“Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give ‘em an inch, they swim all over you.”
Walt Disney World has been a top destination for families around the world for decades, but it seems like one unique demographic has consistently eluded them: teenagers. I work with Florida teens for a living, and almost unanimously, they all have wishy-washy opinions about Disney.
“Ugh, all we did was stand in line for Frozen! Disney is lame.”
“Universal is so much cooler! They have real coasters! And they have Halloween Horror Nights—blood and guts!”
“I am Grooooot!” (*emphasized sass)
If Infinity War taught us anything besides flaking away our broken hearts, its that teens can be a tough crowd to please (yes, you, Teen-Groot!). While Disney has made a laudable effort in the past to appeal to thrill-seekers and teen visitors, not all of their attempts have been successful. While classics like Space Mountain and Expedition: Everest have withstood the test of time with adolescent visitors, other teen-centered attractions like Tomorrowland’s ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Disney Springs’ DisneyQuest failed to keep up with the passage of years.
With the acquiring of teen-favorite intellectual properties like Marvel and Star Wars, Disney seems to have possibly found their stride with an upcoming line-up of attractions with serious youth appeal. Is the Most Magical Place on Earth becoming more teen friendly than ever? We certainly think so. Here’s why.
1. Avatar: The World of Pandora
Most teenagers I know are not particularly familiar with James Cameron’s Avatar. For being one of the most financially successful films of all time, it’s not necessarily one that has held classic appeal to younger audiences. As far as picking a franchise to compete with Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Avatar seemed a peculiar choice.
However, it worked, and Animal Kingdom’s Pandora: The World of Avatar is the one area of Walt Disney World teens seem to consistently love these days.
The beauty of Disney’s Pandora is that is requires absolutely zero pre-knowledge of the film its based on. For teens, stepping into Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom feels like stepping into a living video game world. Instead of feeling childish and fanciful, Pandora has a visceral science fiction feel to it, from the giant Mecha-Suits to the pounding of drums throughout the day. Even the land’s signature restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, feels like something straight out of Halo or Destiny.
Teens love Pandora’s flagship attraction, Avatar: Flight of Passage. We’ve talked about the appeal of attractions inspired by video games before, and this seems to go over particularly well with younger visitors. Our teens across the board can’t gush enough about how much they love Flight of Passage. Despite a usually-lengthy cue, both the virtual reality and flight aspects of the attraction hit chords with teen gamers and sci-fi fans. We’re excited to see if future attractions added to this land when the Avatar sequels arrive will hold the same appeal.
2. The VOID
It’s no secret that we are big fans of Disney Springs’ The VOID here at Theme Park Tourist. For those unfamiliar, The VOID is a company that produces hyper(virtual) reality experiences. Disney flirted with virtual reality attractions many times in the past with Disney Quest and one-off attractions in Magic Kingdom—I personally remember getting to beta-test the Magic Carpet virtual reality experience with I was a pre-teen. It was cool, but all of these experiences had a distinct cheeziness to them. You knew you had no real control within the simulation besides being able to turn your head and maybe slightly steer.
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire was the VOID’s first experience to arrive at Disney Springs, and it has proven an undeniable success. The difference between the VOID’s hyper-reality experiences and older virtual reality games is that guests are able to interact with the digital world in a manner that is stunningly realistic. Through the combination of a portable VR rig (similar to a laser tag vest) and a gigantic maze, guests assume the role of rebel spies sent on a mission against the Empire. You can run through an Imperial bass, physically pick up blasters and interact with control panels, and even have some puzzles to solve. When you get shot, your rig vibrates like you really did get zapped. It’s stunningly spectacular.
The VOID is a must-visit attraction for families coming to Disney World with teens, particularly those who are gaming-inclined. Admission is treated separately from normal park tickets, so it’s a great attraction to try on a day you won’t be hitting the parks. The cost is similar to the average escape game in Orlando. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire has been so successful, Disney will be adding a second hyper-reality experience based on Wreck It Ralph soon. Easily, our visit to The VOID was one of the most fun things we ever did at Walt Disney World, and we can’t wait to go back!