First Look at AVATAR Land Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017

Ever since the surprise announcement in 2011 that Disney was teaming to bring James Cameron’s AVATAR to the Disney Parks, the company has been surprisingly mum on details.  Besides knowing Pandora would be brought first to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, very little has been shared on the project.  Disney’s third D23 Expo came and went this August in Anaheim, with the only mention of AVATAR Land being a mockup of an Imagineer’s workstation with very early concept drawings but no real details shown.  Turns out, Disney was holding out for the first ever D23 Expo in Japan to release the first look at Animal Kingdom’s AVATAR Land, which will be the largest expansion in the 15 year history of the park and set to open in 2017.  Disney also announced Animal Kingdom will receive its first ever nighttime spectacular along with nighttime rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Continue reading for more details.

Update November 7, 2015

Additional details released for the Na’vi River Journey in Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Na'vi River Journey at Pandora - The World of AVATAR at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Na’vi River Journey at Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, image courtesy Disney

 

Pandora – The World of AVATAR will bring a variety of new experiences to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey. The adventure begins as guests set out in canoes and venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest. The full beauty of Pandora reveals itself as the canoes pass by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures. The journey culminates in an encounter with a Na’vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music. Na’vi River Journey will open with Pandora – The World of AVATAR in 2017.

Update February 27, 2015

Latest rendering released for World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

World of AVATAR

World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, concept art courtesy Walt Disney Imagineering

The creative, collaborative process continues on a multi-year project as Disney’s Animal Kingdom brings to life Pandora, based on the blockbuster film AVATAR.  Disney recently welcomed acclaimed director James Cameron to offices in Glendale, California for a status report.  Disney’s creative teams collaborating with the artists and designers at Lightstorm are focused on all the land’s iconic elements — from the magnificent floating mountains to the interactive bioluminescent forest, and even to the soaring banshees.  The AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Update January 29, 2014

Disney cast members were treated to an exclusive screening of AVATAR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom where Lead Imagineer Joe Rohde and film producer Jon Landau gave an introduction to their vision for the park.  Watch the full VIDEO below (courtesy of John Saccheri) of their presentation where they explain the fit of AVATAR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Update January 10, 2014

Ceremonial groundbreaking takes place for AVATAR Land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Groundbreaking for AVATAR-Inspired Land at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Using Na’vi-inspired shovels and assisted by a Na’vi (photo illustration), (left to right) George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort; Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France; Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; a Na’vi; Jon Landau, AVATAR Producer; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering; and Joe Rohde, creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, pose January 8, 2014 during the ceremonial groundbreaking of an AVATAR-inspired land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, FL.  The multi-year and largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history, the new land will invite Walt Disney World Resort guests to experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with the banshees, encounter the Na’vi and explore a rich cultural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night. Photo by David Roark, courtesy Disney.

Update October 22, 2013

During the opening of the expansion to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii, lead Imagineer Joe Rohde was asked about AVATAR Land by About.com’s Arthur Levine.  Rohde said the ride on the dragon-like Banshees would be “considerably more thrilling” than Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction.

James Cameron, Joe Rohde, and Tom Staggs explore Disney's Animal Kingdom

James Cameron, Joe Rohde, and Tom Staggs explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom ©Disney. All rights reserved.

 

Update October 14, 2013

Disney Parks released the video announcing details of Animal Kingdom’s new AVATAR Land shown during the D23 Expo in Japan.

Original article from October 12, follows below…

AVATAR-Inspired Land Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Disney. All Rights Reserved

 

Entering the land of Pandora, guests will gaze in wonder at the floating mountains that dominate the landscape,

AVATAR-Inspired Land Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Disney. All Rights Reserved

 

ride on dragon-like Banshee creatures,

AVATAR-Inspired Land Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Disney. All Rights Reserved

 

and float though a bio-luminescent forest.

Shaping a Future Land at Disney's Animal Kingdom

© Disney. All Rights Reserved

 

Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s AVATAR, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.  WDI’s Joe Rohde (right) shares highlights of the project model with Cameron (left) and Walt Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Staggs.  Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park Expands

© Disney. All Rights Reserved

 

As part of the expansion, Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park will be adding all-new entertainment experiences including a new after-dark spectacular centered around and above Discovery River, new nighttime entertainment including live performers on Discovery Island (pictured) and a new night version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

I, for one, am glad to see new life breathed into Disney’s Animal Kingdom which celebrated its 15th Anniversary on Earth Day this year.  Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait until 2017 before the nighttime enhancements open at the park.  James Cameron’s first AVATAR sequel is currently scheduled to open in December 2016, with two more following in 2017 and 2018.  So what do you think of these proposed changes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  Are you looking forward to experiencing AVATAR up close at a Disney Park?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.