Written by Rhonda Moffit of Moffits Mad Hatter Adventures
May 15, 2017
We were among the first to experience Pandora- the World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The purpose for this article is not to act as a spoiler of any kind, but to inform you, the reader, of what to expect before you visit the newest expansion. You will want to go prepared when this area finally opens to the public on May 27, 2017. As such, this is NOT a “spoiler free” review and report. I have been as detailed as possible for you.
After entering the area near Tiffin’s restaurant, we started our preview straight away with the Na’vi River Journey. In this attraction, you are supposed to be searching for the Shaman of Songs. The ride is lovely with many bioluminescent touches, flora and fauna, and a few of the Na’vi along the way. While many will not agree with my opinions, I will share my thoughts on the pros and cons of this boat ride as well as the other activities within this article. These are my personal thoughts, as I just want others to be aware.
- Visually, this is a beautiful ride. There are many things to look at and it is a feast for the eyes.
- The effects of this attraction are nice. The animation of the Na’vi is very well done, and they use both animatronics and CGI to enhance your journey.
- The ride is not very long. It was much shorter than we expected.
- If you do not know the story of the Shaman of Songs before you ride, you have no idea what you are looking at, much less looking for. It simply becomes a bioluminsecent boat ride.
After the Na’vi River Journey, we decided to step into Windtraders, the merchandise location. They have a lot of merchandise that is interesting, such as making your own Na’vi necklace, outfitting yourself in Na’vi ears or even a tail, and the expected fare of shirts, bags, and toys. One area of the store is where they allow you to create your own Avatar, and in another you can adopt your own little Banshee that will sit on your shoulder.
We found the detailing in the architecture of Windtraders very detailed and it is obvious that Disney imagineers spent a lot of time designing the shop as well as all of the other areas. The merchandise really did not hold our interest, as we are not avid fans of Avatar, and there was no Disney parks oriented merchandise to be found. We watched as a couple of people adopted a banshee, and then we made our way to the quick service dining location- Satu’li Canteen.
We found the Satu’li Canteen to be as detailed as the shop had been, and the Cast Members handed us a menu as we entered the building. Winding our way through a queue, we walked our way around to the other side of a wall and there were the order stations. Interestingly, there is a line available for those who complete online ordering for this restaurant. Word is that many of Walt Disney World quick service dining locations will soon allow you to order ahead and pick up your fare upon arrival.
We ordered the Cheeseburger Pods with Vegetable Chips and Slaw, the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, and to drink- the Pandora Sunrise. The steamed pods were quite good with bits of meat and cheese- they do indeed taste like a cheeseburger. The slaw is very heavy on cabbage but has little bubble tea type balls atop it that are delicious and filled with fruity juices. The vegetable chips were crispy and well seasoned, and the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse was very sweet on bottom and fruity on top with a compressed powdered sugar morsel on top. The Pandora Sunrise is a non-alcoholic beverage that contains yellow Powerade with a tropical accent and has a fresh pineapple wedge on the cup. It was very refreshing! The entire meal was only $22, and at Disney this is a great deal. It was fun to eat.
After completing our Na’vi inspired meal, it was time for our Fastpass ride of Flight of Passage. This queue winds up and around the scenery of Pandora until you go under one of the waterfalls and find yourself inside a building that houses the attraction itself. You wind through one staging area after another and then find yourself in a long hallway that is a ramp down to the actual pre-show area. We entered one room, then were “scanned” to match us up to our Na”vi avatar. Our avatar is going to link with a banshee so that we may control one and take flight. We watched one short pre-show instruction film (see below- recorded with permission of Cast Members) in the first room at the bottom of the ramp, then were taken to the next room for another pre-show film (see below- also recorded with permission of Cast Members). Finally, we entered the simulator room and straddled our simulator motorcycle style. A Cast Member came behind us and closed the back portion of our simulator until it clicked firmly into place. It is a snug fit to ensure that you do not slide around during the attraction.
After a bit of time while our avatar link is completed, the screen ahead begins to show the ride- it is intense! You will soar on a banshee from great heights, over and around waterfalls, an ocean, cliffs, the floating mountains, and even into a cave with some of the bioluminscent organisms around you. There are sudden drops, water effects (you will get damp!), and a breeze during the experience. We were pursued by a predator at one point and outmaneuvered it by doing an upside-down spiral to cliff side safety. Keep in mind that this is a simulator with CGI effects very similar to Soarin’, so you do not actually go upside-down or anything else- it just gives you the feeling that you do.
The ride is amazing. For us, we enjoyed it immensely. The details of Pandora are breathtaking and beautiful and flying through them at high speed on a Banshee was a delight.
The simulators were too small to accommodate not only larger guests, but taller as well. We saw many individuals that had to be escorted off the attraction after the back of their simulator would not slide forward enough to lock into place. Some were even crying, which was horrible to see. With over half of the population over a size 12, we were surprised that Disney had no alternative for these guests. There is no staging area for larger guests to be able to witness the attraction, either. I suggest to Disney that they create an area similar to what they did for Finding Nemo in Disneyland- that way everyone could at least view the attraction and participate in some method. This was unacceptable for us and we did let them know both while we were there as well as in our survey afterward.
Speaking to the Cast Members in detail after our experience, we learned that they had not yet even opened all of the rooms for the simulators, creating a very long wait time even for the preview we attended. They said that they had not anticipated the number of riders that would, well, lose their lunches while on the attraction (please do not eat until after you ride!) and that the clean up for such an incident increased the wait time dramatically for those in line since they did not have all of the sim rooms open yet. They are of course working out the kinks and hope to have the rooms completely operational within the first month after opening, so hopefully the wait times will be better in the future for all guests. Do not attempt to ride this attraction for some time without a Fastpass! It is a HUGE queue and the lines will be very long.
The queue itself is not an asset for guests with disabilities. Some with scooters will find it to be no more than a battery drain, but for someone pushing a wheelchair this will be a workout. Be prepared.
After our Flight of Passage adventure, we decided to have a look around the rest of Pandora. The details are amazing, but we did notice that while they have a LOT of great features, it is 99% plants. When watching the Avatar feature film, and even while on the Na’vi River Journey, we noticed that there are a lot of amazing alien life forms- where are they in the Pandora area? We found some humor in the species of fish that can be found along the paths in this area, as they will squirt water onto guests when they are disturbed.
While the fish are adorable, we could not help discussing this with other guests- would it not have been amazing to have a life sized banshee somewhere along the path? What about the other little critters that they could insert into the woods and among the plants for guests to locate? They could have occupied us for hours if we had different species to locate, but alas, not at this time. We are hopeful that they will add much more in the days to come.
Pandora is a highly detailed area with blacklight effects everywhere, which is very pretty!
It is amazing the way the plants and floating mountains were imagineered. The waterfalls are all over, and that truly is lovely! We had a great time and are looking forward to seeing Disney grow this experience with more marvels to come.