Walt Disney’s Imagineers are busy remaking large swaths of one of the world’s most beautiful theme parks – Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Not only is James Cameron’s Avatar project coming to the park, but Africa’s Harambe Village is expanding, the Discovery Island hub is getting a variety of improvements (and a new Starbucks), and the river between Asia and Dino-land is becoming a stage for “Rivers of Light.”
In part one of our look at the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios we examined what changes have already been announced by Disney and those that are rumored to be in the offing. In short, depending on how much money Disney is willing to invest and how fast, Central Florida’s original studios park could be in for a massive makeover.
Before we go any further, I want to repeat, that I don’t have any particular insider knowledge of plans or upcoming announcements. What follows is my learned hypothesis based on available evidence and informed guesses (aka rumors) from sources I trust. Some of this is more speculation than solid info and I’ll try and indicate that when and where I can.
Let’s start with one piece of information that would be a natural result of the changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios losing its ‘studios’ theme. The name will have to change. I think there’s one clear favorite for a new name – Disney’s Hollywood Adventure. It captures the shift in theme from making movies, to being a part of them. Instead of learning how the movies are made, we get to celebrate them and all the magic they inspire. This will let the park keep its two main Hollywood themed thoroughfares, expand Pixar Place (which physically is in Emeryville, not Hollywood, but emotionally it’s the same place) and perhaps add on one or two others. You might see some other Hollywood icons come to the park. El Capitan theater, which Disney owns, and the Carthay Theater, which has ties to Disney history and Disney has used as California Adventure’s main icon seem like two likely candidates. But don’t expect them to get too carried away.
Of course, a new name like “Mickey’s Adventure Park” could come out of left field too. That would indicate the park is in for a major re-imagineering. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities, but not the strongest candidate at the moment either.
When people ask me about what’s going to happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I have a certain spiel I provide to give some context to the question. This will help set up some of the financial and timeline issues. The budgets that control those are almost always in flux until they’re not, and the attraction opens. Sometimes, Imagineers get creative with budgets and good things can happen too.
This all starts with some things Disney CEO Bob Iger had been saying to The Walt Disney Company’s investors, that after dropping a lot of money on DCA, New Fantasyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland, the capital expenditures (read: theme park expansion) would be vastly reduced for a few years with only Disney’s Animal Kingdom (for both Avatar and the Nighttime show additions) and Shanghai Disneyland getting the funds. If you look at Disney’s stock price right now you’ll see that investors are very happy with the company and expect its value to continue to rise. In their minds, Iger has been a great steward of their money. So they’re probably pretty psyched he’s planning on sticking around for another year or so.Read More »Disney’s Hollywood Studios – A Timeline for the Future (part II)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was originally envisioned as a full day park. Designers had included a large section of the park devoted to imaginary animals of the beastly kingdom. This land would have giant coasters, flying beasts, family friendly attractions, and really allow the Imagineers imaginations to go wild with the possibilities. Sadly, the budget for that area was cut and left to the dustbin of history.
But Disney has always known it would need to add to DAK eventually. If you look at the details for Avatarland, we are getting something close to the original idea for a land of fantasy creatures (just without the giant coaster, which ended up at Islands of Adventure when some Imagineers let go by Disney took their ideas to Universal). Just not the fantasy creatures you were expecting.
What’s clear is that DAK needs to expand its offerings into the night and that Pandora: The Worlds of Avatar (or whatever the name is these days) can be a big part of that. Just look at that concept art above. The potential of bio-luminescence is amazing. I don’t think Imagineers would release that art if they didn’t know they could pull it off. I urge fans who still have questions about Disney’s decision to partner with James Cameron and his Avatar movies to give Disney’s team a chance to add something amazing to DAK.
Early Saturday morning here in Orlando, but mid-day Japan time at the first D23 expo in that country, Disney revealed big news with the first concept art for the new AVATAR land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017. Today they’ve released the video James Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde filmed for the D23 announcement.
It highlights the creative work underway on the AVATAR-inspired land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The promise the new AVATAR-inspired land will be a transformational experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Sounds pretty good to me, what do you think?
Make sure you watch through. At the 3:00 mark there’s a preview of the ‘Soarin’ over Pandora’ attraction in pre-viz mode and then some wow moment bio-luminescence technology.
A few interesting frame caps from the video are below with my comments:
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).
Things are finally getting serious for the Avatarland expansion coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Last week Disney installed the portable offices for Imagineering and their contractors in a space over behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. But in order for construction of Avatarland to begin, Festival… Read More »Construction Update for Festival of The Lion King