Avatar land revealed, set to open in 2017 at Walt Disney World with new nighttime Animal Kingdom entertainment

in Disney, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Entertainment, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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At the D23 Expo Japan, Disney announced details of the world of Avatar coming to Walt Disney World, now set to open in 2017. Concept art, renderings, and a model photo were also released, along with details of new nighttime entertainment coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron, Walt Disney Imagineering is bringing the land of Pandora to life, inspired by Cameron’s “Avatar.” The new land will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees, all part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.


Video: Avatar land artwork and model for Walt Disney World


Disney has also released a video featuring a first look at ride footage for a Banshee flying attraction, the transition from day to night in Avatar land, and more details about the upcoming area.


Video: James Cameron and Joe Rohde reveal Avatar land details to D23 Expo Japan


Included among the concept art released is a glimpse at a boat ride through the glowing world of Pandora. No further details about this ride or any other experiences were revealed just yet.

In a photo released by Disney, Imagineering’s Joe Rohde looks over a project model with Cameron (left) and Walt Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Staggs.

Also part of this expansion, Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park will be adding new entertainment experiences including after-dark entertainment centered around and above Discovery River, including live performers on Discovery Island, and a new night version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Worth noting is a glowing version of the Tree of Life seen in this artwork, linking the park’s icon to the world of Avatar, in which a glowing tree is at the center of the film’s Na’vi race.

Avatar is beginning to take shape as a concept for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but details are still fairly scarce, even with all of this artwork released. The timeline is now roughly four years until the new land opens in conjunction with bringing nightlife to the park that normally closes early. That long timeframe indicates these concepts are still not quite firm, with more details on the way in the coming months and years.

52 Comments

  1. Chris

    Look at Joe Rohde’s e in that pic… he’s thinking, “How in the *bleep* are we going to build this?” Cameron looks ecstatic. Personally I think it looks great, if they can pull it off. But four years, really? That’s crazy. UO will probably have another park built by then.

    1. Jeff Lynch

      And Universal will probably have a bunch of people stuck on a roller coaster, still waiting to come down too!

      1. Tryg Nelson

        Now who’s looking for something to complain about?

        1. Jeff Lynch

          I don’t think it’s fair for people to be negative towards Disney and pretend that Universal does everything right. Because Universal has a long way to go to fix the thousands of things wrong with its parks to bring them up to Disney level.

          1. Joe Somersby

            Who are you people that think you know all the ins and outs of both or/any major corporation in the entertainment field. I like All the parks, they All have plus’s and minus’s. True, Universal, has always seemed behind times in certain factions. Crap happens to All parks, just because of this last roller coaster mishap, Disney has had tons of their mishaps, just do some research! Universal, thousands, really, now why it took soooo long to get those people down, That was plain nuts! But, WDW, for those in the know, and that’s all I’ll say for now, is, and probably, will never be, what it was like, say 20 years ago. WDW, like all the rest, has one priority above the others, MONEY. They are a business, all these other things, safety for guests, employees, cleanliness for guests, employees, etc., etc., takes a far second place. Again, I Love going to all the parks, I’m not partial to anyone. I’m so looking forward to the expansions at both WDW & Universal!

      2. Jon

        I’ve been to Universal around 20 times in my life and never had that experience, but okay. :)

        Disney parks have more lively character than Universal and better food, but both have solid rides. Disney is overall better, and they should be since it costs much more.

  2. JEANYSANCHEZ

    AWESOME! I LOVE IT!

  3. Matt

    Well it looks great. Still not completely sold on the longevity of this land, but, after seeing this, I’ll keep an open mind. I just don’t understand why they would reveal details of a stateside park at an overseas D23 expo. I guess given the 2017 opening date, more details will be rolled out at future USA D23 Expos…hopefully.

    1. Jeff Lynch

      You really are looking for things to complain about if you are going at them for the “they released these in Japan thing”. Must mean the concept art is really great if THAT is all you could gripe about.

  4. This looks like it might be good for people who like Avatar. I still think it’s a waste of time, money and resources that could have been better spent on original, Disney-based properties that actually reflect the themes of the park, like Mystic Manor or Mysterious Island.

    More than Avatar, which belongs in Hollywood Studios more than Animal Kingdom, if they really felt like they needed to licence some random hot property to compete with an also-ran like Harry Potter, what concerns me is the nighttime stuff. Despite past advertising that Animal Kingdom is not a zoo, they still have a collection of live animals that need proper care. I’m not sure about running a ride through their homes into the wee hours.

    1. Mac

      Still, it would be cool to walk in a rainforest that lights up! You can ignore the fact that it’s avatar themed and just enjoy the attractions that disney made! We can all just have fun in what looks like a really cool land, just because it’s based off of a movie doesn’t mean the attractions and landscape inside will be anything less than magical

      1. Ryan R

        So true.

      2. This is a case where I’m going to get snooty and say that I would rather walk through a real rainforest than James Cameron’s fake one. One of the fundamental problems with Avatar as a film is that it was really more of a parody of environmentalism by people who are so alienated from nature that they can only think about it in terms of a giant computer system. It is a CGI cartoon about people who download their consciousnesses into a 3D first person shooter game, complete with their own USB cables that they plug into a worldwide fibre-optic network. It’s even named for the graphic you would use to represent yourself in online chat rooms about 10 years ago (thanks for staying timely, old white guys!). Even as Disney themed spaces go, I would rather visit one that wasn’t so ironic, explicitly highlighting the fact that it’s the exact opposite of what it claims to be about.

        Which is where all those wonderful things Disney is creating overseas come in. Avatarland also represents what we’re NOT getting in North America. We’re NOT getting Mystic Point, or Mysterious Island, or Lost River Delta, or Port Discovery, all of which would be a much better fit in Animal Kingdom than Avatar. There’s lots of things that could have been done that are original and actually fit with the park too: imagine something like a Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland with ACTUAL bison, elk, bears and beavers and things. But no, we’re getting a random “hot” licence from a Hollywood movie that people only saw because it was in 3D.

        It won’t be “magical” for me because I have zero interest in visiting the world of Pandora. I have no emotional connection to it the way I would to Neverland or Mysterious Island. On the one hand I do agree that quality will out and a good ride is a good ride regardless of franchise or lack thereof, but on the other hand, a languid boat ride through a movie I actively don’t like doesn’t necessarily make for a good ride.

  5. Carson U

    I’m still not completely sold. No one really cares about avatar anymore. It’s not like harry potter where you have several books and movies, there’s just one avatar movie. They should either add the beastly kingdom or a section of the park devoted to the seas. That’s just my opinion though.

    1. JohnJ

      You do know that there are many more Avatar movies being released, right? Soo your opinion is uninformed and ignorant.

      1. Thais

        To be fair, Carson U did comment that he/she was just expressing an opinion and saying that “no one cares about Avatar anymore” may be a bit of an overstatement, it HAS been a number of years since the original film came out and the sequels are fairly far off, so the popularity of the franchise definitely has waned in the eyes of the public at large.

        As with other users, I am also on the fense about this project. On the one hand, the concept art looks really cool and it would be interesting to see a night life element to Animal Kingdom. However, a lot of the concerns expressed here are valid. Having too active of a nightlife event would be reckless considering the animals at the park, so hopefully they’re taking them into consideration while they work out the details. Also, I feel like Disney is jumping on the whole “Avatar is the new Star Wars” idea that was floating around when the film first came out, but the thing is that Star Wars is a franchise with a lot of history, and I feel like working on more projects for that first would have been a better idea.

        Ultimately we are just going to have to wait and see and keep in mind that, as Ricky pointed out, nothing is final at the moment.

        1. Carson U

          Thais, thank you so much for defending me like that! You seem like a great person and I would love to have a friend like you! Have a magical day!!!!!

        2. EricJ

          I’ve also walked around the “nightlife” at AK during Late Magic Hours on spring and winter nights when it gets dark early, and given the rocky, winding, shady paths between the entry hub and Discovery Island (where they want most of the nightshows to occur)…I use the term “walk” advisedly. “Stumble” is more like it.
          This isn’t Epcot, with big open spaces, colored lights and glowing buildings, where the park comes alive after dark, no matter how much they want “their own World of Color” to get over their persecution complexes compared to the three other parks.

      2. Ryan R

        There is gonna be a second one in 2015. If this were to open that year like they said it would, it probably would have made this place seem better.

      3. Carson U

        I did not know that there are gonna be more movies so I’m sorry, but you don’t need to lash out like my opinion is wrong. I think that people with different opinions make the world a great place! I’m not lashing out on anyone who thinks that this is gonna be amazing am I? Who knows? This may be amazing!!!!!

    2. Dave

      yeah that beastly kingdom movie was awesome…

      honestly i dont see how you look at this concept art and at least want to give it a chance

  6. PROM3THEUS

    What an ugly and stupid looking place for an anachronistic movie which has absolutely no replay value. Sure it did well, but is it a staple worthy of something like a feature in Disney World? Of course it isn’t. It is a single stand alone movie with barely any continued cashflow.

    They’re flogging a dead horse.

    The problem is though, Disney treats it’s Lands and Worlds like a cult, with everything from their own special words for things through to the ‘Disney’ way of pointing–in a world of crazy a mad man seems sane–thus the consultation feedback they get is from indoctrinated Disney cult members and thus is a skewed version of the truth.

    Would anyone reading this actually care to visit Disney World more because it has a giant ugly fibreglass ‘floating mountain’ and a land where it looks like some gargoyle was force fed crayons and projectile vomited on everything? A land where fur suit wearing cat people are reenacting Fern Gully? Of course a few will, but overwhelmingly the answer would be no.

    1. Buckly

      It isn’t a standalone movie, actually. James Cameron has at least two sequels already in the works.

    2. Jeff Lynch

      This sounds like talking points from the Universal PR team. I think I smell a plant.

      1. No, he’s about right. Do we actually imagine that anyone who wasn’t going to go to WDW before is seeing this and suddenly thinking “Wow! Avatar! I totally have to go to Disney World!”

        The benefit of Harry Potter was that it gave people a reason to go to Universal AT ALL. Is Avatar going to have the same effect on WDW? I doubt it.

        1. EricJ

          Yes, hatred of Avatar as The Corniest Movie Ever Made was not artificially planted by Universal, Mean People, or whoever else pro-Avatar fans want to shift blame onto.
          I remember when HuffyPost first viraled that “James Cameron’s Script for Avatar” joke (ie. Pocahontas with the names scribbled out), and putting Avatar in Disney just a train ride away from the -real- Pocahontas at Rafiki’s Planet Watch…is not exactly going to put the association out of our minds. 😉
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/04/avatar-pocahontas-in-spac_n_410538.html

          It’s basically Goosebumps 2.0: Someone SOLD Disney a third-party licensing bill of goods while the licensing was hot, and Disney was too desperately grateful to snag “exclusivity” to the deal to take a hard examination of the long-term shelf life or public reaction. The deal came first, they’d cram the real thing in somewhere later.

          1. EricJ

            (Although it IS only Universal if they keep playing the “They’re just jealous of Harry Potter! Who’d go there when they could go next door?” card to the exclusion of all else.
            That’s SO far down the list of real complaints, it could only come from the corporate competition.)

          2. I dunno’, I hear a lot of Disney fans crying that WDW needs a “Potter Swatter” too. Frankly I find that a little ridiculous, since WDW’s numbers are an embarrassment to IOA. Their best response to Potter was building a restaurant. This Avatar deal screams of desperation overriding good sense.

            Disney doesn’t NEED a Potter Swatter: Disney IS a Potter Swatter.

          3. Kerry

            It will add something new to something that’s already amazing. No one can deny they don’t love a new ride or area. I’m not a massive Harry Potter fan but really liked The Wizarding World set up so others might feel the same once this is built too.

          4. In that case, Kerry, why Avatar and not something Disney? Mystic Point or Mysterious Island would do just as well, and actually be something Disney.

          5. Kerry

            That’s a fair point but when all the Star Wars rides were built over the world Disney didn’t own Lucasfilm and everyone loved it then and still do now.
            You never know, the Disney Imagineers might be Avatar’s biggest fans 😉

  7. Buckly

    Front page of reddit! Congrats, Ricky!

  8. Ryan R

    No matter what people think it’s going to happen and there is nothing that anyone can really do about it except disney, so I wish people would stop complaining about it.

    1. Since1976

      Complaints about the girl-centric nature of the early concepts for New Fantasyland led to the creation of the Mine Train coaster. While I’m personally on the fence about AVATARLAND, I think the attitude of “Disney is doing it, stop complaining about it” is about as wrong-headed as a consumer can be.

      1. Jeff Lynch

        Actually, you are wrong Since1976. The reason the Fantasyland plans were changed had nothing to with fans or internet complaining. It was because the new executive put in charge over at WDW had sons and his boys didn’t like the plans after he showed them to the boys. He personally changed course as a result. If that executive had girls instead of boys, the original Fantasyland plans would have happened.

        1. Carson U

          Jeff lynch, why do you think you know everything and every one else is wrong? It’s annoying. Not everyone is as obsessed and knowledged about theme parks as you!

        2. Since1976

          I am familiar with the official story of how the Mine Train came about, but if you really think Disney scrapped their original plans based solely on an exec’s sons’ opinions (and without also taking into account WDW fans’ reactions), you’re certainly drinking the PR Kool-Aid.

          1. EricJ

            Well, it wasn’t JUST that–It was also the fans asking “Belle, Aurora and Cindy get their own houses, but Snow White doesn’t?? :(
            The fact that we’re getting the train ON TOP of where Aurora and Cindy’s cottages were going to be, is by no means accidental.

  9. Kerry

    Not a massive Avatar fan (fell asleep 10 mins in) but this design work looks amazing. If the build is anything like it then I am very excited! Our next visit will be in 2017 so hoping we can book to go after this has opened. Love new Disney World projects!!

  10. Dfan

    If you look closely, at one of the pics, there is a concrete building in the bottom right and the rings that go around thr tree of life. Will they be building those too, because i can’t see them in the model which leads me to believe the whole model isn’t being shown

  11. Jeff Lynch

    WDWNewsToday has a video up, with James Cameron and Joe Rohde talking. Looks like it was shown at the D23 in Tokyo!

  12. Mark

    There is a reason why this movie was build in a computer.
    When I see it and compare it to the artwork it looks Florida’s plants and trees where transplanted to Pandora. They’ll add some fiber optics and plastic plants and rockwork and waterfalls and we have something that doesn’t look like Pandora.
    But that’s not what bothers me. AK got a train ride to no where, a broken coaster, a boken tree, a short water ride and a bumpy car ride, some shows, a 4D movie and a mini Funspot. There need to be things fixed first and attraction added after that. Not more beautiful vista’s. AK got them all over the place and (unfortunately) most guests don’t care.
    And about the movie, I bet 99.99% of people don’t know 1 character by name when you asked them on the street.

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  14. DOJMA

    I just don’t understand why Disney would devote so much money, time, and effort to an IP currently supported by a single movie. This seems like such a poor long-run strategy.

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