Like so many places at Walt Disney World, Pandora was once just a place from a movie until Imagineers chose to create some magic. They lovingly constructed a fictional world in our reality, bringing James Cameron’s vision to life for all to celebrate. Today, let’s take a look at this spectacularly themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to appreciate exactly what Imagineers have accomplished. Here are several amazing facts about Pandora – The World of Avatar.
The park cost half a billion dollars
Avatar the movie is the most successful movie production ever. With $2.788 billion, it has earned more global box office revenue than any other film in history. While history remembers it as a huge success, the production was notoriously troubled. Writer/director James Cameron started working on the project in 1994, a full 15 years before it entered theaters. After he made Titanic, Cameron spent the body of a decade tinkering with the technology needed to bring the fictional planet of Pandora to life onscreen.
Fittingly, Pandora – The World of Avatar followed a similar trajectory. In 2011, the Walt Disney Company revealed their plans to construct an entire themed land based on the film. Said land wouldn’t open until the summer of 2018. And it also cost a fortune. Disney spent $500 million on Pandora, making it one of their most expensive themed lands ever.
The showiest sign of Pandora’s cost floats in the sky. The Valley of Mo'ara shown in the movie is lovingly recreated in the World of Avatar. Thanks to some clever engineering, the structural beams for this series of artificial mountains aren’t visible. They look like the planet’s core of Unobtanium has come with the odd side effect of floating mountains. Disney’s known and loved for their ability to craft manmade mountains, but the Valley of Mo'ara is their masterpiece.
Pandora is a world unto itself
Have you ever seen Mickey Mouse walking through Pandora? Of course not. Imagineers care about the immersive nature of Pandora. Their sole hope for your visit here is that you’ll believe that you’re on a tour of the beautiful world seen in Avatar. Many of the effects here foster that perception. A Disney character wouldn’t have any reason to visit Pandora, and so park planners firewalled this part of Animal Kingdom from character greetings.
You’ll appreciate the immersive nature of Pandora in many other ways. For example, the aforementioned Valley of Mo'ara contains a secret. In the Pandora movie franchise, humans are waging war against the local Na’Vi and other species. Their goal is to corner the market on Unobtanium.
The Pandora that you visit is in a timeline several centuries after the wars have ended. Still, some remnants remain. One of them is a twin-blade helicopter that humans used to navigate the uneven lands of the planet. The next time you’re at the Valley of Mo'ara, pay attention to the moss in the trees. You may not have even noticed that nature has absorbed a long-forgotten helicopter and turned it into a part of the jungle!
Little touches like this populate Pandora. Disney even doubled down on the waterfalls. These beautiful nature streams are both comforting to see and soothing to hear. Well, the dirty secret of the World of Avatar is that some of the waterfalls are fake! Yes, some are real, but Imagineers couldn’t use actual waterfalls to fill in the back parts of the themed land. Instead, they had to improvise, using forced perspective to foster the illusion of waterfalls deeper into the jungle. Pay attention to the top of Avatar Flight of Passage to understand Disney’s clever way of adding to the comfortable backgrounds of Pandora.