While it has been more than half a decade since it was first announced, Pandora – The World of Avatar is finally going to welcome its first guests in just a few weeks. With that in mind, Disney has started really promoting this new land, even releasing the following preview commercial last night during the Academy Awards telecast:
Though the clip above is pretty cool, it doesn't tell us much about what we'll really experience on May 27, 2017, when this new land opens. So what kind of experiences will Pandora - The World of Avatar bring to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Let’s go over some of the basics:
1. This new land will have its own story, separate from the Avatar movie
Every land at Walt Disney World has its own story, and Pandora – The World of Avatar will be no different. Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment decided early on that they didn't want to simply re-tell the story of the first Avatar film with this new land, instead deciding to set this new land on Pandora many years before the events of the first Avatar film.
The idea here is to show the effects of events that transpired nearly a century before the events of the film, when a destructive company called the RDA came to Pandora. Guests will then be able to fill in the story gaps between what they are experiencing at the theme park and what they've seen in the film, making this land a kind of narrative "bridge" that deepens the lore of Pandora in a way that will be accessible to fans, but not totally alien (no pun intended) for those who aren't as familiar with the franchise.
A centerpiece of the story and theme of Pandora – The World of Avatar will be the bridge that will connect this land to the rest of the park. Pictured above, this structure will serve as an entry into the base camp of Alpha Centauri Expeditions, the eco-tour group that is preparing Pandora for future explorers and adventure seekers, which of course is a direct to the Avatar film and will help connect guests to this world.
2. The key word for this new land will be immersion
While Disney has a proud tradition of creating themed lands that bring guests far away from their ordinary lives, Pandora - The World of Avatar aims to bring this idea to a whole new level. As you might know, the nearby Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort really proved that there is immense value in creating a realistic world based on a specific fictional land. And while Disney will never say it out loud, Pandora - The World of Avatar is Walt Disney World's answer to that. See if any of the following sounds familiar:
Cast Members in this land will interact with guests as if they were travelers visiting a new world. Shops will sell "cultural artifacts" instead of souvenirs. Restaurants will serve "local" food, straight from Pandora. Every single inch of this land has been designed serve the story dreamed up by Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment, and the goal will be for guests to feel as though they are a part of the story of Avatar, even if the land is "set" 100 years before the events of the film.