ORLANDO, Fla. — Floating mountains, strange-looking plants and cascading waterfalls make up the scenery in Pandora — The World of Avatar.

What You Need To Know

  • Pandora — The World of Avatar marks five years at Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • The themed land first opened to the public on May 27, 2017

  • Pandora features two attractions, a quick-service restaurant, a gift shop and lush landscapes

​​It might seem hard to believe it’s been five years since the 12-acre land, which cost a reported half-billion dollars to build, first opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Inspired by James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster film “Avatar,” Pandora transports visitors to the Valley of Mo’ara.

The visit is made possible by Alpha Centuri Expeditions, a company that provides tours from Earth to Pandora.

In addition to the lush landscaping, the highly themed land features two attractions: Avatar Flight of Passage, a 3D simulator-style ride that creates the feeling of flying on the back of a banshee, and Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride through a biolumenscent forest.

Satu’li Canteen, the land’s restaurant, offers quick-service meals, while the Pongu Pongu drink stand offers alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

At Windtraders, the gift shop, visitors can find “Avatar”-themed wares and merchandise.

The sounds of animals and insects can be heard coming from the mixture of real and fake plants around the land.

And while Pandora is a marvel to behold during the day, the land comes to life in a different way at night. The bioluminescent effect Disney Imagineers incorporated into the landscape allows the ground and the plants to glow once the sun sets.

Disney first announced the project that would become Pandora — The World of Avatar on Sept. 20, 2011, with plans to begin construction on the land in 2013.

“James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible,” then-Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said in a release. “With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”

In 2013, Disney released a first look at concepts for the land at the D23 Expo it held in Japan that year.  The following year, construction on the land began in an area of Animal Kingdom that was the location of Camp Minnie-Mickey.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is already home to some of our guests’ favorite attractions,” then-chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs said in a Disney Parks Blog post. “With Avatar, we are adding a spectacular new world and an exciting set of attractions unlike any our guests have experienced.”

By 2015, with the project well underway, Disney shared more details during the Parks and Resorts presentation at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., revealing for the first time the land’s official name. The presentation was led by then-Imagineer Joe Rohde, who served as the project’s creative director.

In February 2017, Disney announced Pandora would open a few months later on May 27, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Days before the official opening, Disney held a dedication ceremony for the land with Iger, Cameron, producer Jon Landau and some of the film’s cast in attendance.

The opening of Pandora was met with large crowds as people waited hours in line just to enter the land. Once inside, they would find more hours long waits for Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

The addition of Pandora undoubtedly had an impact on Animal Kingdom. The park, which had often been one of the least-visited Disney World parks, had 12.5 million visitors in 2017, surpassing Epcot to become the second-most-visited park, according to a report from the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.


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