We’ve all seen the concept art for Beastly Kingdom, it was to be glorious. But it also never actually came to be. Instead we were left with Camp Minnie-Mickey whose only saving grace was The Lion King and the fact that Animal Kingdom opened with next to nothing to do so ya might as well wander into the place named after the most famous mouse couple in history. Who would have known then that it would take AVATAR for the legend of dragons to turn from a distant lore into an Animal Kingdom theme park reality.
Many a Disney fan has questioned whether AVATAR is a good fit for Animal Kingdom and it is a worthy topic but too often some of those fans have dismissed AVATAR as if it wasn’t the highest grossing film of all time. There are many reasons why AVATAR makes sense for Disney and let’s not forget what the power of Disney can do for AVATAR as well. The truth is that even if AVATAR lived up to the worst nightmares of some Disney naysayers it would be a monumental improvement over what was there before. That might be the biggest understatement I’ve ever published on this site. I mean just look at the satellite imagery below as the footprint alone, before and after begins to tell the story of just how important this new land will be for the long-term success of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A theme park transitioning away from its days as a dreaded half-day park into one that might be worthy of that coveted, first theme park you visit on your vacation slot.
Camp Minnie-Mickey was The Lion King and not much else.
AVATAR at Animal Kingdom is a whole other beast.
With Camp Minnie-Mickey now well into the past, the question was where do we go from here? Where will the world of AVATAR take us and how. Soon with Screamscape and other publications we began to get our answer as plans leaked (or more likely were planted) online showing the new attractions’ blueprints. It showed four circular screens surrounding what would necessarily be a multi-level ride system. It showed that the E-ticket attraction in Animal Kingdom’s AVATAR themed land would likely make use of 3-D glasses and include the climbing of stairwells (outside of the two ADA compliant theaters) unlike Soarin’ where guests all board at ground level before being whisked into the sky and in front of the giant movie screen. Things here would be different and early word from Disney was that it would be more advanced.
But why stop at one ride when you can have two? The leaked plans showed the indoor section of the new C-ticket water ride attraction that we believe now will be a calm family ride introduction into the world of Pandora. As for that upgraded Soarin’-styled E-ticket, well you are riding a Banshee and last time we checked that always makes for a beautiful but heart-pumping adventure and since motion simulators have advanced since Soarin’ debuted about a decade ago we have a feeling you can expect more than just a gentle sway in the breeze as you get with the Epcot/Disney California Adventure attraction.
Fast forward to 2015 with construction peeking over the trees at Disney’s Animal Kingdom it was getting to be about that time that we go in for a closer look at this massive new concept turning into reality. What we’ve seen coincides quite nicely with the drawings but when you put metal to the sky suddenly things get real, real fast. We are still a bit away from floating mountains but we can’t help but get excited with the sight of new Disney Imagineering coming to Walt Disney World.
From these latest grabs from Google Earth taken February 18, 2015, you can clearly see just how expansive AVATAR at Animal Kingdom will be. You can also see the beginnings of the massive building that will house the four separate theaters along with the footprint for the water-based attraction. Needless to say things are getting serious at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I for one will say, it’s about time. This land could serve as the draw to a theme park with absolutely wonderful underpinnings that often go unnoticed because people tend to focus understandably on what it lacks. But when the park’s offerings get rounded out with this major addition and the other relatively minor ones that will precede it, suddenly people will begin to find Animal Kingdom has so much to offer and its been right within reach this whole time. That is the potential for AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But let’s face it this is Da Mouse so we needed more construction photos and well we aren’t ones to disappoint.
Don’t you just love the sound of construction telling you that new magic is on the way? We thought so and though it wasn’t the most picturesque Florida day, one look at this beautiful Pandora’s box and I was totally captivated. You can see the theater’s basic layout is taking shape with the internal corridors/support structures largely in place. The roof for the E-ticket was installed recently, as you might have noticed it wasn’t there in the Google Earth images snapped just this past February. The outer walls shall soon enclose this structure from the prying eyes of our cameras but it also will mark a major milestone for AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
So now that you’ve seen Pandora’s box, we hope you will tell us what you think about it in the comments below but first we know you are wondering what exactly might find its way inside this building. Just what will the ride vehicles be? While at this point we can’t say for sure, all signs seem to point to one of Disney’s favorite ride manufacturers – Vekoma.
Looking at the visualization of Vekoma’s I-Ride simulator system you see something that fits the bill for this attraction quite nicely. Multi-leveled? Check. Curved screen? Check. Though we can’t be sure, at the very least it gives one a great idea of what may be coming soon to an Animal Kingdom near you.
This sure looks like an upgraded Soarin’ system that would fit perfectly into the designed space seen in the blueprints and more recently in our own construction photos. Could all the pieces be coming together before our very eyes? Only time shall tell, but that photo above alone has me filled with anticipation.
And now comes the hard part – the wait. This AVATAR themed land at Animal Kingdom has asked us to wait for far too long but could it be worth it? What if the James Cameron AVATAR sequels that hit theaters turn out to be blockbuster hits and perhaps better films than the original? Won’t it be great that Joe Rohde and other Walt Disney Imagineers have brought to life a world of fantasy like no other, into our reality at Walt Disney World. It may not be the beastly you were hoping for but it just might be the Kingdom that Animal Kingdom needs circa 2017.