In just a few short months, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will open its immersive Pandora themed land after nearly three years of construction, finally bringing desitors face-to-face with the flora and fauna found in James Cameron’s Avatar film series.
Ahead of the area’s planned summer 2017 debut, Disney has released a new preview video featuring the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind the 2009 blockbuster that inspired the 12-acre Animal Kingdom addition and a sneak peek at on-ride footage from two new rides currently under construction at the Orlando theme park.
“I don’t know if I can even express how it feels to see something that I imagined in 1995 suddenly made physically made real,” Cameron says in the video while shots of Pandora‘s lifelike plant structures — including bioluminescent flowers that can send waves and pulses “linked to every glowing plant” in the land — flash onscreen. “They’re using the absolute cutting-edge technology, stuff that’s never been applied before.”
Joe Rohde, a senior VP with Disney Imagineering, detailed the “beautiful, lyrical” voyage riders will take through the world of Pandora on the Na’vi River Journey, a boat ride that will send guests into the depths of the planet’s neon-colored forests filled with audio-animatronic figures.
“Virtually everything in the world is a custom-designed, complex, programmed piece of show equipment. Hundreds of plants, entire ride systems,” he explains over POV scenes from one of Journey‘s boats. Cameron adds: “There’s something pretty amazing at the end of that river ride that you’ve never seen anything like in your life.”
The ride system for Pandora‘s premier attraction, Avatar: Flight of Passage, has remained largely under wraps until now. Disney’s teaser video shows off the simulator’s massive, three-level interior, which will reportedly see riders boarding vehicles modeled after the bodies of Banshees, the fictional flying creatures that appear in the Avatar films.
“You’re going to plunge, you’re going to dive, you’re going to see the world flying through it,” Cameron says of the land’s thrilling addition, which film producer Jon Landau says will allow families to “connect with a Banshee” as they “fly over the landscape of Pandora.”
The $500 million investment replaces the park’s former Camp Minnie-Mickey area, built on land previously designated to house Beastly Kingdom, a never-built section revolving around mythical creatures.
Cameron’s first Avatar film, about a band of humans attempting to colonize the world of Pandora despite fierce opposition from the planet’s humanoid residents, remained the highest-grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation) until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. A sequel, Avatar 2, is slated for a late 2018 release, while three subsequent sequels are set for respective bows in 2020, 2022, and 2023.
A touring interactive attraction also based on Cameron’s fantastical environments, Avatar: Discover Pandora, also launched on Dec. 7.
Catch a glimpse of Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar above.