Two years after announcing plans to produce an “Avatar”-themed land inside Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park with James Cameron, Disney has unveiled the first images of the attraction to open in 2017.
The land will be located between Africa and the Oasis and will expand beyond the area currently known as Camp Minnie-Mickey. The Festival of the Lion King will move its tribal celebration to an all-new theater in the Africa section of the park. Animal Kingdom’s signature Tree of Life also appears to glow in the concept images, signaling that it will also become part of the “Avatar” land, referencing the film’s Na’vi race of blue-skinned creatures.
Disney also has released a video introduced by Cameron.
As part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, it will add new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River (see below). Live performers also will be added to Discovery Island, as well as a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The shows are clearly meant to give guests a reason to stay longer in the park, which typically closes early.
The addition of the “Avatar” land also is meant to attract more guests to Animal Kingdom, itself, which has struggled against Disney’s other parks at Walt Disney World as a major draw — and Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside its Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando.
In August, Cameron announced plans to produce three new “Avatar” sequels, the first of which will bow in December 2016. All three will be shot simultaneously next year.
Disney used its first D23 Expo in Japan, taking place at its Tokyo Resort, Oct. 12-14, to reveal the first images. D23 Expo was held at the Anaheim Convention Center, across from Disneyland in August.
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“Our combined team has taken huge steps forward in ‘imagineering’ Pandora as a real place for our guests to see, hear and touch,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “As these concept renderings show in epic scale, in the world of ‘Avatar,’ guests will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”
Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment banner are developing the “Avatar” land with Disney and its Imagineers.