It’s been more than two years since Walt Disney World first announced a partnership with director James Cameron and his filmmaking team to bring the worlds of “Avatar” to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since then, many onlookers have scratched their heads wondering why this particular movie is becoming a major expansion of the 15-year-old theme park.
Now finally under construction, the reasons and inspiration behind bringing the land of Pandora to Walt Disney World were explained yesterday during a presentation to cast members by Imagineer Joe Rohde and movie producer Jon Landau in conjunction with a screening of the film.
It’s not the first time a James Cameron film has reached a theme park. Terminator 2: 3D has been a staple attraction in Universal Studios parks for many years. But this “Avatar”-inspired land is different, meant as something much more than a flashy 3D movie.
“Just the same way that we wanted to use technology to break new ground and tell new stories with the movies, that’s what Joe and his team are creating here, not just in Pandora but throughout the park.” said Landau. “And I look forward to pressing things, pushing technologies and really giving guests an unprecedented themed experience.”
Rohde calls the partnership a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” strongly emphasizing that the values that already exist behind everything experienced in Disney’s Animal Kingdom exactly match those that drive the story of “Avatar.” “This is an extraordinary opportunity coming at us very quickly, for us to take the core ideas of this park and express them to the country and the world in an illustration through ‘Avatar’ that is so incredibly vivid that it will bring added value to the entire place.”
Joe Rohde was the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and though on the surface the park appears to be a bunch of rundown-looking buildings surrounded by winding paths a whole lot of trees, there’s a much deeper story to be found within it.
“Any good story is about something,” explained Rohde. “Something is underneath the plot. Something is underneath the character. Underneath the setting. And that inner value, that inner idea that a story is about – that’s where the strength of that story comes from.” According to Rohde, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has three core values that act as the themes uniting all of its attractions, shows, and details.
There’s the value of nature, which Rohde explains as being “more powerful and more valuable value than anything else you see around.” The park offers a transformation through adventure, in which park guests can experience something they’ve never seen before and grow from that experience. Lastly, there’s a personal call to action that regularly makes guests the center of attention.