Last weekend my family and I got to experience Pandora: The World of Avatar for the very first time, and friends, it's incredibly breathtaking! The artistry and imagination that went into this new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom is amazing! We were able to go as part of Disney's "dress rehearsal" for the Grand Opening which is Saturday, May 27, 2017. We got to explore the new land, ride both rides, eat a snack, and check out the merchandise.
When you walk in to Pandora, you are greeted by giant, and I do mean GIANT floating mountains! The landscape is beyond what I imagined it would be. There were so many nooks and crannies to get around and explore that it did take us almost three full hours to explore the area, and ride both rides. (Note that this was a preview and there was a limited guest capacity. The lines will be MUCH longer opening day and the months after.) One of my favorite aspects of this new land was how interactive everything was. The imagineers really wanted guests to be able to touch and interact with the land around them. When you enter Pandora there is a large plant that looks like a flower bud with a gash in the side of it. If your brave enough to go and touch the gash the flower will start to steam, which is really neat. Little ones will have to be lifted to experience this, as the gash is pretty high.
The first ride we did was the the Na'vi River Journey. Friends, can I be honest here and not be yelled at.... I wasn't SUPER impressed with this ride, and neither were my parents. YES, it is beautiful, and the imagery in the ride was great. The Shaman of Songs Avatar audio-animatronic was impressive, but overall, I would never wait over 15 minutes for this ride. When we got off the ride I asked my parents if they knew what the story line was and they were also left confused about what the ride was supposed to be about. You see, Disney is so great about creating stories within their rides, whether the ride is based off of a movie or not, you know you were told a story or were immersed in a story when you get off of a ride. With the Na'vi River Journey I did not feel like I was told or immersed in a story, I just felt like I rode in a canoe to see different creatures that I didn't know what they were because I've never seen the movie Avatar.
This ride is suitable for families with children, and is not scary at all. We were told by a Cast Member working the ride that the queue is a six hour queue, meaning that from the front of the queue where you enter to go onto the ride, to the end where you get on your boat, if the queue is full would be a wait of six hours.
The second ride we did is Flight of Passage, which is where you are linked to an Avatar and get the experience of flying on the back of a banshee. If you get motion sick at all, I would highly suggest skipping this ride. Imagine if Soarin, Star Tours, and the Tron Coaster from Shanghai Disneyland were all mashed together to make a ride, and that's what Flight of Passage is. If you're lucky, you'll be linked with the Avatar that looks like Joe Rhode (which I was, and it was cool). The stand-by queue is one of the best queues I've ever seen. You go through a few different environments, before reaching your Avatar link area. I don't want to spoil too much of the ride for you guys, but I will say that this is quickly going to be one of Disney's most popular rides. This ride does have a single rider line, so I would highly suggest using that if you can!
A few negatives about Flight of Passage are the "link goggles" (which are 3-D glasses) are very big, and fell off my face throughout the ride. Because this was a dress rehearsal, Cast Members were looking for feedback on how to make the Pandora experience better, and I let a Flight of Passage CM know about the glasses. I would imagine children would also struggle with these, making for a not 100% perfect experience on Flight of Passage that you just waited hours to ride. I also noticed many people were not able to ride because of height or weight restrictions of the ride vehicle. Each guest boards what looks like a bike, with a front cover and handles. There are leg and back restraints, and honestly they are not comfortable at all, and the position they put you in is not comfortable. I'm 5'6 and a size 10, and I struggled with the ride vehicle. My dad, who is 6'1, also struggled. We met a couple in line who happened to live in our town, and they were unable to ride because the back restraint would not lock into place. It was very sad to see Disney separate out groups of people based on size and weight saying they couldn't ride. If you struggle getting in and out of 7 Dwarfs Mine Train because you have long legs, or you are bigger, then Flight of Passage is going to be a challenge.
My family and I did not eat at the restaurant inside Pandora, but we did check out the drink/snack bar, Pongu Pongu. The offerings were minimal for drinks, and mostly frozen sugary drinks which really aren't our preference. We were really excited for the pineapple lumpia, but those were a major letdown. They were almost too sweet, and made a huge mess. This is the only grab and go type snack inside of Pandora, so you might want to grab some snacks before you enter Pandora, or bring your own into the park.
Overall, I think Pandora: The World of Avatar is beautiful, and a creative masterpiece, but I don't envision myself spending hours and hours there like I do in other parks, or even specific areas of other parks. I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to go ride one of the rides there if I wasn't already at Animal Kingdom either. I love that Disney is making fully immersive areas for guests, and they definitely did that with Pandora! From the big things like rides and landscape, to small things like Cast Member name tags, you know you're in Pandora!
I would love to hear your thoughts on Pandora: World of Avatar! Let me know if you've been able to preview it yet and your thoughts in the comments, or what you're expecting to see in the comments!
Be Magical Today!