I’m no fan of spoilers (especially when it to comes to a Disney franchise) so I won’t be giving away any secrets in this article. However, if you’re anything like Mrs. Johnson (who didn’t want to know anything about Pandora until going there) then this is probably not the article for you. In the paragraphs to follow I’m going to take you with us on our adventure through Pandora: the world of avatar, as we saw it on Sunday, May 14 – the first day of the Passholder preview. As you read through the descriptions you’ll find photos, videos and links to more in-depth reviews.
If you would like to download a map and follow along – click here -> Maps & Guides
The Pandora experience
Guests crossing the bridge from Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island to Pandora take a journey of a hundred steps but travel 4.3 light years to the forest moon of Pandora. All cast members are happy to remind you that you are not on earth anymore. It’s easy to forget that at Disney there are no “employees,” only “cast members.” When you meet them they are “on stage” and in character. Furthermore, you aren’t on earth anymore, you’re on the distant moon, Pandora.
Eventually there will be a second pathway to and from “Africa” but until the crowds die down at the end of the summer, expect the main entrance to Pandora (the bridge past Tiffins & Nomad Lounge) to be the only entrance.
The main entrance to Pandora starts you off in the more natural part of the world where the Na’vi live. With the giant floating mountains in the background, pathways and bridges crisscross this part of the moon. Once “on” Pandora, immediately on the right, you can already hear strange noises from the forest, especially if you stop and wait for the first Photopass photo op.
Its easy to get turned around in the interior pathways. For a first trip, I would recommend that guests follow the outer perimeter of Pandora, clockwise. Once you’ve done ‘the circuit’ however, I would encourage visitors to get lost on the interior pathways on purpose.
Next on the left, (assuming a clockwise trek) is a fairly small but very nice set of bathrooms. (Very convenient this summer for those waiting hours to get into the land.) Just past these restrooms, also on the left, is “Colors of Mo’ara.” Mo’ara is the ‘land of floating mountains’ and the part of Pandora represented here. At ‘Colors’ guests can transform their outward appearance to that of their Na’vi ‘avatar.’
Ahead lies the totem representing the Shaman of Songs which means you are nearing the Na’vi river. Photos don’t do this sculpture justice and it can be easily overlooked, blending into the background but when you find it you are near the entrance to the first ride…
Na’vi River Journey
The entrances aren’t hidden (and I would imagine throughout most of the summer they’ll be easy to spot) but when we went there were very few guests. We saw the main ride building but the shops, ride lines, and other theme park necessities blend so seamlessly with the theme that we walked down a couple paths before we found the one that actually led to the main building of the first ride. Once we found the right pathway we raced through it with a little bit of “fast-pass regret”. Not that I’m complaining, but when there’s no line (or when using a fast pass) you kind of miss a lot of the attraction as a whole.
As you enter the final room to board the boats down the river you have transitioned also from day to night. The ride takes you down a gentlely flowing river, surrounded on all sides’s by sites, sounds and smells of the bioluminescence forest of Pandora. I took a few quick iPhine clips on the ride and strung them together in a short video. I said there would be no spoilers and this really isn’t one. The ride is dark, the video just a few clips and the quality isn’t that great. It should really just give you an idea THAT the ride is great. Pay attention at the end though. “The Shaman” really represents the next level in animatronics.
The ride ends at the transformed military base. Overrun by the vegetation, this is now a trading spot for food, drink and trinkets.
…to be continued…
(the rest of our journey will be added to this page shortly)