When you enter Pandora – The World of Avatar in Disney's Animal Kingdom, you're transported into another world. The plants, floating mountains, sounds and smells are wonderfully alien, and yet somehow familiar at the same time. It's a perfect blend of nature and fantasy. This entirely new land features some of the most advanced ride technology among the theme parks, plus exotic cuisine and unique souvenirs. This is also a world of many secrets – here are 5 surprising facts about Alpha Centauri's jungle moon of Pandora.
Avatar Flight of Passage
This is the new land's signature attraction, where you can soar over Pandora on the back of a mountain banshee, or "ikran" as the native Na'vi call it. This ride is like no other, incorporating a massive 3-D screen, individual ride vehicles called "link chairs" and the largest range of motion ever used in a simulator ride. You'll feel your banshee breathing beneath you – and when your banshee dives down the side of a cliff, you too will dive down – and feel it! This astonishingly realistic simulator experience is filled with the sweet smells of colorful Pandora flora, the feel of the ocean mist and wind in your face and, most incredibly, the actual sensation of flying. In short: It is not to be missed.
Na'vi River Journey
Float on a relaxing boat ride through a bioluminescent rain forest. This ride features state-of-the-art video projection mapping of animals walking and crawling around a terrain of trees and logs, while shaded by giant leaves. Disney has mastered projection mapping with shows like Happily Ever After on Cinderella Castle, and they’ve now brought it into a ride environment. There's another new technology created just for this ride that uses multiple screens of different shapes set in front of each other to create the illusion of depth without the need for 3-D glasses. It really looks like the jungle goes on and on in the distance! This attraction also features the most advanced animatronic character by Disney Imagineers – the Shaman of Songs. Her movements are so lifelike that if it weren’t for the fact that she's 10 feet tall, you'd swear it was a real person.
Unique Merchandise of Windtraders
The new land's gift shop, Windtraders, is themed to look like an old military outpost that has been overrun by roots and vines. Those roots are used to display the merchandise, making for an interesting aesthetic. Here you can buy the usual shirts, mugs and collectible pins, but the thing everyone will be talking about are the mini banshees. These adorable shoulder pets are actually puppets you control with a handheld remote. After selecting yours from one of 10 different color styles, you'll have to recite the banshee pledge and go through the adoption process before you can bring the little guy home with you. Windtraders also offers something called the ACE Avatar Maker. It allows you to have your face scanned into a computer and then mapped onto your own Na'vi action figure. Always wanted your own action figure? This is your chance.
Exotic Dining at Satu'li Canteen
Hungry? A snack window in Pandora named Pongu Pongu serves frozen drinks and a yummy treat called lumpia, a sweet pineapple spring roll. If you're looking for a full meal, though, try Satu'li Canteen, Pandora's quick service restaurant. This old mess hall has been redecorated by the Na'vi and offers a nice place to relax while you sample the otherworldly cuisine. Build your own bowl by selecting a meat, veggie or grain, and the sauce of your choosing. Or you can order cheeseburger steamed pods, which will likely be their biggest seller. Either way, don’t miss the blueberry cream cheese mousse for dessert. It's as delicious as it is beautiful. Satu'li will be the first Disney World restaurant to feature mobile ordering: Place your order ahead of time through thee app. When you enter the restaurant, just pick up your food from the window – no waiting in line.
Exploring the Valley of Mo'ara
You’ll be floored by the massive floating mountains above you, but equally impressive is the attention to detail. There's something to see everywhere you look. Across a stream, you’ll spy a downed helicopter covered in moss, a relic of a violent past. The land lends itself to exploring. Around every corner are strange plants and animals that call this valley home. The background sounds of the land are unlike any others at Disney World. You may hear an animal call out on your left; then on your right you'll hear other animals respond. Sometimes, they will be the same species calling back, but other times they are prey animals alerting others of danger. This back and forth gives the feeling that you're exploring a real jungle, teeming with a biodiversity of species. Throughout the day, the soundscape of the area changes. When the sun sets, the wildlife really gets loud. The bioluminescent plants of Pandora start to glow and the sounds of the jungle completely take over, creating an exhilarating experience like nothing you've ever seen, or heard, before.
Orlando, FL – 5/18/17
By: Alicia Stella
Photos By: Alicia Stella