At the recent D23 (Disney’s official fan club) expo in Japan, it was announced that the still under-construction Pandora section of Animal Kingdom will include a family-friendly canoe ride called the Na’vi River Journey.
This new attraction will allow park visitors to get an up close and personal view of the environment and creatures first introduced in the Oscar-winning 2009 film, Avatar. As guests venture down the sacred river during the Na’vi River Journey, they will be cast in purple and blue hues as the bioluminescent rainforest springs to life around them. The journey comes to an end upon encountering a Na’vi shaman, who has a strong connection to the life force of the Pandora landscape. She will be sending positive energy throughout the entirety of the rainforest with the music she makes, a portrayal that rings true with the spirituality of the Na’vi people originally presented in the film.
Though the details surrounding Animal Kingdom’s Pandora are rather elusive, a 2017 opening date can be expected for the Na’vi River Journey, along with the rest of Pandora. Disney originally announced the Pandora Project in September of 2011, with construction beginning in early 2014.
Also recently announced for Pandora is an attraction called Avatar Flight of Passage, an experience meant to simulate flying with banshees (if you don’t remember, those are the giant dragon-like creatures the Na’vi people fly around with). Speculation has run rampant around this ride, with some saying that the technology employed with be similar to what Universal Studios used for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. Guests with young children will probably be more apt to ride the Na’vi River Journey — the banshees and technology used for Avatar Flight of Passage does not sound like it is geared towards younger children.
Other Animal Kingdom attractions that are currently being worked on are Rivers of Light (the Animal Kingdom Equivalent to Magic Kingdom’s Wishes firework show or Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic), a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro safaris and live performances on the park’s Discovery River.
ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: If you’re staying on Disney property, be sure to book those fast passes early! Resort guests get first dibs on fast passes up to 60 days before their hotel check-in date, while annual pass holders don’t get access until 30 days before their visit. In the past, when Disney has opened new attractions (most recently, Mine Train at Magic Kingdom), the queues have been outrageously long, with wait times regularly running higher than two hours on particularly busy days. Folks who purchase day passes have virtually no chance of snatching up the limited number of fast passes offered for these new, big ticket attractions such as Na’vi River Journey, so odds are, they’ll have to endure the lengthy wait. Resort guests, take advantage! Animal Kingdom has limited ride offerings as it is, so these new additions are bound to be swarmed!