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

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:


  • I loved that movie. I remember watching it and saying, I would love to live their! Definitely stoked about the upcoming arrival of Avatar!

  • I for one can’t wait. My grandsons will be old enough to go and remember all the wonderful things at DisneyWorld. I love the movie and can’t wait for the imagination on this ride.

  • I have never been as excited about a new Disney ride as I am this one. Avatar has become a routine addiction in my repeat film watching — for its beauty, its philosophy, its phenomenal achievement in filmmaking, and for Cameron’s visionary dedication in creating unique and groundbreaking art. I saw Avatar in an Imax theatre the first time — and anyone who didn’t seriously missed out! I’ll be getting an annual pass for Disneyland once again…and many thanks to James Cameron for this next Great Gift…

  • Is there a name for the new area yet? Hope that will be as creative and evocative as the area itself?

  • It’s a bit saddening to hear many people refer to DAK as a “half day park”. If one takes the time to marvel at the detail and beauty, stroll the exploration trails, speak with keepers and vets at Conservation Station, and converse with the amazing cultural representatives, I think it’s more than enough to fill a day! True, we have our zoos back home, but in terms of quality themed exhibits and animal care standards, DAK is on par with the San Diego Zoo. Plus, it has some of the best thrill rides in the resort!

    That being said, it’s nice to see DAK getting some attention. I’m most excited for the DAK-after-dark festivities!

  • Looks fantastic !

    Just in time for my 60th birthday in 2017 🙂

    A little concerned about the night time shows etc planned for AK as I thought the reason that they had been missing all this time was so that the animals were not disturbed/frightened by them ? How will this be got around please?

  • I agree with all the above comments. It looks amazing! Another reason for AK to be a top contender for guest visits. I just am hoping for some new attractions at EPCOT and the Studios. Although the return of the Wonders of Life Pavilion and Cranium Command would not hurt either 😛

    Also, I agree with Jason as posted above regarding the night time entertainment, speaking as a veterinary student, aren’t there welfare concerns for the animals?

  • Looks great! I hope the work in Animal Kingdom will restore the Yeti to work as originally designed!

  • I echo a couple other people and wonder: how are they able to accommodate the nighttime activities when most of us thought that the reason the park closed early was because of the animals?

  • Wow, Tom Staggs himself posted this. I just realized that. It’s so cool to see a big executive on here. Means he’s reading and listening to us fans. Keep up the great job Tom!!!

  • Is there a name for the new area yet? “Avatarland” sounds silly, but some places have been using “PAJIJCA”, as a shorthand for “Pandora: A Journey into James Cameron’s Avatar.”

  • The nighttime show on water screens sounds very similar in concept to World of Color in Disney California Adventiure.

    The Kilimanjaro Safari at night will be fun.

  • Is it early 2017 yet?

  • Simply amazing. Congrats and goodluck to all the lmagineers, I bet it will turn out amazing! Good to hear Disney expanding on these great projects! Can’t wait!

  • omg this is so exciting! 2017 here we come, my daughter will be turning 4 that year!

  • Is there a time frame for the nighttime show or the nighttime Safari? Will the new land be called “Pandora”?

  • Coolness factor aside, I thought one of the reasons AK didn’t have nighttime entertainment (and closed earlier than the other parks) was to not affect the natural nighttime activities/sleep of the animals. To have nighttime safaris, won’t you have to install lighting in the savannah?

  • awesome! The concept art looks epic! And new Nighttime entertainment in Disney Animal Kingdom looks awesome as well! I love it!

  • Tom – We’d love if Disney could post a map of exactly where this land will be going in Animal Kingdom. It would give everyone a sense of scale about where and how big this land is really going to be. Just something preliminary would be great!

  • I’m happy to see the park grow – but I’m just not sold on the Avatar concept. It doesn’t have the longevity and mass appeal of Star Wars or Marvel Comics franchises. Now – Disney will grant it immortality I don’t think it deserves. I adore Animal Kingdom, because of the ANIMALS. Walt himself loved wildlife, travel to exotic locales, and safaris. But I don’t see where actual animals will fit into this new design.

  • Looks pretty darn cool! Its nice to see some artwork and models.

    Tom– I really hope that there will soon be some announcements about new attractions for the Disneyland Resort in California! 🙂

  • I’m really not that interested in the AVATAR expansion and never have been. I’d rather see non-franchise related content come to the park. But that being said, I’m so glad Animal Kingdom is finally getting more attractions. Speaking of which, I’m way more excited about the entertainment coming to the park! That night time show looks like it’ll be fantastic!!

  • I think this brings Animal Kingdom (which I already love) more in line with the original WDI vision. There are unicorns for a reason, and the fantasy aspect is what has been missing there. I’m thrilled about the expansion, especially since it includes a nighttime safari experience!

  • Can’t wait to see this. I know something of this magnitude will take time to execute properly, but that’s going to be one long wait. 😉 That said, I’d rather wait and see it done in true Disney magic style than rushed. I’m also looking forward to the nighttime shows. This will definitely make AK a full day park and the kids will be old enough to really appreciate it.

  • Simply incredible. I’ll be purchasing annual passes when this is finished.

  • Wow! Wow! Wow! The concept art looks incredible! So looking forward to this!

  • Wow! Wow! Wow! The concept art looks beautiful! Will the banshee ride be an E-ticket? When do you expect construction to begin? So looking forward to this. Hopefully by 2017 I’ll be working at Disney World! (my dream job)! Thanks again Mr. Staggs!!

    • Hi Jackson, yes, riding a Banshee will definitely be an “E-ticket” attraction unlike any our guests have ever experienced. We’re excited about making AVATAR real for our guests, and everything about the land will fully immerse them in the story …­ from floating mountains to the bioluminescent plants to experiencing what it feels like to ride a Banshee.

  • While this looks amazing, and I look forward to it, it was always my understanding that the park closed before dark due to the need for the animals to rest. What’s up with all the new night time stuff?

  • In my opinion Animal Kingdom really, really needed this :). Any chance we will see similar investments into Epcot and Hollywood Studios? Please :)?

  • Was on the fence when Avatarland was first announced because I couldn’t envision how the amazing graphics in the movie would translate into a land at AK. The concept art looks fantastic!! Also excited about a night safari and night entertainment on Discovery River.

  • Amazing! Hopefully we’ll get some news for how Star Wars will be incorporated into the parks soon as well (A “Star Wars Land” in Hollywood Studios would really make the Walt Disney World Resort a mecca for sci-fi/fantasy fans- they might have to add a Sci-Fi themed resort hotel).

  • Looks amazing, but I just don’t know if Avatar has cemented itself as something in pop culture that will have the timelessness or longevity required, much less the guaranteed popularity.

    Now that Disney owns Star Wars, I would LOVE to see this treatment given to a galaxy far far away, x10!

  • I’m so excited about this expansion…can’t wait to experience Pandora. And I’m very pleased to see all the positive comments here about it. I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long!!! :o)

  • I still think this is a mistake and Disney will regret this decision. Guess I’ll have to wait until it’s finished to pass final judgment, but I am very skeptical at this point. Probably because I am not a fan of the movie Avatar.

  • WOW! My granddaughter is “5” and loves Avatar ~ she likes Animal Kingdom but now she is going to LOVE it because of this addition ~ her new favorite word is: “Creativity” ~ can’t wait to show her this blog – to witness her EXCITEMENT ~ On the move Disney ~ I expect nothing less from the visionaries at the helm of Disney.

  • The concept art looks epic. Any idea of a projected opening date right now?

    • As you might expect, we want to be able to open these new attractions as soon as possible. Having said that, this is a big endeavor, and we currently expect them to open in early 2017. Stay tuned, as we look forward to sharing more about the expansion as it progresses.

  • Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic! It will be a huge blessing to the entire economy in Central Florida. Where else can you see floating mountains! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

  • I love Animal Kingdom, and these enhancements to the park are going to be awesome. It is going to be a real joy to explore Pandora.

  • That’s very good it will also be my favorite park the movie is excellent, also the love for animals is so me love u guys for this.

  • Well,

    Congrats guys…you’ve officially convinced me to buy some plane tickets in about 2-3 years…:)

    I wish all the Imagineers the best of luck and my heartfelt hope that all will turn out great…

    It looks beautiful!

  • I thought that the reason AK closes so early (compared to the other parks) was to accommodate the needs of the animals. Is that true? If so, will they be changing anything with the animals or their care because of these nighttime activities?

  • Extraordinary beautiful artwork! Not a big fan of the movie but this looks amazing. Now lets take no longer than 2 years and get this open by the end of 2015! Disney is more than capable of doing this – no more New Fantasyland turtle pace!

  • This looks excellent. I hope the ride with the banshees will be like Sorin but with 3D.

  • Thank goodness this is going in Walt Disney World and not Disneyland Resort!

  • What was that song by Berlin in the 80s? “Take my breath away”? Well, Orlando has taken my breath away with these pictures. This is so exciting. I cannot wait to be exploring on the planet Pandora and meeting all the avatars. I’m going to have to remember to pack my autograph book for a trip through space! I love that we’re going to get a chance to see a nightime show in Animal Kingdom and maybe even take a night safari!

  • I really hope this doesn’t take too long to make…but I have a feeling it won’t be done until closer to 2020. It is quite an ambitious undertaking.

  • It is an understatement of how excited I am for this right now. Animal Kingdom will quickly become my favorite theme park.

  • Really looking forward to AVATAR and the nighttime concepts for the park! Really hoping for these rides to turn out as good as they look! Can’t wait to spend an evening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

  • These are beautiful! That water ride will be amazing!

    I’m dreaming of the food we will get to eat in this land. 🙂

  • Let the whiners complain. I for one, was excited before this announcement, and now I am ecstatic! I can’t wait to experience this! I enjoyed the movie – although didn’t LOVE it – but who cares? This is going to make Animal Kingdom the full day park it deserves to be!

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