I have to be honest: When I first learned that Disney’s immediate response to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which is my life-blood) was going to be an Avatar expansion, I eye-rolled hard. I just did not understand how they thought a film with virtually no remaining cult following was going to be comparable to one of the most popular universes in fiction. Why aren’t we prioritizing Star Wars? I asked countless times.
For months I had driven by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, watching enormous rocks periodically rise to find their place in the sky above. Nothing, though, could have prepared me for experiencing this land in person, observing from the ground up. The incredibly rich diversity of the Pandora ecosystem is so beautifully thought out, and the forced perspective of the Hallelujah Mountains is breathtaking. But the magic truly comes alive at night. From glowing plants, to mystical rivers, the bioluminescence of Pandora is an absolute must see.
The food of Satu’li Canteen allows for a wide range of personalization. Bowls may be prepared with beef, chicken, fish, or tofu. You can even find cheeseburger or curry vegetable“pods” for an otherworldly spin on some Earthly classics. Fountain drinks are refillable with more options than most Disney quick-service locations. No reservations are needed.
Pongu Pongu canteen offers a few alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments unique to Pandora. I tried the Mo’ara Margarita, a strawberry and blood orange combination topped with boba pearls, which was every bit amazing as it sounds.
While Pandora certainly does not retain the same fandom size as the folks down the street, it is the perfect addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in their effort to fulfill their mission devoted to celebrating animals of the past, present, and make-believe. Currently, the land does feel a bit on the smaller side, but keeping in mind that the future holds an eventual Phase II makes it feel just right for now.
AVATAR FLIGHT OF PASSAGE
When my family and I first went to Pandora it was just a few weeks after its opening, as a Father’s Day surprise for my dad. We went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom knowing we were going to experience some high wait times, but Pandora was our only commitment that day. We walked up to Avatar Flight of Passage when it was at about a 120-minute wait. And while we were apprehensive about it at the time, I can say without hesitation that I would certainly do it again.
This attraction literally brought tears to my eyes; I was in such awe. The poor guy next to me had to listen to the endless supply of “Oh-my-god’s!” that I just couldn’t keep in. With incredible attention to detail, riders are whisked into the world of Pandora atop a living, breathing banshee simulator. The subtlety of the 4-D effects as you navigate the diverse habitats makes your movement feel natural, rather than surprising. And the gorgeous, albeit ridiculously long queue transitions you between the wonders of Pandora’s nature, to the science labs of the conservation groups working to protect it.
The experience is a bit hard to describe to someone who hasn’t done it. My family approached the attraction expecting it to be “Disney’s best work,” as we had heard countless people call it. Even then we weren’t prepared for what followed. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to fly (not by plane, but truly fly), this may be the closest we will ever get. Without doubt, if this is the future of Disney’s ride technology, we are on the verge of a mind-blowing turning point as the parks explore what it means to be immersive.
*Please note: Avatar Flight of Passage has a 55” height restriction and may not be a good fit for all body types. I highly recommend testing the seat outside the attraction entrance before joining the queue.
NA’VI RIVER JOURNEY
This is Pandora’s ride for all ages and sizes. With two rows to each boat fitting about 4 adults across (snuggly), it is an intimate ride through the beautiful, glowing bioluminescence of night. The colors make for a stunning sight, and the shaman animatronic is among Disney’s finest. Each time I ride, I find more beautiful things hiding along the river banks.
Reminiscent of most Disney dark rides, there are no real surprises here. The river stays steady without drops or shocks and the ride lasts for approximately 5 minutes. It is ideal for young ones or those who don’t do as well with motion-heavy rides.
Thanks for tuning in. Keep those ears up!