There were two things that Hubby was excited to see at Walt Disney World; Star Wars and Pandora – The World of Avatar.
If you have not seen the film, it is a must before you head to Animal Kingdom, where the World of Avatar has been built.
The new World Of Avatar is set on the lush alien world of Pandora and as you walk into the Valley of Mo’Ara it feels like you have really walked onto a new planet, complete with stunning floating mountains, alien plant life and stunning waterfalls around every corner. There are even speakers playing alien animal noises and water dripping which really adds to the effect.
You can walk along the winding pathways all around, and under, the floating mountains, giving you a 360° view of them.
For the kids there is an interactive drum circle, where they can watch a performance or get a beat going with their friends, a large plant creature that reacts to touch, and strange alien animals who squirt water at you.
There are two rides in Pandora – World of Avatar; The Na’Vi River Ride and Avatar: Flight of Passage and the fast track system for both rides had sold out, so it is worth booking as early as possible. FastPass+ lets you reserve access to certain rides 60 days before check-in when you have a Walt Disney World Resort hotel reservation and 30 days in advance with standard entry tickets.
We were told that the quietest time to go is during the Animal Kingdom Magic Hours and despite getting there before opening, the queue for Avatar: Flight of Passage was a staggering 210 minutes!!
There was no way Hubby was missing it so he got in the queue, whilst I took the kids on the Na’Vi River Ride which was a more reasonable 20 minute wait which queued through the stunning Na’Vi forest and through a settlement.
The Na’Vi River Ride
Once onboard the reed boat, we found ourselves gliding down the gentle, mysterious river and the kids were really excited to see the full beauty of Pandora revealing itself.
You coast through a series of caves, passing by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures of the rainforest. It’s the little touches that makes it feel real as you see little feet padding around on leaves above your head and bioluminescent plants literally dancing before your eyes.
The adventure comes to a conclusion as the very realistic Shaman of songs demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through the power of her music!
Pandora: Flight of Passage
With the longest queue we had at Walt Disney World, is Pandora: Flight of Passage worth the wait?
Thankfully Hubby picked me up a parent swap ticket which allowed me to take Isaac on through the fastpass system when he got off the ride, which saved queuing twice.
If you do get a fast pass you miss out on all the pre-ride experience, which really sets the ride up. The outside portion winds through the floating mountain range before taking you into the caverns where you will find cave paintings of Banshees, large, bird-like aerial predators that are native to Pandora.
The queue then goes through the remnants of an RDA facility before entering the active research facility of the Pandoran Conservation Initiative.
This gives you a real insight of things to come with a Banshee tracking screen and an avatar suspended in a tank.
You then head into an industrial basement area for the final part of the queue system, which is where the fast pass people join the queue. It is then into the genetic matching room is where you are matched to your Avatar to take a flight aboard a banshee.
There are a lot of special effects in the genetic matching and decontamination room, which makes the experience appear very realistic and it is clearly explained how each guest will be matched to an Avatar, which look like the Na’vi, but are actually a blend of human and Na’vi DNA. After a bit of suspense, would it work, or not?, we were ushered into the final briefing room and given 3D glasses before heading into the link chamber.
Any valuables are then secured in a locker at the back of the chamber and you have to sit upon vehicles that resemble motorcycles. Once seated, with your chest resting against the front of the cycle, the back and leg restraints come up and secure you into place.
Each seat is equipped with an onboard video display, that relays various startup information, tracking maps and various data regarding your mind connection to the Avatar. You then feel a buzz in the back and leg restraints as if you DNA was actually being paired with the Avatar to make it a really believable experience.
The screen comes up and “whoosh” you are sat upon a live, breathing Banshee and dropping at speed. It honestly feels like you are flying with beautifully clear 3D imagery, wind, water and smells that bring the ride to life all around you. If this is the future of rollercoasters then it is amazing, both Hubby and I loved every second but Isaac, who doesn’t like rollercoasters, found it too scary.
You then exit the ride by the shop, Windtraders, which is packed full of Avatar goodies and the chance to make your very own Avatar.
We found ourselves falling in love with a rookery of baby Banshees and one found its way home with us. These interactive banshee’s includes three ranges of motion – mouth, head, and wings – that are controlled by a hidden controller you can hide in your pocket so they really look alive.
Animal Kingdom also offers a late night magic hours experience for Disney Hotel guests, which sees the whole forest come to life in bioluminescent wonder between 10pm – Midnight.