First Look At Disney’s Avatar Land, Coming to Animal Kingdom In 2017

Skift Take

Disney’s proposed Avatar land demonstrates that the Mouse House can rely on more than the Disney legacy, the Muppets, Star Wars, and the Marvel Universe to take on threats like Universal’s Harry Potter experience.

— Dennis Schaal

Avatar films director James Camerson (left) and Disney parks division chairman Tom Staggs (center) take a look at a model of Avatar land. Photo courtesy Disney

A concept rendering for the new Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney

A concept rendering for the new Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney

A concept rendering for the new Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney

In addition to adding an Avatar land at Animal Kingdom, Disney plans on offering a “new nighttime spectacular” in Animal Kingdom with live bands along Discovery River. Photo courtesy Disney

In the two years since Walt Disney World announced it would build a new “land” at Animal Kingdom based on the Avatar movies, the company has remained tight-lipped about details. In fact, such a dearth of information was forthcoming that fan sites speculated the plans had fizzled and would never be built.

But Friday, at a conference in Japan, Tom Staggs, chairman of Disney’s parks division, released the first renderings of Avatar land and said it will open in 2017.

The drawings are fanciful and vague on detail, but the mythical world of Pandora will include a ride on banshees — large bird-like aerial predators from the movie that are used in battle, hunting and travel.

“In the world of Avatar, guests will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee,” Skaggs said.

When Disney first announced the partnership that would allow it to build attractions based on James Cameron’s 2009 movie — as well as sequels due starting in 2016 — the company said similar attractions would follow in other Disney parks. No update on other parks was provided with Friday’s unveiling.

At the same time, Staggs also said Animal Kingdom will get new entertainment experiences, “including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River that will delight our guests.” In addition, the park — which has the resort’s earliest closing times, typically 5 or 6 p.m. — will get nighttime entertainment, including live performers on Discovery Island and a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro safaris.

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