In this last installment of my Pandora: World of Avatar series, I’ll explain the story behind the land, the shopping, and the entertainment.
Visitors to Animal Kingdom travel to Pandora via bridge, which once connected to a land called Camp Minnie-Mickey. Camp Minnie-Mickey didn’t have any attractions (except for Festival of the Lion King, before that moved to a new theater in Africa), but it did have a lot of character meet-and-greets, and the Kid’s Club where I often worked as a Professional Intern. I don’t think anyone besides myself was sad to see the land go.
After crossing the bridge (and traveling 4.4 light years away), and reaching the “Valley of Mo’ara” on Pandora, you are visiting the land which is set a century after the events of the movie Avatar. In the film, there was a warring conflict between the Na’vi and the RDA (Resources Development Administration), a.k.a the “bad guys” who sought to destroy the beauty and natural resources of Pandora for its “unobtanium,” a valuable and rare type of material not found on Earth.
Now, however, the RDA have left Pandora and the Na’vi alone, and the Na’vi have achieved peace with humans. Gunships and robotic armor are still there, but they are rusting and derelict. Humans are welcomed to Mo’ara, which is home to the Omaticaya Clan (the same tall, blue aliens we saw in the movie). Amongst the décor of the land are elements from crafters in Indonesia, Java, and Sumatra.
In comes Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE), which is a fictional tourism company that has teamed up with the Na’vi to allow visitors to enter Pandora. ACE has established the “Pandora Conservation Initiative” to preserve and study the native plant and animal life of Pandora. ACE has set up a base camp in the Valley, and work to undo the destruction made by the RDA.
The Cast Members in Pandora are part of ACE, and help guests understand the language and customs of the Na’vi. They are also there to show guests the visual wonders of Pandora, including the floating mountains, the bioluminescent plants (achieved through an amazing combination of color lighting, fiber optics, and black light effects), and the mixture of real Earth plant species with the sculpted Pandora flora.
Some of the plant life on Pandora actually responds to interaction from the guests. For instance, motion sensor technology allows guests to rub a large plant, the Baja Tickler, near the entrance to the land, which emits oxygen that allows humans to breathe in an alien environment. Audio recordings hidden amongst the leaves create many plant and animal noises throughout the land, so it really feels as though you have entered a different world.
While, to me, this land does not feel as immersive as Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, or Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando, the Imagineers at Disney still did a very good job at creating a gorgeous and fun environment for guests of all ages, while staying true to the movie and the environmental message behind Animal Kingdom.
The main shop in Pandora is Windtraders, which is located at the exit to Flight of Passage. Here, guests can buy toys, science kits, Na’vi cultural items, Na’vi clothes, and even an Avatar figure of themselves (for a hefty price). I loved the different woven objects and gems you could buy, and some of the bioluminescent shirts and accessories were pretty cool. You can even buy Na’vi ears and a tail. This store is absolutely huge, and very immersive.
The main draw of the shop are the baby banshees, which visitors can “adopt” and carry on their shoulders. After paying the adoption fee, you can walk around with your own little banshee and control them by making their mouths move and their wings flap. I’m not sure where you would use these outside of Pandora, but it is a lot like the wands they sell in the Harry Potter lands over at Universal- they’re one of a kind, but not practical outside of the theme park. The banshees provide great theming, lots of fun, and when you see them, it’s hard to not want one.
Even Windtraders has a story to it- during the conflict between the Na’vi and the RDA, the store was originally a base camp. ACE had it stripped down and redesigned, but over time, nature had taken over the building. That’s why, when you walk around the store, you will see roots growing inside. The Na’vi items on display come from Na’vi traders, who trade with clans all over Pandora.
You can find another small shop/stand in this section of the park, as well as Colors of Mo’ara, which is a face painting kiosk. Here, kids can get their faces painted to look like a Na’vi.
The entertainment in Pandora was the least appealing part, in my opinion. For me, the attractions and the atmosphere were enough. However, there is a “show” of sorts that visitors can partake in, which is a drum circle in Swotu Waya (a musical area of Pandora, which is considered sacred to the Na’vi).
Music also plays a big part in the Na’vi River Journey Attraction, where you meet the Shaman of Songs and learn how music connects all living things on Pandora. During the drum circle show, local Pandoran expat musicians perform a traditional Na’vi drum ceremony several times during the day. When they aren’t playing, guests can bang on the drums themselves, which allows them to communicate with Ewya, the Na’vi deity.
As an Anthropologist, I loved how the culture of the land connected to the atmosphere and the rides. However, I don’t know how much guests understand (or are willing to take the time to learn) all there is to know about Pandora. I doubt anyone knows what the ACE symbols are all about, and why music is so important. Most visitors just want to know how long the line for Flight of Passage is. And that’s okay- the story of Pandora: World of Avatar will always be there for those willing to learn, and the ACE researchers are always happy to explain the culture of the Na’vi to Animal Kingdom guests.
For those wondering, there is a “moss wall” in Pandora that has become an Instagram sensation. I was there on a very busy night and a very busy morning, and sadly, did not get a picture in front of this wall. However, there is always next time!
Is there another land (in any park) you’d like me to delve into next?
Hugs and Fishes,