Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Peek Into Pandora...

My favorite park in Florida's Walt Disney World is Animal Kingdom...

Not so much for what it is, but for what it could be.  There is a great deal for everyone in the Resort.  But the Magic Kingdom is not my favorite Disneyland clone.  Even with its expansion it still echoes that it's a copy.  Paris has one of the best designs and my favorite castle.  But not enough rides and not enough upkeep.  Tokyo's is a cleaner copy of Florida's, with a bazaar (both literally and figuratively) front entrance, but it feels even more of a clone than the one near Orlando.  Hong Kong?  A shadow of the original (but it's getting better.).  Shanghai?  Time will tell.

Epcot is a place of so much potential and undelivered promise.  Enjoy it for what it is, and for what I wish it were. But there have been compromises made over the past two decades that have misdirected what could've been a much better park than is. It is in no way the Epcot that Walt Disney envisioned, but it was built as a promising place for ideas he might've liked.   Over the years the bean counters and suits have made glaring errors that have watered down what Imagineers had originally intended/envisioned.  There are great things in the park, but there are also flawed things as well. Too many things unfortunately.

Disney's Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag. Starting out as a clone on the Mouse's competition: Universal Studios, it has morphed back-and-forth trying to find its purposes for guest.  While there are a lot of things that are right, there are many things that simply don't belong. Again, mainly the product of bean counters and not Imagineers. WDI has had clear plans from the beginning which were altered for business/economic purposes that have caused the part to stray from a more pure example of Hollywood movie love.   There have been proposals over the last decade or so that if implemented will make the former Disney-MGM Studio a much more attractive gate bringing it back on track as a "movie" park.

Which brings us to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Now, I'm certainly not saying that this park is perfect, but it does offer promise. And it does offer a much more unique Disney experience than any other park, and certainly any other Disney park.  It is different than a normal themepark, and different from a zoo like San Diego's famous destination.  It is a mix of message, environment, and entertainment all moving into one. For the most part is successful, but not entirely.  Michael Eisner and his bean counters are major players in the fault of the park's original purpose.

Those of you that follow Disney or happen to be regular readers of Blue Sky will know the background of this park and it's storied history.  Being as it is an "animal" park it was supposed to encompass all animal experiences.  By that I mean: living animals (the zoo part, with a Disney spin), extinct animals (Dinosaurs), and mythic animals (Dragons, unicorns, and fairies, oh my.).

Only two of these were actually built.  And for the most part it is a great experience in an amazingly lush and beautiful environment.  The one area that is the sore spot is Dinoland U.S.A.  An atrociously guady kids land that is a blight on the serene scenery everywhere else in the park.  Do they really have to make it ugly just for the young ones?  A revamp of this area so that it shares the same detail, and removes the "carnie" image that clashes with the rest of this hypnotic park would be welcome.

Beastly Kingdomme was the land of mythical creatures that got cut.  It was to be a place where all mythical creatures came to life.  There was an immensely detailed roller coaster revolving around the ancient, ruined castle inhabited by a dragon that would've thrilled guest. There was an enchanting ride called "Quest for the Unicorn" that would've merge guest in the whole haunting world of these magical creatures. A giant garden maze for guests to walk in and even an area along the river where a dragon which you have flames upon unsuspecting guest.

Delightfully themed, intricately detailed shops and joyfully whimsical restaurants were planned to accentuate and accommodate the experience were all included as well.  This mythic part never came to be other than the Dragon on the logo for Disney's Animal Kingdom.   The area it was to go is ironically the same place in which the new land based on James Cameron's film will go.   The area with camp Minnie-Mickey.

For months Disney fans have talked about this new addition.  Many had spread rumors that the project of been canceled, (which we told you months ago it was not) really just hoping that it would since they didn't believe it belonged in Disney park.  And to be fair, it doesn't seem at first glance to be a proper fit. If you think it is from the standpoint of the main characters both human and Na'vi, it seems you're placing it in an entirely different park (Disney's Hollywood Studio is where most think it should  go, if they think it should go in a Disney park at all).

But, if you look at the world created in the highest grossing film of all time in the world, it's the environment that they are selling.  The creatures and locations that are in the science-fiction epic or what Walt Disney Imagineers are trying to convey.  The park, just like the movie has an environmental message (although I will admit that avatars message was a little heavy-handed).  The science-fiction creatures on this far-off world are what you experience which is why the area will be called "Pandora", or the "World of Pandora", and not "Avatar Land" as everyone is referring to it.  

Even though we haven't yet gotten those mythical dragons and other creatures, Joe Ronde's goal is to provide that mythic experience which was missing from the opening.  They will simply be science fiction imaginary creations instead of ancient lore creations.  It will finally helped develop the park into three divisions: living, extinct and imaginary animals.  And before you complain too much, this doesn't mean that we won't get something like Beastly Kingdomme.  It just means that it (and the proposed Austrailia area) will come later.

From what I've heard the Bothans tell me, this new land will be an incredibly immersive experience.  As we've said before, the land will be approximately the same size as Cars Land is in Disney California Adventure. There are at least three attractions, many restaurants and shops, and immersive surroundings which will startle guests throughout the park.  It'll also finally turn the park from a part-day to a full-day park. In fact, from what has been shown, and from what has been told to me, when this area opens in 2017 DAK will be the "must go to" park in the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  

I don't say this as hyperbole, I say this simply as someone conveying what people have told me. Imagineers are extremely happy, and proud of what they have done and are working on to create an experience unlike any other for guests to enjoy.  When I said nighttime experience, I meant "nighttime" experience. There simply will be no more beautiful place to be in than Animal Kingdom,, particularly Pandora at nighttime in Disney World.  It will be a hypnotic trance inducing trip for the young and the old alike.  

And even Hogwarts will be jealous...

UPDATE:  It looks like that Walt Disney Imagineering let D23 release the video presentation for everyone to see.  I guess you didn't have to travel to Japan to travel to Pandora after all.


Jimmy Cameron said...

The artwork looks really cool. I can't wait to go see this. But four years?

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda disappointed that Disney is still going forward with Avatarland, Avatar was a good movie, saw it two times, but it's not like Star Wars for me, which I saw dozens of times as a kid.

Who was the hero of Avatar? I forgot his name, and nobody is running around quoting Avatar, all that Avatarland has going for it is visuals, not story as the humans and military machos apparently won't be in Avatarland.

After a while, won't Avatarland be just a big main street electrical parade writ large? Potterland has the characters in the big ride, and neat little references everywhere to the films, but Pandora just has glowy plants, after a while guests might tire of this.

Usually I love what Disney does, but I wouldn't care to take a boat ride into Pandora more than once, if that. Ditto for Soarin' over Pandora.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the artwork. That and the upcoming further artwork and models may be the most exciting elements of the project.

Jake Sully said...

Did you even read the article? It won't be called avatar land, quit calling it that. Pandora. Maybe you should wait till you see the actual lead singer who will you printouts that you won't be seeing it more than wants.

Robin B said...

Maybe Dinoland can get an upgrade, once The Good Dinosaur is released...

jeffk said...

We can argue all day about the lead singer of Avatarland and his printouts, but where will that get us?

I don't care about Avatar the movie at all—the bits I've seen have been pretty but bland, I guess. Its plot was at least lifted from some pretty quality previous works. If Disney can carve some amazing experiences out of it, I guess I don't have the strength to care anymore. Most people in the parks today have never seen Song of the South, but they seem to enjoy Splash Mountain just fine.

If I end up not liking Avatarland, which is still more fun to say that Disney's Pandora Adventure Funscape of Tomorrow or whatever, then so be it. Maybe it'll pull some crowds away from the places I still care about.

Anonymous said...

The whole no one can name a character in Avatar argument is so old. The main character is Pandora itself and that's what Disney bought. With the second one taking place mainly underwater, I would assume there will be new characters this time around.

Unknown said...

This looks beautiful. It may be the one thing that gets me to actually fly from So Cal and visit the WDW resort again.

Anonymous said...

The artwork is awesome, but my feeling is still meh.

Anonymous said...

"It won't be called avatar land, quit calling it that."

And Carsland won't be called Carsland. And Disney's California Adventure won't be called DCA.

People will call the land what they want to call it. And Avatarland more than adequately represents the experience. Pandora is just the planet where the Avatar adventure takes place.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of non-Disney IPs in their parks. It feels like they're taking the Disney out of the parks, and they just did this so Universal couldn't. So this is how they run the parks now.
Also, getting tired of everything being movie themed.
Plus there isn't anything groundbreaking or new in terms of new ride systems or technology.

Anonymous said...

I will admit, I am one of the many who've remained cautiously hopeful that this project wasn't going to see the light of day. However, I'm starting to realize and seeing I have to accept it's coming. To my liking of not. My only hope is Disney remains strategic in their placement and theming of this new land. I might be able to come around to the idea of roaming the world of Pandora... Avatar, well, I never saw the movie, had no desire to see the movie, and have no desire to see the movie. So, immersing myself in the movie, no desire. My hope, is Disney treads lightly, and remains subtle with their theming from the movie to this land. The creatures, and the land I can buy into..the characters and story, not so much.

sherrill777 said...

I thought the movie was just 'meh', but you are right - it was pretty. If they them the area as 'fantasy/sci-fi pretty', then I guess I'm okay with that concept. I think the general public would have the same sentiment. As long as the area is attractive and the rides fun, none of the average tourists will care what movie it was based off of. And honest, from what I've read on various Disney fan sites, it wouldn't matter what the theme was, there'd be complainers. As long as they do a quality job with whatever they settle on, I'll be happy with it.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of non-Disney IPs in their parks. It feels like they're taking the Disney out of the parks, and they just did this so Universal couldn't. So this is how they run the parks now.
Also, getting tired of everything being movie themed.
Plus there isn't anything groundbreaking or new in terms of new ride systems or technology.

All of your points are completely moot and invalid and you know that, especially the ever-so-false "they're taking the Disney out of the parks" conspiracy theory!

And Pandora will not be "meh", so please stop it and open up your minds!

Anonymous said...

Finally someone else who thinks Epcot is not what it should/could be!

I love AK but wow the new land will be the size of CarsLand? Yikes, that is going to be some mess for a while. Carsland is not that big, with the Racers taking up a huge chunk of that. Even on a not so crowded day that land is hard to navigate. I was certainly hoping they would have more land to use.
If the new land is more animals, real or not, and not so much freaky blue people, then I think it might just fit in okay. I will miss Camp Minnie Mickey though,as I have good memories of that place when my kids were little.

Anonymous said...

Maybe for you the land may not be "meh" but it appear that t lot of people DO feel that way. And that perception was obviously developed based on looking at their Avatar movie experience with an open mind.

An "open mind" doesn't mean that someone all of a sudden loses their ability to discern what they feel.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "All of your points are completely moot and invalid and you know that, especially the ever-so-false "they're taking the Disney out of the parks" conspiracy theory!

And Pandora will not be "meh", so please stop it and open up your minds!."

It sounds like this guy doesn't like to hear other opinions, unless of course they are similar to his.
Or, he has something invested in this mistake.

Anonymous said...

Is Avatar a Disney movie? I am confused?