There is a new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Pandora: Land of Avatar is an immersive experience that brings you into the world of Pandora created by James Cameron in his movie Avatar. Yes, Avatar- No, it's not a Disney, Star Wars or Marvel film, however it is beautiful, it focuses on conservation (just like Animal Kingdom always has) and it fits well in the park. Bonus- It's beautiful, original and FUN!
What- Pandora is a whole new "land" in the park. Think Fantasyland or more specific to Animal Kingdom, Africa and Asia and Dinoland USA.
It is a fully immersive area designed to make you feel like you have landed on another planet. The landscaping is a mirror of the movie Avatar, and at night it all glows with beautiful colors of light just like the movie. There are floating mountains, strange and colorful plants and two attractions that bring you further into both the Land of Avatar and the role humans play in both trying to profit from and then save this moon.
Where- In Disney's Animal Kingdom as you enter the park and pass through Discovery Island (and see the Tree of Life) merge left and turn in at the Pizzafari restaurant. OR pass the "Festival of Lion King" theater in Africa and there is a bridge that leads you to Pandora. You will know you have arrived when you hear a sound similar to cicada's, we didn't love that detail.
Attractions- There are two rides in Pandora, a traditional boat ride (think it's a small world and a new simulator ride.
- Na'vi River Journey- FastPass/ Must transfer to standard wheelchair then to ride/ Handheld Captioning/ Audio Description
See the world of Pandora as the Na'vi do in a stunning journey through a bioluminescent rainforest. You will see new creatures, plants and beauty while searching for the Shaman of Songs.
This is a boat ride through a beautifully lit river with amazing landscape and some native creatures and then you find the Shaman of Songs, an audio animatronic of a Na'vi (the natives of Pandora). This is a slow, beautiful ride, the attention to detail, lighting and scenery, are amazing.
Sensory Input- No Worries! This is a peaceful, quiet ride.
Bottom Line- Some will find this ride a bit sleepy. My son Ben, on the Autism Spectrum, LOVED it. My typical 17 year old said it was fine, but wouldn't wait more than 15 minutes for it. I was mesmerized by the details and the beauty. My interest might have been enhanced because I had just seen the movie. So it was interesting to see the plants that were so beautifully created for the film.
- Avatar Flight of Passage- FastPass +/ Must transfer/ Physical Considerations/ Assistive Listening/ Closed Captioning/ Audio Description
Height Requirement- 44"/ 112cm
Size Requirements- This attraction can be challenging for Larger Guests. Even if you are Tall but not Big use the sample seat at the entry and have a cast member help you to see if you will fit. I will describe the restraints below.
Ambulatory- This attraction is built like a simulated motorcycle. You will need to be able to straddle it and hold yourself up to experience it. I give more details in the ride description below. In addition to the challenging seats, the queue is quite steep, especially in the FastPass lane.
Fly on a Banshee just like the Na'vi do! It is a breathtaking flight over a stunning world!
Ok, this is the best ride I have ever been on!! The easiest way to describe it to other guests at WDW was Soarin' times 1000. If you haven't been to Epcot or ridden Soarin' it is a simulator or "screen" ride that takes you into Pandora. You will feel like you are flying with exhilarating drops and gliding threw the trees, then even a stop for the Banshee to catch it's breath. It is beautiful, exciting, truly breathtaking and you don't want it to end!
To begin the attraction you are brought into a room for 16 where you view a film with an adorably awkward scientist explains how the Avatar program is helping with conservation and sort of describes how the creation of the Avatar's work. He matches you with your Avatar and then sends you to another room to understand the ride better. Then you are directed into the room with the simulators. If you haven't seen the movie, it is still not completely clear, but to enjoy the ride it won't matter.
Once you are in the simulator room you get on the simulator (straddling it) and wait for the restraints. They will push you into place if they need to, and a cast member might need to help you adjust. After the restraints are on there is sometimes a delay, then there are flashing lights- After those details just enjoy the most amazing ride!
Sensory Impact- Caution- It isn't loud. There are a few intense times including a short bit where a predator is chasing you. A fear of heights or motion sickness could be triggered.
A few details-
- The Seats- the seats are a virtual banshee, you must be able to transfer and support yourself. You can spread your legs and shuffle on if you aren't able to lift a leg over. it would not be a simple transfer. There is a sample seat at the FastPass entrance that you can see if it will work for you.
- Size- There are automatic restraints on your back and the backs of your legs. If you are too big or have very long legs, you may not fit. Please visit the sample seat at the FastPass entrance and ask a cast member to determine where the restraints would hit you and if you can ride. It is a LONG line to get there and not be able to ride.
- Flashing Lights- At the beginning there are flashing lights on the little screen of your simulator. If you are prone to seizures I recommend you look forward and possible close your eyes.
- Anxiety- There can be a delay in activating the simulators, and the delay is often after the restraints are on. Just know the delay is normal, relax and get ready for an amazing time!
- The 3-D Visors- The visors are large and awkward. The first time my daughter rode Flight of Passage she didn't enjoy it because she couldn't see it well (or at all). When we went back she tucked the ear pieces into her braids, that worked and then she LOVED it! We suggest bringing a headband to help hold the visor in place.
- The Very Long Lines- Please FastPass this ride. Without a FastPass the line can be 4 hours long- no bathroom, or snack bar... We did use DAS some times and at 10:30 at night the line said 2 hours, but was only an hour. But we chatted with many guests that did wait 4 hours OR MORE.
Bottom Line- Don't miss it!
Where to Eat- The Satu'li Canteen is the local mess hall offering bowls with protein including chicken, beef, tofu and sustainable fish, a base of greens or grains and choice of sauce. Steamed Pods with hamburgers, and a kids menu with the choices above plus a hot dog or quesadillas. Then there are fun looking and yummy desserts.
I loved my chicken bowl. Meg enjoyed her hot dog, Ben and Steve did not enjoy their pod or quesadilla. Steve thinks frying the pods would help A LOT. Ben was bribed with chocolate cake to eat there (new places are a hard thing for him, especially if there aren't chicken nuggets). His review of the cake was - it's good, but not as good as IKEA's chocolate mousse cake. All 4 of us get kids sized meals or share an adult size. It's a good amount of food.
Bonus- Drinks are refillable!
Ordering Online.- A cool new tool in Walt Disney World is online ordering. Instead of getting in line you find a seat, pull up the menu on the My Disney Experience App, order, and wait for your phone to tell you to pick up your meal. Disney makes it super easy because the moment you step in the door the menu and directions come up on the phone.
REMEMBER- In Animal Kingdom there are no lids on drinks and the straws are paper, even on the moon of Pandora. I suggest bringing a cup you like!
Allergy menus are available - as always ask a cast member for help to ensure your meal is as safe for you as possible.
Bathrooms- There are accessible bathrooms and 1 companion restroom in Pandora at the bottom of the hill. If you need an adult changing table I suggest the not too far away first aid area near Creature Comforts (Starbucks) on the path to Africa.
Relief Area for service animals is just before the bridge leading to "Festival of Lion King" As you are facing the mountains it is the entrance to your right.
Signage- To accomplish the immersion goal, there are not signs for the rides. There is a totem of the blue Shaman at the front of the River ride, and a totem of a Banshee at the front of Flight of Passage. Of course there are still FastPass queues and currently signs that inform you there are no bathrooms during the wait, signs explaining the sample seat, and entrance signs, so I'm not sure they met their vision on this point- but if you are looking for the rides, find the totems.
Day or Night??? Should you visit during the day or night? Honestly any time of day is beautiful, new and exciting. During the day you can see more of the details, and it's easier to find excited family members that might run ahead. As the sun sets it all comes alive in beautiful illuminated color. You really can't go wrong. Plus, both rides are indoors, so your timetable won't effect those experiences. We went in the morning, then did the Kilaminjaro Safari, Everest, and the rest of the park. Went back to the room for a break, and then came back to do it all at night. Honestly, we love the nightlife at Animal Kingdom now, so we did it all again. My family is also big on park hopping, so a couple of times during the week we went back and forth to visit again.
Amy's Thoughts- I know the whole post has been my thoughts- but here's my summary. Pandora is a beautiful and fun addition to The Animal Kingdom. You don't have to be a fan of Avatar, you don't even need to watch it to enjoy this well done and FUN addition to the park.(However, I do think seeing the movie helps with understanding and appreciating some of the details.) Plan to spend some time exploring and getting photos. Everyone in my family enjoyed it, on behalf of the Schinner family, we would like to welcome the Na'vi to our Happy Place!