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A Review: Pandora the World of Avatar
The Feel of the LandClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you are a fan of Disney then chances are pretty good you have an idea of what Disney rolled out at its Animal Kingdom park. Pandora. I don't mean to say that they have built and entire land to showcase those fancy charm bracelets. I'm talking about that setting for that epic movie that came out nearly seven years ago that had giant blue aliens. That Pandora.
Like everything Disney does it is done well. The team that worked on this project truly went above and beyond all expectations and spared no expense. I mean, they built floating mountains for crying out loud! Disney wanted guests to feel like they are actually on the moon Pandora when they visit this part of the park. And I've got to tell you it really feels like they succeeded.
Pandora is isolated from the rest of the park, accessible by bridges from Africa and the Oasis. When you cross over the bridges the entire decor around you changes. The plant life becomes more dense, more tropical, and has strange things incorporated in to it. The music changes to what can only be described as the tribal music from the Avatar soundtrack. Everything seems to be larger than life, I assume to help with the illusion that the Na'vi (those blue people) are the dominate life forms and everything is built for them. There is even a smell! That's right, the land of Pandora has a distinct earthy smell. Everything together really creates the illusion that you are in a different world.
If you have seen Avatar then you will know that a lot of Pandora's beauty comes from two things: the floating mountains and the bioluminescence of the plant and animal life. Disney sure did live up to the hype of the floating mountains. You can walk right under them! Some even have waterfalls that come down to the ground, just like in the movie. Well, at night Pandora lights up. I am sad to say that I was unable to see Pandora at night on my most recent trip (anyone that has been to Florida in the summer knows how unpredictable the summer storms are...) but I fully plan on going again at night when I revise the parks later this year. The colors are supposed to be spectacular.
Where Is Pandora?
The MountainsClick thumbnail to view full-size
I am sure I have annoyed everyone that has had to listen to me rave about these mountains. But seriously, they are floating mountains! OK. I know that are not really floating, because this is Earth and we have gravity here. But they sure as heck give the illusion that they are floating above the ground.
Inside the big mountain is a ride that is like no other. Flight of Passage is a category of ride all of its own. It will change the way rides are designed. It is so amazing that it deserves it's own post.
The detail that went into the design and ultimately the creation of these mountains was phenomenal. I know that they are essentially giant blocks of cement that are supporting each other so that some parts are suspended in the air. I know. I watched them being created. But, when you are standing underneath a piece of the mountain, it really doesn't look manmade.
What Is There To Do?
So, what exactly is there to do at Pandora. Beside gawking at the scenery? Surprisingly, not that much. Yet. Right now there are only two ride, some activities, a shop, and a couple of places to grab food and drinks. But, more will come.
The two rides are very different. Flight of Passage is an exhilarating simulation ride that gives the feel of flying on the back of a banshee. Na'vi River Journey is a slow moving boat ride on the rivers of Pandora at night. The colors are brilliant and some of the effects really show how far Disney has come with animatronics, especially compared to Its A Small World. Given the choice between the two, I'd pick Flight of Passage any day.
Satu'li Canteen is a quick service restaurant that offers an American Asian fusion type of food. For those unfamiliar with the Disney lingo, quick service is a type of restaurant were you order your food then then take it to a table and eat. Kind of like fast food, but with better options and better service. Pongu Pongu is a little stand that serves drinks and a few snack options.
There is also face painting and shopping. The shop is really neat, it has a lot of variety. There are tons of air plants to purchase. Which, is really neat considering air plants kind of look alien all on their own. There is even a stand that has different instruments kinds, or adults, can try out.
More of the Wonders of PandoraClick thumbnail to view full-size
More New Features
What I was really impressed with at Pandora were the new features to the que lines. Somewhere, I think about the halfway point, for both of the rides at Pandora were drink stations. There are two water fountains and a fountain to refill water bottles. I was very impressed with the additions, especially since I had visited in June and the heat and humidity were almost oppressive.
Most people were bypassing the water at Flight of Passage, I assume because most of the line was inside and because people didn't want to have to leave the line to use the restroom. The water fountains caused a bit of a backup at the Na'vi River Journey, but not enough that it delayed guests from getting on the ride. People simply stopped and filled up their water bottles before moving on in the line, which didn't make a difference because if you were to have gone past them you would stop again in a few feet.
As with everything Disney does I was awed. The detail was fantastic and the story lines were amazing.
Are you planning on adding Pandora to your day at Animal Kingdom
Summer time in Florida is hot and humid. It is very important to stay properly hydrated. I know a lot of people don't like the taste of the tap water in Florida and prefer to drink bottled water. Well, I got a new water bottle for my trip and I loved it! I got ice from the hotel ice machine in the morning. Filled the bottle with ice and water in my room, packed the bottle in my bag, and I had ice cold water all day. I would top off my bottle with water from the fountains in line or from my bottled water with lunch. My water was cold all day. I don't think I can stress it enough.
There are a lot of different water bottles out there, but I used this one. I loved it. It will be in my park back again for my next trip. Heck, I'll even make it a staple in my beach bag.
Remember, even if you are not visiting Walt Disney World in the summer you are going to be doing a lot of walking. That means you are going to be thirsty and it is always a good idea to drink plenty of water. Packing your own refillable water bottle will help save money! If you ask for water any restaurant or food/drink cart will give you a free cup of ice water. Simply add it to your bottle and move on. Simple!
I was so excited to visit Pandora. I was a little nervous since it opened two weeks before my trip and I had read stories of lines over seven hours long for Flight of Passage. We weren't able to get fastpasses for it, and I really didn't want to wait in line that long. I knew that meant we would have to open the park and rush to the ride first thing. Along with everyone else. And that was exactly what we did.
That morning my mom and I grabbed oatmeal from the hotel and hopped on the first bus to Animal Kingdom. We thought we were doing great on time. We got there a little after 7:30 and the park was opening at 8 for extra magic hours. We went right through security, oatmeal and all, and high tailed it for Pandora. This was only the second time I have ever been asked to show that I was staying at a Disney resort in order to take advantage of the extra magic hours, which was awesome since Pandora is so popular and the extra magic hours are a perk of staying on property.
We got in line and were told it was already a 90 minute wait. It was 7:45 when we got in line and there was already a 90 minute wait for Flight of Passage. Just let that sink in for a moment. This ride was so popular that they had opened it early and there was already an hour and a half wait for it fifteen minutes before the park opened. So, we ate our oatmeal and took advantage of being able to get some amazing pictures in line.
We talked with some very lovely people in line. Which helped the time to pass. And true to what the cast member had told us we waited for the full 90 minutes. The ride was worth it! I have never experienced anything like it. After checking the My Disney Experience app we decided to ride Na'vi River Journey before getting lunch. That wait went from 40 to 60 minutes while we were in line. Honestly, that ride was nice but not worth an hour wait. I'd like to point out that by the time the park officially opened the wait for Flight of Passage peaked at 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Lunch was fantastic. I was glad to see that the new restaurant was up to par with my expectations of food at Disney. I was really glad to see that nearly all of the options on the menu were healthy. One point to Disney for making healthy food tasty and readily available to park guests. I wanted to try this pineapple lumpia at the drink stand, but was too full from lunch. I've added it to my list for my next trip.
The staff was fantastic. They have to keep a break in the line for Flight of Passage to allow through traffic to get around Pandora, and the staff was wonderful directing the flow of traffic. The ride operators were fantastic and never seemed to get frustrated, even with guests commenting on the wait times and weather. We had a nice conversation with a custodian at the Canteen about the food options and how he was glad to see everyone enjoying the new addition to Animal Kingdom. The rest of the day was fantastic! Everyone was at Pandora so wait times for everything else were practically nothing.
Overall, Pandora is a must do for your Animal Kingdom day. I am not a fan of waiting in line, but I would wait in line again for Flight of Passage. Would I rather have a fastpass, oh yes, but it is worth the wait. However, I wouldn't wait in line for Na'vi River Journey again, I would ride it if it had a short wait (I'm talking less than 30 minutes) or I had a fastpass. I wouldn't mind eating at the Canteen again, and I would like to export the shop a little more when I'm not flying and don't have to worry about limited suitcase room. I am really looking forward to seeing Pandora at night.