Walt Disney was famous for dreaming up ideas that seemed impossible and finding a way for them to become reality. The Walt Disney Company’s newest addition to its many breathtaking lands is called Pandora- The World of Avatar. And we got a sneak peek.
Located inside Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora is a stunning world dreamed up in partnership with the talented people who worked of the 2009 film “Avatar”. This land is set in a time after the movie. Humans, Na’vi and Avatar all work together to preserve the beautiful land of Pandora and the Valley of Mo’ara.
In Pandora, you can hike amongst floating mountains, beautiful bioluminescent plants and ride atop banshees. Human visitors can eat food from Pandora, try their hand at the drums and even learn a little bit of the Na’vi language. Pandora is a world where fantasy reaches new heights and theme park food and technology is otherworldly.
Two new rides in Pandora are utilizing this technology. The first is Avatar Flight of Passage. This is an incredibly immersive experience where you go through the traditional Avatar rite of passage by flying on a banshee. You enter the ride by hiking up the mountain, through cave art riddled tunnels and finally into the Alpha Centauri Expeditions lab where you will enter a linking chamber and link to an Avatar. The queue immerses you in the storyline. You have the opportunity to see ACE research and Na’vi artwork as you wait. A cast member informed us that the queue is designed to hold up to five hours worth of people and can be adjusted to add additional posts and ropes outside the queue to lengthen the line. Along your journey to the ride you will also come across an avatar. We were informed that he is not a famous avatar from the movie, but the cast members working in Pandora have taken to calling him Hanes (pronounced “Hahns”) because he is wearing Hanes brand boxers.
The linking process is not difficult, but it is lengthy. You will enter three different chambers. The chambers will brief you in safety, prepare you for linking, find your Avatar match and finally instruct you to board your linking bike. On the bike, you will officially be linked, restraints will be placed on your legs and back, you will put on some super stylish flight goggles and then you will be off and flying through Pandora on your very own Banshee.
We ended up going through this rite of passage three times. I was blown away. I can securely say this is one of the best rides I have ever been on. I can not do justice describing it to you. It is similar to the Soarin’ experience in Epcot, but… a million times better. I urge you NOT to watch point of view videos of this ride on YouTube or any other platform. Although Disney has been fairly strict about recording (there is a camera on your bike facing up at you and two cameras mounted on the walls of the linking chamber), people have still managed to get video of the experience. Please go live it. This ride is best enjoyed in person. The magic is not so much the visuals, but the way you can feel your banshee breathing, smell the different areas of Pandora, dip vertically down mountains, and feel the water and wind on your face as you glide across waves. It’s the magic and immersion Disney does best.
The second ride is an easy river boat experience titled Na’vi River Journey. You board your boat, in very Pirates of the Caribbean fashion, and you are taken on a boat ride on the Na’vi’s river. You encounter bioluminescent plants, different creatures, and Na’vi heritage. Although the ride is very subdued compared to Flight of Passage, the technology is impressive in a different way. The Shaman of Songs is overwhelming. She is an incredibly beautiful audio animatronic. Watching the way her face twitches and moves as well as the fluidity of her arms and body is really jaw dropping. She makes the ride what it is. We found loads of new details every time we rode this ride.
Disney isn’t just innovating its rides. The dining options in Pandora are out of this world. When we think of theme park food, our minds often go to corn dogs, funnels, churros, and sodas, but Pandora is truly a different planet, so the food is very advanced.
Pongu Pongu is a beverage stand in between Windtraders (a shop) and Satu’li Canteen (a restaurant). Pongu Pongu offers various beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. I ordered the Night Blossom, a sweet and unique frozen beverage with flavors of apple and pear with passion fruit boba. The colors of this drink were stunning! My mom ordered the Mo’ara Margarita, a strawberry and blood orange flavor drink with what my mom reported to be just a small amount of tequila. My non-alcoholic drink rang up at $4.99 while my mother’s margarita was $9.25.
Next stop was the Satu’li Canteen. This quick service dining was located inside a former Resources Development Administration (this was the company that worked to drain the resources in Pandora) mess hall. A cast member informed us that the Satu’li Canteen is designed as quick service dining with a sit-down restaurant feel. Chefs are often cooking your meat in the Satu’li show kitchen. Cast members walk around to help you clear your plate, and often offer to get you refills on beverages.
My mom ordered the Chopped Wood-Grill Chicken Bowl. The cast member checking us out hooked us up and gave us all three different sauces to try on top of her bowl. Each was more unique than the last. I ordered the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods served with crunchy vegetable slaw topped with boba and veggie chips. Yes, the pods actually taste like cheeseburgers. I was amazed with how seasoned and fresh my beef was. There were bits of onions inside and everything. It was incomparable to other theme park food.
Before you hurry yourself out of Pandora, make sure you take a look at all the wonderful things it has have to offer. Try a hand at the drums (over between Na’vi River Journey and Colors of Mo’ara), get your face painted like a true Avatar at Colors of Mo’ara, pick out your own Banshee at Windtraders, gain two very special badges for your Wilderness Explorers book and take loads of Instagram pictures under the floating mountains. Also, this may not be super special, but the bathrooms are really pretty in Pandora.
Pandora is officially opening tomorrow, May 27, for public viewing. But how did we get private access to the unopened park? Well, it’s quite a magical little story. We were entering Animal Kingdom for our half day of wild adventure when we noticed a gigantic line wrapping along the side of the park. My mom and I were wondering what everyone was waiting for. Our best guess was a new drink or limited edition merchandise. We went up to a group of twenty-something girls to ask them. She informed us they were in line for a private invitation to Pandora- The World of Avatar. My mom and I looked at each other and nodded. Yeah, I’d wait in that long line to go to Avatar too. Unfortunately, my mom and I are not important enough to have received an invitation to check out Avatar. As we turned to leave, one of the girls stopped us and asked how many we had. When we told her it was just us, and she insisted we jump in line with her. She had guest passes for eight and was only using three, so she invited us to join her as her guests to her Pandora Preview.
It was one of those moments where everything falls into place. I am so grateful to those former cast members for inviting us into their special day. We had the most magical time in Pandora. We gallivanted across empty roads, ran up and down the mountains like crazy people and took pictures I will remember forever. I now have photos and memories that no one else will have because of those lovely girls! I am so honored we had the opportunity to experience this magical land before it opened. It was pixie dust and Disney Magic working at its finest.
I’m so glad I could share my experience with you. Be on the look out for my next couple blog posts about our trip to Disney, and I do hope you get to journey to Pandora to experience it for yourself. You may just have to, as the Avatar say, “Sivako” or “rise to the challenge”!