee ready to go as soon a a Na’vi guide gives the go once you’ve linked. So you walk into the complex and are sent to a room where a scientist gives you the rundown of the program. They have you shake and wave your arms to suk up DNA samples to match to an AVTR. Once everyone is matched and all is set you are moved on to set of Link chairs and you also have a fancy looking set of 3D glasses to wear.
Think an old school arcade motorcycle game “seat” with handles and a screen and that’s basically what it looks like as you sit down. Behind you is some storage selves for backpacks, etc. You sit down and a few moments later the safety restraints kick in and lock into place holding you snugly by your legs and back. Note the design does put some size limits, however, I’m a bigger person and they got it locked for me. There is a demo chair to try out front of the attraction. Anywho, once everyone is locked in, the linking happens and the screen in front swaps to a gorgeous view of the Pandora cliffs and the guide takes off with you following.
This is where it gets absolutely amazing, the chair moves around akin to the old school bike games so that you feel like you are swooping up, down, and all around while sprays off light water and wind are sent into your face and the inner “sides” of your chair/Banshee simulate the creature breathing. So it quickly feels like you are there on Pandora flying from the floating mountains thru the forest, around the village, out to the coast (where you fly thru a wave like you were surfing it), and thru a cave. Then you land and the “link” is terminated for you to exit. Around now you can actually see from the now blank screen that along with the two rooms of the up to 14 people you are part of there are other floors of 14 stations all actually using the same screen. When you walk in it looks like a wall of the room so you can’t tell at that point.
The only thing missing from this attraction is some sort of PhotoPass, however, especially since it’s a simulator with a 3D movie I have to admit that would be tough to pull off. As you ext and make your way around you pass Windtraders, which is the gift shop of the area. There is a entrance there, however, since they had a line to go in to keep it from being a nightmare they were directing people on around the building.
After Flight of Passage, we made are way around to the Stand-By line for the Na’vi River Journey, which does contain currently I believe they said the most advanced animatronic they’ve ever done, The Shaman of Songs. After about 3 hours in line we got on the boat. And this where if you wish to skip ahead to avoid spoilers is where you should.
So basically this is a boat attraction similar to Pirates or Small World with no drops and just leisurely goes around. From start to finish. As you start it themed nighttime on Pandora with all the bioluminescence that brings. You start off going around admiring the scenes and above you are lily pad like things with creatures jumping around. Off to the side you see Viperwolves moving around and the some of the Na’vi on foot and their horse like creatures. You continue on and you come across the Shaman of Songs singing.
Afterwards, you see the bioluminescence and energy lines similar to the those you see in the movie when they transfer Jake’s mind to his AVTR. And then you continue on back to the dock. It’s a gorgeous attraction and great for a nice breather (well once the huge crowds die down).
From there we went over to the Satu’li Canteen for lunch and tried the cheeseburger pods. Which are interesting, quite different, but interesting.
As a note this was the Gluten Free version, however, my friend got the regular and it looks almost identical with some sort of drop beads added to it. The pod itself is some sort of onion shaped dough with beef, cheese, relish, mustard, and believe they said ketchup on it stuffed inside. We were pretty sckeptical but it actually is pretty good, though I’d much rather of had regular chips or fries than the provided sides. Overall, in the future I’ll likely stick to Flame Tree or Restaurantasaurus for Animal Kingdom quick service. But it was pretty good. Pics of the Menu below. Also next to the Canten and Windtraders is the Pongu Pongu where you can grab some exotic beverages, however, we didn’t stop there.After eating, we made our way over to Windtraders, the area gift shop. This is where you will find most of the shirts, statues, pins, etc for the Pandora area. This is also home to where you can have a custom AVTR figure made in your likeness (Think the carbonite figure they’ve done for Star Wars Celebration and Star Wars Weekends) as well as the Rookery, where you can get one of those cute little banshees you’ve probably seen all over by now. We waited about 45 minutes to an hour to get in as there was opening day and passholder exclusives on top of the regular fair everyone wanted to see.
So looking around inside the shop is gorgeous like the rest of Pandora. Most of it is what you’d expect, except on the left coming in the front. There is where the Rookery is where you can either wait to tell a Cast Member what Banshee you’d like or go thru process of finding which one calls to you including a pledge. Just past it also on the left in the middle is the station to go thru if you want an AVTR figure made in your likeness. The rest is pins, shirts, statues, and more with the registers on the right middle. After shopping for a while we eventually made our way back to Earth and ended that trek to Pandora. It’s an amazing area and I can’t wait to return. More photos are below mostly of the area in genral, which is called the Valley of Mo’ara.
I should be posting more frequently in the future as things have settled down a lot. Have a magical day!