I attended an Annual Passholder Preview for Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’m going to start this post off with some spoiler-free thoughts on the new land. Then I’ll get into more detail and spoilers after that, so if you want to be surprised when you visit Pandora don’t read past the first few paragraphs of our review of the Pandora: The World of Avatar.
Pandora: The World of Avatar Overview
The first thing that will strike you when you cross the bridge from Discovery Island into Pandora is the scale and size of it all. It’s like you’re really stepping onto another planet. The landscaping here is beautifully done with a mix of real earthly plants and some alien plants from Pandora. The Imagineers undoubtedly succeeded at creating a place the feels like nothing else ever seen at Walt Disney World and immediately transporting you to Pandora. This sets a new bar placemaking in themed entertainment.
The attractions are equally as immersive. The Na’vi River Journey is an enjoyable family-friendly attraction the takes you through the bioluminescent forests of Pandora. Avatar Flight of Passage is an exciting flight through the world of Pandora. This ride is the more intense of the two and will instantly become a top attraction at Walt Disney World. While these attractions must have immense indoor show buildings, none of this can be seen from inside the land. They have been expertly hidden behind rock work and landscaping.
There is a quick service restaurant on Pandora, Satu’li Canteen, as well a drink stand that also serves a delicious snack, Pongu Pongu. All of the food I tried on Pandora was excellent. Satu’li Canteen is now the best quick service restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom by far and could be considered the best quick service restaurant in Walt Disney World. The food was that good.
Merchandise and Shopping
There is one merchandise location on Pandora, Windtraders. This was a great shop because everything sold here was unique to this store. (UPDATE: Now a couple of other stores in Animal Kingdom sell the same merchandise)
Ok here come the spoilers, so if you want to be surprised when you first visit you might want to stop reading and come back after you’ve experienced it for yourself.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the most exciting attractions to come to Walt Disney World. It’s like a combination of Soarin’ and Star Tours which basically combines to Soarin’ on steroids. Similar to Soarin, it’s a motion simulator where everyone is placed in front of a huge IMAX size screen. However, unlike Soarin’ you’re sitting on a “Link Chair” which moves you up, down, and side to side to amplify the sensation of motion. The Link Chairs are lined up in a row, but once the action starts you won’t even notice the people beside you. It’s that immersive!
In the context of the story, the “Link Chair” is connecting you to your Avatar. You’ll be experiencing everything as if you were your Avatar. You’ll feel the breadth of Banshee beneath you. You’ll Smell the environment of Pandora and feel the spray of mist as you fly past waterfalls. These elements are all seamlessly integrated into a realistic flight around Pandora. Along the way, you’ll come across familiar creatures from the 2009 film and others which were not in the original film. This might be a sneak peek into the planned sequels.
This attraction has the most detailed queue I have ever seen at any theme park. It could be a walkthrough attraction on its own. You’ll start by making your way up the mountains and then into some caves. There’s a section of the queue that takes you through a bioluminescent forest, but the real highlight is the researcher’s labs. Guests can view experiments that the scientists have been working on and see a full-sized Avatar floating in some sort of container. The last room you’ll travel through is the Banshee tracking room. This is where the researchers can track the flights of all their Avatars. You can view a video below of the complete queue and preshow experience.
Na’vi River Journey
Na’vi River Journey is a slow, gentle boat ride through the bioluminescent forest. It culminates in seeing the Shaman of Songs performing a ritual song to honor Eywa. Unfortunately, that’s really all there is to this seven minute ride. Unfortunately, this attraction was a little underwhelming, but that might just be because I was expecting more. They could have had some animatronics of the creatures of Pandora and some surprises to make it a little more exciting. However, the ride has no surprises and most of the creatures were depicted via projection. It’s still a good ride that should be enjoyable for the whole family. However, I felt there were some missed opportunities.
Like I said above, this is now the best counter service restaurant in the Animal Kingdom. The quality of the food was outstanding. Additionally, there are near endless combinations that you can come up with. Guests can choose a protein (Grilled Chicken, Grilled Beef, Fish, or Fried Tofu), a base (Potatoes, Quinoa, Rice and Gains, or Romain and Kale Salad) and a sauce. There’s also Cheeseburger Steamed Pods and Vegetable Curry Steamed Pods on the menu. I had the Grilled Steak over Romain and Kale with Chimichurri Sauce and thought it was prepared perfectly. In addition, I tried the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse and Pandoran Sunrise (tropical juices blended with Powerade Melon). In conclusion, I don’t think you could go wrong with anything on the menu here.
I haven’t had breakfast here yet. However, this should be a good option for breakfast especially if the quality is up to what they serve for lunch and dinner. The menu has items such as Steak and Eggs, the Breakfast Steamed Pod, and the French Toast. (UPDATE: Satu’li Canteen has stopped offering breakfast.)
Pongu Pongu is a small drink stand between the Windtraders gift shop and Satu’li Canteen. They serve refreshing frozen beverages and a unique selection of beers. We tried the Night Blossom, a Mixture of Limeade with Apple and Desert Pear flavors topped with Passion Fruit Boba Balls. Additionally, we tried the Pongu Lumpi, a pineapple cream cheese spring roll. The Night Blossom was very good, combining sweet flavors of apple and pear with the tangy lime flavor. Likewise, Pongu Lumpia was very delicious. It combines the sweet and savory flavors of the pineapple with the fried casing. In conclusion, Pongu Pongu is a great place to stop for a snack.
Windraders is Pandora’s gift shop. It’s located at the exit of Avatar Flight of Passage. However, you can also enter it through the entrance next to Pongu Pongu. This store is full of unique items that can only be purchased in Pandora (UPDATE: Some merchandise is now available in other Animal Kingdom shops).
Guests can purchase (or adopt) their own Banshee (puppet) that will perch on their shoulder. The Banshee is operated by a handheld control that can move the head, wings, and mouth. Just a word of caution, I had to try three different Banshees before finding one that would work correctly, so be sure to test yours out before purchasing (or adopting as the castmembers will say). There are some other cool things for sale like Na’vi Language Translators and trading cards, floating unobtainium, and an Avatar figure with your own face on it. In addition, they sell plants and snacks that look like they might be found on Pandora. See below for pictures from the shop.