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Construction Begins For AVATAR-Inspired Land At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on January 10th, 2014 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


Earlier this week, leaders from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Lightstorm Entertainment kicked off the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the park’s new AVATAR-inspired land with blue, Na’vi-inspired shovels.

In this photo illustration, they were joined by Jake Sully, showing the scale of characters from the “AVATAR” film.
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The area, which is being designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in partnership with “AVATAR” creator James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, will be unlike anything ever experienced at a Disney park. Guests will experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with banshees and explore a rich natural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night.

Using Na'vi-inspired shovels (left to right) Joe Rohde, creative executive,   Walt Disney Imagineering; Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering;   Jon Landau, AVATAR producer and Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts   celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal   Kingdom history.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is already home to some of our guests’ favorite attractions,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “With AVATAR, we are adding a spectacular new world and an exciting set of attractions unlike any our guests have experienced. The expansion now under way will make the park a true full-day, must-see experience.”

This week’s milestone is just the first step in a larger expansion for the park that will also include the debut of a new evening spectacular, as well as a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Check out the video below for a look inside the ceremony, and be sure to follow the Disney Parks Blog for future updates on this exciting expansion.

For previous AVATAR coverage, see these blog posts:

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AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Will Transport, Transform Guests

posted on October 14th, 2013 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


Over the weekend, Tom Staggs wowed the crowd at the first-ever D23 Expo in Japan with an early glimpse of what’s planned for AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. He shared some breathtaking concept renderings of floating mountains, bioluminescent plants and other awe-inspiring experiences guests will encounter in the mythical world of Pandora.

Also at the D23 Expo Japan, Tom shared video of filmmaker James Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde highlighting the creative work already underway on the project. Joe said when the AVATAR-inspired land is completed, it’ll be a transformational experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Today, we wanted to share the entire video with Disney Parks Blog readers.

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First Look: AVATAR to Come to Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on October 12th, 2013 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


From the moment AVATAR was released, people were captivated by the mythical world of Pandora. When we announced that we’d be working with James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to bring this world to life in our parks, we felt certain that this partnership and combination of talent and imagination would produce an experience unlike any other ever created.
Artist Rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land During the Day, Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

Our combined team has taken huge steps forward in “imagineering” Pandora as a real place for our guests to see, hear and touch. At the first-ever D23 Expo in Japan, we shared an early glimpse of the plans for AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and I wanted to share some of these breathtaking images and a short preview of what’s to come with all of you.
Artist Rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land at Night, Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

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.
Guests Will Discover What it Feels Like to Soar into the Sky Riding a Banshee When AVATAR Comes to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

And the new AVATAR-inspired land won’t be the only change coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Live Performers on Discovery Island Will be Part of New Entertainment Experiences Available to Guests as Part of Expansion at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

As part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, we’ll be adding all-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 that will delight our guests and truly cap off their day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island (pictured above) and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
James Cameron, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Imagineer Joe Rohde View a Model of the AVATAR-Themed Land Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

As the world of AVATAR becomes real at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the energy and passion shared by our Imagineers and the Lightstorm team for this monumental task continues to be remarkable. I can’t wait to see the reactions of our guests as they step into a world that until now has only existed on the screen.

We look forward to sharing more details in the future here on the Disney Parks Blog.



See more updates on the AVATAR-themed expansion coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the posts below:

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James Cameron Explores Disney’s Animal Kingdom as Development of First AVATAR-Themed Land Continues

posted on October 18th, 2011 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


James Cameron Explores Disney’s Animal Kingdom as Development of First AVATAR-Themed Land Continues

As work continues to bring the epic fantasy world of AVATAR to life at Disney Parks, filmmaker James Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment producing partner Jon Landau explored Disney’s Animal Kingdom yesterday with Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Imagineer Joe Rohde.

“Getting the chance to roll up my sleeves and explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom from the inside out was a phenomenal experience,” said James Cameron. “As I walked through the park, I kept imagining Pandora coming to life all around me and found my mind racing with all the possibilities of what we will be able to create in the years ahead. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is truly a remarkable place and I can’t think of a better home for our first AVATAR experience.”

James Cameron Explores Disney’s Animal Kingdom as Development of First AVATAR-Themed Land Continues

Cameron and Landau are touring the Walt Disney World Resort this week as part of the creative partnership announced in September between Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Fox Filmed Entertainment and Lightstorm Entertainment. Construction of the first AVATAR-themed land is expected to begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom by 2013.

“We do a significant amount of work at the beginning of our projects to ensure that the final experience has the attention to detail, theme and uniqueness for which Disney is known,” said Tom Staggs. “Today’s visit is an important step in the creative process and we are excited about getting started on what will be a spectacular addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”

Along with their team at Lightstorm Entertainment, Cameron and Landau are serving as creative consultants on the project, working side-by-side with Imagineers to dream up groundbreaking experiences that will take guests deep into the worlds of AVATAR like never imagined.

“AVATAR and Disney’s Animal Kingdom share a common bond in that they both focus on adventures that will radically change your perspective. They call you to take action on behalf of nature wherever it may be found,” said Joe Rohde, who led the creative team that designed the park. “This is a rare opportunity to collaborate with Jim, who has an incredible eye for detail and a passion for doing things that haven’t been done before.”

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Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

posted on September 20th, 2011 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

I’d like to thank all of the Disney Parks Blog followers who left comments or sent in questions regarding our AVATAR announcement today. We got a lot of great questions and while I won’t be able to answer all of them, I’ll do my best to get to as many as possible.

1) TIMING

We got quite a few questions about the timing of our first AVATAR experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including this one from Adam, “Any idea when the experience will be open to guests?”

We’ve just begun the design phase on our Animal Kingdom project and we expect to begin construction in 2013. From start to finish, a project of this size and scope takes about 5 years to design and build. We can’t give you an exact date but we know that when it’s complete, it’s going to be a truly unforgettable experience.

2) IS THIS A PARK EXPANSION OR WILL “LAND” REPLACE SOMETHING?

Several of you asked a similar question, including Doug from Utah – “Will it replace any existing attractions in Animal Kingdom, or will it be built in a new parcel of land within the park’s boundaries?”

Well, Doug, we’re just beginning the Blue Sky process so I don’t have much to share about how we are going to execute our vision for our first AVATAR land but we’re focused on this being an important addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I look forward to sharing more details as our plans progress.

3) SPECIFIC ATTRACTIONS

Jenna from Winnetka, Ill., asks, “What types of attractions will be in AVATAR land?”

This was hands-down one of the most popular questions we got and understandably so. While we’re still in the very early stages of design and planning, we expect this land to be anchored by multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations, restaurants and other immersive elements. Our AVATAR lands will give guests the chance to see, hear and touch the world of Pandora and we can’t wait to dive in with James Cameron and his team as we create new experiences that will delight and thrill our guests.

Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

4) FILM IS PG-13, HOW DOES THIS MATCH W/FAMILY-FRIENDLY PARK?

Some of you, including Logan in Carnesville, Ga., asked about whether AVATAR was a good fit for a family-friendly brand like Disney.

Thanks, Logan, I appreciate your candor in asking this question. At its core, AVATAR is a film that embraces strong, positive themes of family, loyalty, living in harmony with nature and belief in oneself – all values that we share at The Walt Disney Company. You can be sure that these are the same themes that we will explore throughout our AVATAR lands. They will be places where friends and families can spend time together getting lost in a fantasy world, one of the true hallmarks of any Disney theme park experience. And with two sequels in the works, we feel this is a creative property whose potential is limitless.

5) AVATAR AT OTHER DISNEY PARKS?

We got several questions about whether there will be AVATAR experiences in parks/sites other than Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Kyle from Ontario asks, “Are there plans to add Avatar attractions at any other Disney parks?”

Well, Kyle, the only land we are announcing today is at Walt Disney World Resort but AVATAR is a possibility at any of our other locations. The first film AVATAR is a franchise with massive global appeal and its success at the box office both inside and outside of the U.S. – I should also note that as we determine our future locations, we look forward to working with our international theme park partners as our plans evolve.

Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

6) ATTRACTION THEMING

Many of you, including Justin from Orlando, want to know, “How does AVATAR fit in with the Disney theme?” and more specifically, how does it fit in with the Animal Kingdom?

As I mentioned in a previous answer, AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. With its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty, it’s a great fit for the Disney brand and our parks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the perfect place for our first AVATAR land because at its core, the park gives guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in whole new ways. With AVATAR, we’ve found the perfect opportunity to let our guests explore one of the most compelling mythical worlds ever conceived. Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.

7) WHY BUY SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA INSTEAD OF LETTING WDI COME UP WITH SOMETHING?

Some of you asked why we would choose to collaborate with an outside partner rather than use our own Disney characters and stories to expand the parks. We are as committed as ever to creating attractions and entertainment around favorite Disney characters and stories – with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park and our expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park being two great examples. At the same time, we like to look beyond our own walls at non-Disney properties, like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, creating some of our most popular attractions. At the end of the day, we are focused on creating a great experience for our guests and I truly believe that this unique partnership with James Cameron and AVATAR gives us an entire world of imaginative creatures, fascinating locations and intriguing characters with which to do that.

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AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks

posted on September 20th, 2011 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks


We have great news to share today. At a press conference happening right now at Walt Disney Imagineering, Bob Iger and Tom Staggs just announced a long-term creative partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the fantasy world of AVATAR to life at Disney Parks. And it’ll all begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.

AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks

James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve as creative consultants on the project and will work side-by-side with our Walt Disney Imagineers as we dream up experiences that will take our guests deep into worlds of AVATAR like never before. There are also two sequels to the record setting first film in the works, which will offer more fascinating stories, characters and locations to explore in the AVATAR universe. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort is planned as the site of the first AVATAR-themed land with construction expected to begin by 2013.

We believe Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great fit for this project because it was created to give guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.

The design phase on the Disney’s Animal Kingdom project has just begun so stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more details.

Got questions about the announcement? If so, Tom Staggs will be answering them in a special Q&A blog post later today. Just submit your name, city where you’re from and your question to questionsfortom@disney.com and then check the Disney Parks Blog later to see some of the answers.

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