Avatar Revealed in New Concept Art and Model for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Disney Parks Chair Tom Staggs was the first to reach out to Director James Cameron with the idea to bring the worlds of Avatar to life at Disney’s theme parks. At Japan’s D23 event, Staggs shared the most details yet about the exciting plans for the first Avatar-land to be built at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Currently scheduled to open in 2017, Avatar will take guests to the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s Avatar. The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bio-luminescence rainforests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch. The Avatar-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.

Four pieces of concept art and one photo of Staggs, Cameron and Imagineer Joe Rohde were published. These appear to confirm many of the rumors about the land, including the presence of a boat ride and an emphasis on the bioluminescent glowing plants night effects that wowed so many in the movies. Guests will also be able to soar into the sky on the backs of a Banshee. The latter, is expected to be a motion platform projection movie experience similar to Soarin’ but with the latest digital technology (and most-likely 3D).

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Staggs also revealed the addition of long rumored night time additions to Animal Kingdom. The park will get its first water show combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens, and swirling animal imagery viewable from the banks for the Discovery River. The night will be transformed with lights as live performers circulate through Discovery Island and there will be a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction.

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Update: just added high-resolution versions of the above concept art to this photo set on Flickr.

For everyone who is wondering why Disney hasn’t announced the much rumored changes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT yet, it’s because Disney announced Avatar-land first. They really owed their fans and investors an update and proof that there really is something to be excited about. Yes, I know many fans fall into the ‘meh’ camp when it comes to Avatar, but I think it will add some much needed pull to the park. Think of Avatar like a giant ‘Weenie’ (which in Walt’s parlance is that thing which draws in the customers (like a carnival barker, but usually visual)) for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It will get people to visit who otherwise wouldn’t give “Disney’s Zoo” a second glance. PLUS, the rest of today’s announcement would be exciting all by itself. A night time water show with lights, music and water screens (using the latest technology instead of the decades old stuff Fantasmic uses), plus a night time overlay for Discovery Island. By themselves those would be big announcements.

What do you think of the concept art and attractions for Avatar? Also, are you excited for the other night time additions coming to the park? Will Avatarland and new Disney’s Animal Kingdom night time shows and Safari be enough to answer Universal’s Harry Potter? Or do they still need to expand DHS and EPCOT?