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AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content 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 and then check the Disney Parks Blog later to see some of the answers.


  • Re: Trent, Disney is not losing its uniqueness.

    A lot of people would’ve said the very same thing if the announcements of Disney adding attractions based on Star Wars and Indiana Jones were to happen today. And I bet some traditionalists felt that way when Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Adventure opened at Disneyland.

  • I am totally against it. I love the Animal Kingdom and know it needs more attractions but Disney should stick with what they know best! I hope they look at all the comments!

  • Ugh! I had no desire to see the movie and I have no desire for it to invade a Disney Park! I’d much rather see rumored additions to the parks that make sense like new world showcase countries, beastly kingdom at Animal Kingdom or at least new things from Disney movies like Tron, or a Monsters Inc ride or Cars Land. Anything that makes sense…Avatar does not make sense! Sad day 🙁

  • What a terrible idea. Have they not realized that Avatar is hardly popular anymore? By the time it opens, it will be outdated and the next best thing will have already come along way before then. For those who are trying to compare the new Avatar land to Star Wars- Star Wars things in Disney parks have worked because they’re still amazing, iconic movies that have a humongous, world-wide fan following. Avatar is hardly a drop in the bucket. Also, not a kids movie. I bet a lot of parents don’t even let their kids watch it. If they wanted the conservation theme why not just go with Pocahontas?

  • Never saw Avatar, but this is big news. This should have been announced at D23!

  • Not really too excited about this. I didn’t like the movie. I guess I don’t understand how this land will blend with AK. Very strange to me.

  • I completely disagree with what Joel said. There’s nothing wrong with building lots of attractions based on existing franchises.

    Just because they build franchise-based attractions more often than “from the ground up” ones does not mean that the company has lost faith in WDI. A lot of people want “familiarity” anyway.

    As for this announcement, I don’t have a real opinion formed, but this would not be the first time a non-Disney property set foot in Disney parks (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, American Idol, etc. are all non-Disney franchises that have attractions in Disney parks already).

    I’d be cool with this addition either way as long as it does not lead to WDI outsourcing.

  • I don’t think the “This isn’t Disney” argument holds much weight, unless you’re suggesting we remove Star Tours, Indiana Jones, and many other already beloved attractions from the parks.

    Disney parks have always been about telling stories and creating experiences. Avatar was not perfect in my opinion, but one of the things it was most praised for was it’s immersive quality. Pandora became a place people wanted to experience for themselves.

    For me, one of the most memorable things about the movie was the unique wildlife invented for the planet, and how so much of the movie focused on being one with nature. How does this NOT fit into the theme of Animal Kingdom?

    I urge people to please keep an open mind about this project, and wait to pass judgement until they experience it for themselves.

  • Oh no! Horrible idea. Add another continent to Animal Kingdom- maybe Australia. South America would lend itself to Up!/Wilderness Explorers theming.

    If Avatar belongs anywhere in WDW it would be as part of The Great Movie Ride.

  • Well done Disney!! Cannot wait to see the finished product. Animal Kingdom Park is the perfect place for AVATAR! I know the special effects will be awsome!

  • I am picturing a cross between Soarin’ and the Star Tours, or maybe an updated version of the Universal Termintor 3D interactive movie experience … can’t want to find out!

  • I love Disney World so much but I do not agree with this decision, I really do not think this is the right move for Animal Kingdom. I agree that Animal Kingdom needs new attractions/ a new land however, I just don’t think Avatar is the right fit.

    My opinion is that the next few movies in the Avatar series are not going to have the same box office numbers as the first one. Avatar was a success at the box office largely due to everyone wanting to see the brand new technology. Unless the next few movies contain enormous leaps in technology, I don’t see them being as popular as the first movie. I also agree with the comments stating that Avatar does not have the following or lasting power of Star Wars and other series like Star Wars.

    I understand that one of the major themes of Avatar was/is preserving nature and I think Pandora was beautiful on screen. However, why not make Avatar/Pandora just one part of a new land (my vote is with those who have been lobbying for years for Beastly Kingdom)? Or why not use a Disney movie that has a message about preserving nature, Pocahontas? I’m not trying to be snarky with an Avatar/Pocahontas comparison. I get wanting to use Pandora as a setting because it looks so amazing but I don’t see why they couldn’t use Pocahontas and create Earth to look how she sees it (colorful, majestic, and awesome). Pocahontas is used as one of the major parts of Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios so it’s not an out of sight and mind movie.

    Sorry for the long comment. I’ve just been waiting for years to hear what exciting expansion is coming to AK and this news is a giant let down for me.

  • Why something so non-Disney? Why not go with a new concept? Or a property that is Disney? This seems so Universal or Six Flags.

  • I can see how this would be exciting for fans of this movie but I’ve been hoping for a Star Wars themed land at Hollywood Studios. While Star Wars has nothing to do with Disney, the story has been with us for so long, we know the “history” of it, we love the characters. What kind of character interaction will we have, 9 ft tall Na’vi? The animals in Avatar seem too intense for children. Whatever they do, I know the Imagineers will do a wonderful job with the theming of the rich world of Avatar.

  • I don’t know what Joe Rohde thinks of the idea, but I would sure like to sit down for coffee with him on this one.

  • I have to say that this surprised me, but I think it is brilliant. While I didn’t care for the movie, a lot of people obviously did and the scenery was absolutely magnificent. Animal Kingdom will be a must stop now for a lot more people and I’m sure that is the point, getting more people and new people to visit the park and stay there all day. It will be so more far reaching, as demographics go, than a Beastly Kingdom or a Disney version of WWOHP could ever be.

  • This is sooo cool! I cannot wait to see this! WOW! I love the movie and you know for a fact if Disney in involved it will be done right and they will hold nothing back. So excited for this! Animal Kingdom is the PERFECT place for this awesome movie to come to life. Well done on getting this project! So excited! Make sure you do something where if you touch it at night it lights up. That was so cool when Jake spent his first night in the forest. SO COOL! Good Work Disney!

  • And given most of the critical comparisons that were made when the movie first came out, a historic character meeting between Neytiri and Pocahontas at the Conservation Station would be a memorable moment. 😉
    (In Avatar, the scene where Neytiri first gets a spiritual message from the Great Tree not to kill Jake Sully, my first thought sitting in the theater was…”It’s Grandmother Willow!”)

  • Will the next two Avatar movies be released under the “Disney” name or will this just be more of a partnership (ala Star Tours w/ George Lucas). I think some worlds match the Disney parks well (e.g. Star Tours, Autopia), but I have to admit I don’t see a very close connection here. Avatar seems more suited for the Universal brand. But, I’m a fan of what Disney does, so we’ll see!

  • For the people who think that Avatar does not ‘fit’ with AK, I personally think that Pandora universe is more close to AK than those carnival-style games and the Primeval Whirl spinning coaster that we find in Dinoland U.S.A.

  • This is absolutely amazing news – and I was not even the biggest Avatar fan – but I see amazing things for AK with this. And anyone who doesn’t like this idea because it is not “Disney” – have you been to Hollywood Studios before? Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Twilight Zone….let the Imagineers do what they do best. I am sure we will all be blown away.

  • I’ve always thought that attractions from Tarzan would be great in Animal Kingdom. The sequence where Tarzan and Jan escape the baboons would make a fabulous roller coaster concept, plus there is a lot that could be done with ape habitats, a show featuring the expedition (tools and music in the camp), and the jungle.

  • I, as one of disney parks biggest fans, visit WDW regularly and I am taking classes in High School to lead my way to be an Imagineer. However i don’t think ‘licensing’ is a good step for DAK’s future. I believe Disney as it’s own very independent company could have created a much better atmosphere for disney parks. Such as Wonderland from the billion dollar movie “alice in wonderland” i wish them the best of luck however i’m not exactly the most excited about this announcement.

  • I am kind of surpised as well. Avatar is a great idea, but I don’t think it should be in Animal Kingdom. It doesn’t seem to fit with the them of environmental conservation. That message kind of gets lost in the movie’s special effects. There are recent Disney/Pixar movies that speak this theme to kids in a much better way. What about Wall*E or Up? My son totally got what was going on in both movies, and we talk about the environment every time we watch the DVD. Avatar is cool, but why not put it in Hollywood Studios? I think it fits better there.

  • Well, one of the best parts of Avatar (in my opinion) was the magnificent setting. Wandering through those alien woods with all the black-lighting and strange creatures could be quite the experience, and there’s enough adventure in the movie to make any sort of ride work.

    Of course, I trust Disney to make anything an awesome attraction.

  • Awesome news we are waiting to see more info!

  • My family and myself are not to crazy about this. We have never seen the movie and no desire to see it. Just doesn’t interest us. We visit WDW several times a year, but I think this is one area we will be avoiding. I am really suprised at Disney. This sounds like they are trying to be like Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of HP.

  • I’m not sure what I think about this…on the one hand, I love the idea of what the Imagineers could do with this, and Animal Kingdom could certainly use the boost. On the other hand, I agree with many that Avatar is not a Disney concept and seems very much like an answer to HP. I think I would like the idea more if it were part of the abandoned Beastly Kingdom plan, and would definitely make more sense, but I don’t think there is much worry about the success of an Avatar addition. If they build it, we will come….

    Is there any projected completion date on this project? My daughter was nagging for a return trip and I was thinking on waiting until the Fantasyland reno was complete, but if this is in the works….

  • Disappointing, I’d rather have Beastly Kingdom.

  • This will be a good thing for Disney. Disney needs more stuff geared for boys and men. I love Avatar and this is exciting,I can’t wait to see the plans and I love that it’s being built in AK.

  • Interesting partnership. I was wondering if the Marvel-Disney partnership would pull content from Universal, but seems like a Cameron partnership would be beneficial.

  • Not sure how I feel about this. My first reaction is that this doesn’t really “fit” with AK. I guess the explanation (“to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways”) kinda makes sense, but I’m not completely sold (a little bit of a stretch IMO). Hopefully, Disney will prove myself and other skeptics of this idea wrong …

  • I was so excited after getting into the Trick or Meet-up event and now I have a knot in my stomach. I just don’t get this. I agree with the commenter that likened this to American Idol at the Studios – that was my first thought too. But you can make any entertainment vehicle fit at the Studios and it doesn’t seem to out of place. But Avatar at Animal Kingdom alongside Africa, Asia, Dinoland, Discovery Island and the Oasis? I also agree with the commenter who said Disney is losing its uniqueness. Now I understand why this wasn’t announced at the D23 Expo.

  • Absolutely amazing announcement. One of the biggest movies of all time coming to Disney.

    For the nay sayers, don’t criticize what you haven’t seen yet. Avatar is all about conservation of nature, a perfect fit for Animal Kingdom. Much more in the Animal Kingom theme than Finding Nemo or Dinosaurland ever will be.

    For the Wizarding World comparisons, I just don’t see it. Universal got a popular brand in Potter at the end of its run. With no more books or movies coming out, I can’t see people remaining interested for much longer. Avatar will continue for the forseeable future, and with the help of Disney, it can only add to the wonderment.

    Great news!!!

  • I have no issues with this not being a Disney film or property. My issue here is with the lack of original ‘from the ground up’ attractions coming to the parks. All of the projects that are new and upcoming are based on franchises. Cars Land, Fantasyland Expansion is all movie themed, all the new rides at California Adventure are surrounded by existing properties. Mickey Mouse, Goofy, The Little Mermaid.. It’s as if Disney has lost all confidence in Imagineering. I think we’re all starved for something original. I know I am..

  • Not a fan of this concept, particularly for DAK. I’m sure it will be beautifully done, but I’d far prefer a new area be themed to the animal life of another part of our planet. Australia perhaps.

  • Harry who? Seriously though, I can’t wait to be able to experience Pandora first hand! This will be a great addition to the Animal Kingdom!

    Who’s got two thumbs and is excited about this expansion? This guy!

  • So construction expected to begin by 2013. Thats a long long way from now.
    Hope it doesn´t include run of the mill coasters and cheap theming, we already have that in Animal Kingdom.
    I for one am not exicited by pocahontas/smurfs in space.

  • I am VERY excited about this. Animal Kingdom needs a new land and a bit of fantasy as promised with the original plans, and this satisfies both. AVATAR will make for one spectacular theme park area!

  • Um… I don’t know. I’m sure it’ll be interesting but I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the movie. Also not to be stating the obvious but it isn’t remotely Disney. I actually find the characters creepy. So yeah… I’m not too thrilled with this idea.

  • There is alot of talk about Avatar having a great environmental theme that Disney could use and yes, that it is true. BUT it simply is not a Disney movie. That’s the magic of Disney…don’t sell out. You have so many other great movies that have remained untapped. My 7yr old daughter was not even born when Pocahontas was released yet she loves it and is always looking for this princess. What about some great canoe water rides that showcase the animals and nautural surrounding from this movie? I can see in my head a Colors of the Wind themed ride using the animation that Disney is so good at.
    That’s just one untapped movie…. The Jungle Book would fit in this park perfectly too and there are so many ways that rides and attractions could be built from it.
    Sad about this choice Disney.

  • I have to say, I am very dismayed at this news. “Avatar” was a brilliant movie and offered a timely message – but it is not a good fit for Disney, especially at AK. Disney has such a wide body of its own material to choose from and expand upon – why go here? And in my opinion, in order to qualify for an entire ‘Land”, a theme or movie needs to have some type of staying power and an ability to inspire (and yes, I’m talking merchandising and household recongnition here) fans of all ages. There are so many better things Disney could do with the Beastly Kingdom section. Please re-think this!

  • WOW!!! I think the movie is a great fit with the Animal Kingdom with its themes of living with and respecting the land, I think it is perfect!

  • With the rich history of Disney I just wish they did not have to go outside the company for ideas.

  • So where in DAK are they putting this land?

  • I’m really on the fence with this decision to put an Avatar themed land inside Animal Kingdom. I’m all for expanding to different avenues, however, I also don’t feel that Avatar is the answer. Here is the million dollar question. Why was this not announced at the D23 Expo? Was Disney afraid of the mixed feelings of the partnership and of the new land?

    I’m excited that Disney has a new land in the works. It’s not going to be a driving force for me to go visit WDW the minute it opens. I’m more excited about the New Fantasyland Project and Carsland than this.


  • I would really, REALLY rather have Beastly Kingdom. I want to say this is a cool announcement, but I’m actually really disappointed.

  • To all of the people who are saying that Avatar doesn’t belong in the parks because it isn’t “Disney”, I would like to make a point;

    The Star Wars characters have had a prominent place in Disney parks for years. Most guests seem to be fine with that, so the idea of having other non-Disney characters in the parks is NOT a stretch. I think it would very cool.

    The imagineers are all adults and professionals, and as long as the characters and references are in an area that fits and makes sense, then we have nothing to worry about.

    Again, this is very similar to the Star Wars presence in the parks.

  • Ummmmmm, not really sure if I like this idea, but I always have hope that it will turn into something good. Will be listening for more info!

  • Avatar’s main theme was about oneness with nature, conservation and preservation. I think it fits well if done right.

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