OL 043: Pandora First Look – Hits, Misses and Opportunities
Our First Look at Pandora – The World of Avatar
On May 17th, we got a chance to spend a couple of hours in the new land at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Pandora – The World of Avatar.
That name is a mouthful, isn't it?
It's actually pretty nice that Walt Disney World allows pass holders to get a preview of new attractions before the main opening. I've gone to a few of them now. Unfortunately, I have an incredibly unlucky streak. When I go, something isn't working.
It's not like I can go back to try again if there is a problem. If something doesn't work on my allotted preview time, I have to wait for the public opening and try my luck much like any other guest. That's why I still haven't been on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. It wasn't working during my preview, and the wait time is incredibly long even a couple of years later.
What's that, you say? Get a Fast Pass? Those are scooped up by resort guests long before they become available to locals. I suspect the same will be true for Flights of Passage in Pandora.
The truth is that things just didn't go well on our scheduled visit to Pandora, and that's what will stick in our minds.
What We Like about Pandora
Walking into our Pandora First Look session, we thought it was a very immersive environment. The sights and sounds really draw you into a sense of exploration. You want to look around when you're seeing something foreign for the very first time.
Our first ride experience (and only one) was the Na'vi River Journey. We liked the queue, complete with plenty of fans in the outdoor area and very refreshing air conditioning when we got indoors. This will definitely be a place to cool down in Pandora.
The Na'vi River Journey (video below) is a dark ride in a slow boat. It's very immersive into a new world. Everything glows. The sounds bring you into the jungle. My only complaint is that I wish it lasted a bit longer.
Where Pandora Missed the Boat
Above all else, one thing shocked us during our experience. I don't toss out the word “shocked” casually, either.
It was the attitude of the Disney cast members. With very few exceptions, they were all very sullen and despondent. I've seen happier people working at The Haunted Mansion or Tower of Terror. The cast members had horrible attitudes and didn't seem to care about anything. We have more details about that on the podcast.
The other disappointment is that the signature ride – Flights of Passage – apparently wasn't working. The queue for this ride is very long. The first part that gets indoors is like a cave with primitive painting. Unlike the River Journey, there was no ventilation from fans or air conditioning.
It was hot and stagnant, particularly since the line wasn't moving. We spent an hour in that cave trying not to smell the men in front of us who were in dire need of a shower.
Then we noticed that many people were walking in the wrong direction. Once we got slightly past the cave into an area that looks like it was excavated by man, but we never made it beyond that point. Apparently, that was only the halfway point of the queue.
Dozens of people were streaming back down the queue telling us the ride was broken and there was no other way out. One pair of ladies told us they ended up on the roof (we recorded them for the podcast) and never found a cast member to help. Even the cast members out front didn't offer any assistance, or seem to care, as we explained the problem. They just continued to feed more unsuspecting guests into the queue.
Our Opinion From Our First Look at Pandora
We visited Pandora with high hopes. After years of hype and construction, we really wanted to have a new and amazing experience.
Maybe part of that desire was to alleviate something that got lost in the process. Disney built Pandora on the land that used to be Camp Minnie-Mickey. Our daughter has fond memories of falling down in fits of giggles as Chip ‘n Dale chased her around. It was a place for kids to interact with Disney characters, and now it's gone.
We didn't see any characters in Pandora. In fact, Pandora isn't even a Disney movie. We still aren't sure why it's part of What Disney World. We also kept wondering what it would have for small children. Not much, it seems. They can't even ride on Flights of Passage if they are under 44″ height.
We wanted to like Pandora, but our overall impression became sour because the cast members were sour. Yes, it's disappointing that we didn't get to go on the feature ride, but we're no strangers to malfunctioning attractions. In the end, our first impression of Pandora ended up being a disappointment because of the cast members. We left before our two-hour Passholder Preview was up.
Sometimes things go wrong. More than one attraction opened before it was ready, and Pandora – The World of Avatar, is no exception. I wouldn't tell you to skip it, but you may want to wait a while for some of the bugs to iron out before you visit.
Photos from our Pandora First Look
Walking into Pandora for the first time feels like walking into a jungle. You'll see plenty of trees, shrubs, ferns and other plants that look normal.
One of the signature features of Pandora that Walt Disney World tried to recreate are floating mountains. This is how it looks.
Disney Imagineers can work wonders, but they can't quite defy gravity yet with something so large. Still, the land has great visual appeal. The waterfalls and sounds add to the ambiance of the new land.
Tradewinds – The New Gift Shop for Pandora
The jungle theme continues inside Tradewinds, the gift shop for the new land. The stand to the right is where you can have a Na'vi avatar statue created with your image.
The premise for the movie Avatar was that mankind traveled light years away from Earth to mine a rare substance called Unobtanium, which was incredibly valuable. Now you can have a trinket rock of it in your pocket.
You also find bracelets and artwork from the Na'vi people.
At night, some of features that look rather mundane in daylight come alive with brilliant colors and light.
This wicker artwork welcomes you to the Na'vi River Journey.