Old news but...why Avatar?

So, first time I saw the movie, on the big screen, I thought the visuals were incredible and the movie was good. Each subsequent watching, on smaller screen, has been less impressive. So, after listening to several podcasts that talked about the Avatar project at AK, I decided to revisit the movie after a few years of abstinence.

Full disclosure: when the project was announced I was not enthusiastic but felt that, if done right, it would be a nice addition to AK.

Watched the extended, super sized, 16 minutes extra version on a 65 inch screen. It didn’t help. Visually, yay! But the story was simply a mash up of Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, two or three movies from India and, possibly, one from Russia. The characters are all one dimensional tropes with a very predictable story line.

So my question is: Why Disney? Shannon, my lovely DW, kept looking at me asking where she could find the tie in to Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, The Disney Company, Walt, Mickey, Lillian, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad…anything. The best I could come up with is Jake Sully, the hero in Avatar, has the same initials as John Smith of Pocahontas fame. That and much of the story is a direct rip off of Disney’s Pocahontas.

Can anyone talk me down? Give me any reasoning for this move by Disney? I understand the objections to Frozen in Maelstrom but holy cow, at least Arrendale is a fictionalized region of Norway and Frozen is a Disney intellectual property. Avatar is not real, it’s not Disney and its a bad story.


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The “real” reason is money. Avatar was the highest grossing film of all times, and Disney was looking for a big IP to counter Pottermania at Universal. The fact that Cameron is helping to pay for it is icing on the cake. There are 3 squeals in the works; the first was supposed to open BEFORE the 2017 completion date of the park, but Cameron just announced that it’s been pushed back a year. However, the trailers should be in the theaters before the park opens, so I’m guessing the Disney will be able to leverage some park advertising into the deal.

Fiscal cynicism aside, here is the “justification”. We all call it “Avatarland”, but Disney refers to it as Pandora - the name of the planet. If you look past the one-dimensional characters, the techno-soldiers, and the heavey-handed corporate greed, what the movie is really about is a giant ecosystem, with many levels of interconnections - most of which are not understood by (or of interest to) to those who want to turn the planet into a commercial gold mine. As you journey through the movie, you start to learn about, and gain an appreciation for the species that live on Pandora, so when the destruction occurs at the end, you fel the ramifications. I don’t think it was coincidental that the focus was on the destruction of the great tree; deforestation and the wide-ranging effects that it has on ecosystems s one of the great environmental disasters of our times. One of the main goals of AK (as well as most zoos) is to engender an understanding and appreciation for the animal (and plant) world, to show how man is destroying so much of it, and hoping to change attitudes of a younger generation. For me, Pandora and the allegorical fable of the movie “Avatar” is a perfect thematic fit.

Rumors are that Disney is distancing itself from the plot machinations of the movie, and are creating an immersive and interactive Pandora that you can actually visit; the amazing 3D imagery of the film will become a “4D” park experience. Both announced rides will be “tour” rides of Pandora - one flying (in a Soarin-type simulator) and one on a (PoC-type) boat. Will there me movie plot tie-ins? I don’t know as no details have been released. I’m HOPING that the conservation message is not completely lost. And rumors are that we will see cutting edge technologies beyond anything that has been done before.

“Avatar is not Disney”. Star Wars, Muppets, Indiana Jones, and Twilight Zone were not “Disney” when they first came to the parks. These are now some of the most popular attraction in both WDW and DLR - not to mention in Paris, Tokyo, and China.

There are some very vocal people who did not like the movie and have predetermined they will not like the Pandora addition. I’m not saying that the movie was perfect - far from it. But as a GC hobbyist I found the visuals to be astonishing, and as someone with training in ecology, I found the underlying theme/message of the film to be powerful and well done. If Disney keeps the focus on these two areas, and pulls out all of the technological stops, this may well become the most amazing land in any Disney park.

At least I hope so.


Easy answer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkRIbUT6u7Q

More reasoned and well thought-out answer: @bswan26 nailed it


The theme of AK is exploration. The message is often conservation. Also, when animal kingdom was originally done, it was not supposed to be limited to just earthly fauna and flora. Notice the dragon on the old signs. There was always supposed to be some mythological element to the park. But it was scrapped.


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@brklinck any time you can use a Cabaret reference, you’ve convinced me!


Even though I enjoyed the movie, Avatar fell very flat on story. However, what it did do amazingly well was world building. Pandora had ecosystems that made sense, most of the animals look like they could have evolved together. The visuals were fascinating and spectacular. Transferring these from screen 3d to physical 3d, done well, will inspire that sense of awe. If you take the plants, animals, and environment they fit the Animal Kingdom. And it is also a fairly unique version of fantasy animals, something that can’t be easily confused with the Dragons in the WWoHP.n

Star Wars was a little flat on non-sentient alien species to make an interesting land for DAK. Dewbacks, bantha, rancor?


Thanks all y’all. Your points were the only ones I kept coming back to last night while watching. That IF Disney gets rid of the story and focuses on the visuals, then it could be a stunning place. I spent the whole sequence in the floating mountains trying to figure out a way for Imagineers to pull that one off, like they have promised!

Bswan, actually the list of “not Disney” is long and illustrious, IP from other sources that Disney bought and repurposed. Avatar, however, is not Harry Potter. I have to believe that Disney did polling, research, etc., before they chose Avatar but I can’t make the connection on choices. Unless they were going strictly for the conservation/visuals, they cannot have gotten the message from the general public, or even the Disney going public, that Avatar was the thing most on our minds for lands in any of the WDW parks.

I do appreciate all of your comments and I have been sharing them with DW. I really am looking forward to what the Imagineers do with the stunning imagery of Pandora. (And yes I picked up on the use of Pandora and not Avatarland or even Avatar. Interesting regarding the story line.)

I have had the same thoughts as you, @NeedaTurkeyLeg. And I think @bswan26 nailed the explanation.

However, the biggest question in my mind has been this: if Disney wanted to create a new structure to rival that of the WWoHP, why not expand upon the Star Wars theme? The way I see it, Avatar at this point is a one hit wonder, whereas Star Wars is a classic whose popularity has spanned generations. I know Star Wars fans who would make the trip to WDW just to see a detailed, well-imagined Star Wars world the same way the WWoHP draws in the Harry Potter fans. And while I think Pandora will likely be nothing short of amazing, I would doubt there are enough avid Avatar fans to rival the crowds that could be drawn by Star Wars. I have heard that a Star Wars expansion may finally be in the works, and I hope it will be on a grand scale, and well worth the wait. In the meantime, US will continue to draw record crowds to it’s brilliantly designed WWoHP.

And one other thing I’ll say about Avatar. I think the popularity of it was largely tied to it being a beautifully rendered 3D movie, one of the first of it’s kind. I am kind of skeptical about whether the sequels will draw that same level of popularity with the newness of 3D technology losing its luster. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.


Oh, there WILL be Star Wars…

I’m hoping that the length of the lead time will be directly proportional to how great it will be when it’s done. I’ve read elsewhere that one of the reasons for lack of details (or even time line) is that Disney wants to incorporate elements of at least the first of the new films - but the entire production is under such tight secrecy, Imaginering is waiting to be given access to the contents of the new movie so they can begin developing attractions and the look of the “land”.

Star Wars is an incredibly risky IP to “own”. If Disney knocks it out of the park with whatever SW Land becomes, DHS will be a shrine for millions of fans (as UOR has become for Potterheads). If it’s a fail - or even a near miss - the consequences will be EPIC, and Disney will become the laughing stock of the theme park industry.

Personally, I think they could create a 5th gate and have an entire park along the lines of “Disney’s World of Start Wars”; there is more than enough material to create several “lands” and numerous attractions. With a combination of high-tech simulator rides, “classic dark rides”, interactive “shooter” rides, and a couple of coasters (plus the usual assortment of shops and restaurants), it could potentially rival the MK for overall attendance numbers. But this isn’t going to happen.

My only hope is that Disney will spend enough money on this project to make it a highlight and not an embarrassment. Unfortunately, my “hope” exceeds my “confidence”…


Star Wars is to The Beatles as Avatar is to Bieber.
Or something like that. :wink:


I know this would be an almost direct rip off of Potterville, I’d love to see a section of Studios turned into Mos Eisley Spaceport. Explore, get a drink at the Cantina, etc., and when you are ready to head to somewhere else, you board a ship (Millennium Falcon perhaps), ride to the fifth gate which would be Star Wars Kindgom, with Hoth, Dagobah, Tatooine (I know Mos Eisley is on Tatooine but…), Kashyyyk. I know it’s a Hogwarts express rip but I think it would be incredible.

And I think you are 100% spot on, @bswan26, with the cautious speed at which Imagineers are moving. If they don’t nail this, it will be bad!


Indeed, I have suggested exactly this a number of times in chat/forum.
For instance, I’d love to get a blue drink at the Cantina.
The bartender can be an always-annoyed CM.
The band could be kind of like “Sonny Eclipse” too. :wink:
Or hide out in Jabba’s palace (like the caves at Tom Sawyer Island), or all kinds of stuff like that.

I’m just a big kid…


I would love to see that polling data. As bswan said they seemed to be moving away from the idea of the movie tie in and more of a general concept which would work better, but I still have to wonder what they were thinking when picking Avatar. I understand the panic over Harry Potter, but really? At the time it was announced I asked if anyone could name three characters from the movie, most people can’t. Why was that? Because Avatar, while visually stunning, was a bore. Harry Potter and Star Wars had better characters and story. Kids on Halloween would go as HP or SW characters after the movies came out, and still do. Do kids dress up as any of the characters from Avatar? Is anyone going to by Avatar stuff in parks in any serious numbers? Action figures? Clothing? Would a kid want to do an Avatar Academy? I doubt it. WDW loves to sell stuff and I wondered who they talked to that would buy any Avatar related merch. Disney should have stuck to the original concept of mythological animals and built it around a nice E ticket roller coaster.

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Oh my, LOL!!! That sentence just about nailed it for me.

Catching up on a Jambo Everyone podcast and they were reviewing 2014. Apparently James Cameron kept referring to the project as “Pandora: The World of Avatar”. They couldn’t figure out why he would but it makes sense to me. Avatar would be the story of the movie. This can be the story of the planet.

I don’t see the merch/add ons either. Can’t have a character meal with 9 foot tall aliens.

People who keep saying it ties in to the theme of AK seem to forget that there was originally going to be a mythical creatures part of AK, which doesn’t really lend itself to a theme of conservation.

I’ll say that I recall enjoying Avatar when I saw it, but afterwards it really didn’t stay with me enough where I’m at all excited about Pandora. And while people may argue that it’s wrong to hate on the project before even seeing it, I would argue that however good Pandora may be, it uses resources that could have gone to better projects - like a more in-depth Star Wars experience. Yes, Cameron may be covering some of the costs - but it’s not like he’s covering the entire cost of the project.

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I think that sums up Why Avatar very nicely. It just looks gorgeous