Today Walt Disney World officially opened a new meet-and-greet location for Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s called Adventurers Outpost, described as a “new exploration headquarters” on the park’s Discovery Island, allowing guests to meet the famous pair in safari outfits, ready for a new adventure.
Inside Adventurers Outpost, photographs from Mickey and Minnie’s travels around the world line the walls, including Nepal and Africa – other locations prominently featured within the park.
But this seemingly small new experience means much more than offering guests a new photo opportunity. Disney didn’t just want to give Mickey and Minnie a new home in the park, they needed to in order to make way for Avatar.
It’s been nearly two years since Disney announced the major project based on director James Cameron’s financially successful “Avatar” film and its upcoming sequels. Since then, Disney has revealed little to no details as to what will be featured within the land of Pandora when it opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the coming years.
Though even the location of Avatar land hasn’t been announced, it’s widely reported that it will replace the park’s Camp Minnie-Mickey area – the previous home of Mickey and Minnie meet-and-greets. So the duo’s move to Discovery Island isn’t merely a change of scenery, but an early step in dramatically reshaping an entire park area.
Beyond meet-and-greets, the only real attraction within Camp Minnie-Mickey is Festival of the Lion King, the park’s popular stage show. There are plans to relocate that to a new theater near the Harambe / Africa area of the park, with construction already having begun there two months ago. Again, Disney hasn’t officially announced this change yet.
Despite the relative silence surrounding the Avatar project (a brief update was shared in December), Disney is adamant that they are still moving forward with it behind the scenes, even if the public is doubtful due to so few details being revealed.
“We’re committed. So that’s not an issue,” said Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis in an interview during Disney’s recent Monstrous Summer press event. “I think what’s wonderful about Walt Disney World is you have a lot of land and you have a lot of ideas. So just since I’ve been here, the announcement of Disney Springs, for example, is something that came over the years. […] There was no firm date but now there’s a firm date and the same thing will happen with Avatar. It’s just when you’re creating something that’s never existed before, it’s different than if you’re replicating something that’s already been built somewhere.”
Kalogridis did briefly mention Avatar during his presentation at the media event, noting only that “Imagineers are hard at work on a new land” with original Animal Kingdom designer Joe Rohde at the helm, but no new details were released.
The film sequel to “Avatar” was originally scheduled for release by the end of 2014, but that has since been pushed back to 2016, at least. As such, Disney is in no rush to update their own timeline for completely their Avatar-inspired theme park land, likely several years out to coincide with the future films.
In the meantime, subtle changes like today’s opening of the Adventurers Outpost will mark small steps toward the opening of Pandora.