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Behind the Ride: Na'Vi River Journey

Disney loves its theme park boat rides. The most famous ones are It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean, of course, but they’ve built several others such as Living with the Land, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. These attractions are one of their core concepts, as they provide a gentle ride with steady traffic throughput.

When Imagineers planned their latest themed land expansion, Pandora – The World of Avatar, they appreciated the advantages of a new boat ride. They could display the spectacular bioluminescent special effects that permeate throughout Pandora. Also, this sort of attraction could siphon some of the crowd traffic off the streets, keeping the crowds under control. Most importantly, it was a major attraction that Disney could use to as a selling point for their high-priced expansion.

You’ve heard all about it for years now. Let’s take this opportunity to go Behind the Ride to learn four amazing aspects of Na’Vi River Journey.

The experience: a journey through the heart of Pandora

The trick: building another unforgettable boat ride

Image: DisneyImagineers have crafted so many boat rides over the years because they’re extremely functional. The water rides are gentle and breezy for park guests i.e. they’re comfortable.

For Disney, they’re controllable. Cast members know where each person will be throughout the ride. With a large enough man-made river, they can flood the seas with boats, too, thereby servicing hundreds of park guests simultaneously. On each boat, Disney hosts 6-8 guests on each vessel, which means the rides aren’t as populated as It’s a Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney makes it up in volume instead. That’s the functional side, but it’s not why park planners loved the idea of a boat ride at Pandora, though.

Image: DisneySince the announcement of the themed land expansion in 2011, Disney dreamt big about their new land. They understood that the waters of Pandora are important in the movie, Avatar, and they wanted to recreate that experience. They used the boat ride as the means to give guests an unprecedented view of the world of Pandora, so that people would feel like they were exploring it just as Jake Sully once had.

Theoretically, theme park tourists are on a canoe ride down the sacred Kaspavan River, which is part of the Mo'ara Valley's rainforest. By using boats, Disney can show action and scenes at the various set pieces on this Na’Vi River Journey. And they have several tricks up their sleeve to achieve this goal…

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