‘Avatar’ Ride Coming to Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

20th Century Fox

There are many perks to running the Walt Disney Co. It turns out one of them is getting to be the first to ride the winged beasts that will be one of Animal Kingdom’s signature rides when “Avatar” land opens inside the Walt Disney World theme park in 2017.

Bob Iger said he was recently given the chance to try out the ride, which will enable guests to fly through “Avatar’s” Pandora on the back of a flying banshee.

“It felt so real, so lifelike,” Iger said of the prototype vehicle guests will board to travel through the fictional land. “There’s never been anything like it.”

The vessels that guests will ride upon will essentially be the banshees themselves, with bodies that move to mimic a breathing beast. The flying sequences will be brought to life through large video screens — similar to “Soarin'” — with vehicles moving with the 3D action inside a massive theater.

While Disney and “Avatar” franchise creator and director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau already had announced that “Avatar” land would include the flying attraction, Iger excitedly provided a better glimpse of the experience, describing how he had to scale scaffolding in order to try out the ride for the first time.

Iger discussed the new theme park shortly after discussing plans for “Star Wars” at the company’s resorts during a Q&A with Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller at a Dealmakers Breakfast Wednesday morning, presented by Bank of America and sponsored by Delta.

Disney broke ground on the “Avatar” park in January. The themed addition, designed with Cameron, represents the largest expansion to Animal Kingdom since the park opened in 1998.

Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, the land will include Pandora’s floating mountains and bioluminescent plants across several acres that will house attractions, including a boat-based attraction, and eateries.

The addition of “Avatar” land is clearly Disney’s answer to Universal’s pair-up with Warner Bros. to build the wildly successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter park and Diagon Alley expansion inside Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in Orlando.

The themed land will open as Cameron releases the first of three new “Avatar” sequels, starting in December 2016.

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  1. I love that movie soooo much, i want to go to real Pandora.

  2. sounds like another iteration of Universal’s “Back to the Future” ride

  3. Mary LoGalbo says:

    It is about time they added something to Animal Kingdom, The last one was Everest! Looks like great fun hope to live to see it finished, I love that place!

  4. Alex Hardy says:

    For some it will be a dream come true. I do not know how long the investment will be primed, assume that it takes many millions of £ to be put into practice. Another thing I do not understand why we are looking for fiction when our planet is 100 times more beautiful and fascinating.

  5. Daniel says:

    What a waste of creative and financial resources. “Avatar” was popular as a 3-D gimmick, but hasn’t got the legs for a franchise. The characters are unmemorable, the alien designs are downright creepy, and the film has produced zero merchandise.

    “Avatar” took in more box office dollars because of the 3-D and IMAX up-charges, but the 3-D wave has crested, and no one is clamoring for another trip to Pandora. The company that owns Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and their own stable of I.P. (including the mega-hit “Frozen”) doesn’t need to bow to the whims of Cameron and his big, blue beasties. Nor do they need to throw hundreds of millions of dollars to license the I.P. of the same.

    • Mich says:

      Well, you’re certainly a bitter-sounding person who has no sense of fun or wonder. But be horrible to be this cynical and nasty.

    • Uncanny Ed says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth. I can’t believe Disney is wasting resources on this considering that they own both Marvel and Star Wars. Oh well, this is just another reason for me to skip the Animal Kingdom on my next trip.

      Also, wasn’t the point of the Animal Kingdom to focus on, I don’t know… the animal kingdom?

    • tommyflorida says:

      You’re missing the point: what Disney saw in Avatar is the “interactive” nature aka flora and fauna that is Pandora. Think about this – then add some pixie dust for good measure…at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

    • Joe Fox says:

      I guess we’ll see… when it comes to big park investments, Disney hasn’t had many duds. I don’t think this one will be either. I, for one, am beyond excited about seeing this land brought to life.

      • I like to see imagination run wild. The original Avatar movie is entertaining, and also thought provoking, but not in your face pushy about it. I still find it amazing that new technology is coming up with being able to match movies with ideas. I am in my forties, but still feel like a kid when I see certain movies such as movies like Avatar.

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