Pandora: Could Disney Have Done Better?

Pandora: could Disney have done better?  The simple answer is no.   If you are expecting to be amazed when you visit the Valley of Mo’ara, then you won’t be disappointed.  I promise, It’s all you hope for and more.  For those who haven’t seen the Avatar movie, Pandora is so well imagined not knowing the ‘back story’ in advance doesn’t lessen the enjoyment or the experience.  Pandora is a rare thing, a place created from a movie that delivers to hard-core film fans that can also appeal to regular Disney fans.

Pandora at Walt Disney World
Water Cascades from floating rocks at Pandora

Disney’s multi million dollar gamble on Pandora, World of Avatar seems to be paying off. Animal Kingdom is now packed with guests keen to experience the newly created Na’vi world.  This park, sometimes considered only worthy of half a day, has always been a personal favourite of mine, even before the addition of the Valley of Mo’ara.  With Pandora, now open, I can confidently proclaim Animal Kingdom as the number two park at Disney World.  Magic Kingdom still commands the top slot.

Pandora, World of Avatar, is certainly a beauty.  The detail in the intricate realisation of plant life and landscaping is breath-taking. The Valley of Mo’ara nestles discreetly within Animal Kingdom park, only glimpsed once accessed by a bridge next to Tiffins restaurant.  From there Pandora gives up its beauty slowly.  As the path meanders onwards new vistas make way, gradually revealing the splendour of hanging rocks, water features and alien flora.

Pandora at Walt Disney World
Alien plants nestle within landscaped areas

Of course there is another show stopper within Pandora, the new attraction, Flight of Passage. This simulator ride is outstanding and has justifiably been creating long lines and high wait times as everyone tries to experience it.   It’s understandable that for guests arriving at Animal Kingdom’s gates the game plan is getting to Flight of Passage first and fast.  It’s a shame that this single-minded pursuit prevents new visitors from pausing in wonder at what has been achieved in creating Mo’ara.

Not only is Pandora stunning and photogenic but it’s as good after dark as any time during the day.  There is depth and scale.  At times it towers over you.  There are large-scale elements alongside the tiniest detail.  Great theming is what Disney does but this is Disney out doing itself and it’s hard to find fault.

My passion, other than Disney, is gardening.  I love plants and horticulture and especially garden design.  Stepping into this creation at Animal Kingdom was like walking through the best of Chelsea Flower Show exhibits.  Meticulously manicured and planted it is interspersed with alien plant species.  These are man-made creations, of course, but are still totally convincing and beautiful in their ugliness.  Some light up at night whilst others glow with the famous bioluminescence synonymous with Pandora in the film.   This place is quite incredible.  And when you add in the hard landscaping, the buildings and structures the whole thing just works, brilliantly.

pandora at Walt disney World
Lighting details carefully integrated into the design

I strongly urge all visitors to take the time to really look at this place, to enjoy it and savour it.  Doing that however, can be challenging.   The sheer volume of people packed in here can be prohibitive of subtle enjoyment.  But there are opportunities to feast the eyes, to stand and soak it all in with wonderment and to get some great photo’s to savour later.

Conclusion

Pandora is amazing, it’s an over used word but there is no other for it.  It is amazing.  In every sense of the word.   I salute Disney for their commitment to realising this special place.  If Disney had wanted they could have done half the work here and it still would have been pretty incredible.  Instead they went all out to achieve something totally unique and inspiring.  I have to give the Disney Imagineers team a huge round of applause.  And if this is how great Pandora is I can’t wait for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge to be realised!

 

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