I heard and said the word "wow" on Wednesday more times than I could count. The reason for awe and excitement was a preview of Disney Park's Pandora: The World of Avatar. Nestled into Animal Kingdom, the new area themed to James Cameron's Avatar takes visitors to the floating mountains in the Valley of Mo'ara. With intensive amounts of detail and two attractions--the E ticket Flight of Passage and the Na'vi River Journey--the 12 acre land breathes life into the world introduced in the 2009 film.
Cameron was on hand for the preview and told Nerdist exploring the new land and riding Flight of Passage was quite the experience. "Halfway through [Flight of Passage], I was thinking, 'This is a dream. I'm dreaming with my eyes open. I'm fully conscious and I'm in a dream.'"
He worked with Imagineering on the land and attractions, but he complimented how they took his ideas and made them real. He said, "You're walking through a work of art. The thing that I like to remind people is that it's a work of art that reminds us and triggers our sense of beauty and wonder. And where did all that originate? With the beauty and wonder in our own world."
Since the theme park area does go beyond the world we encountered in Avatar, it has hints for future films. For example, Flight of Passage features the ocean and water creatures. Cameron said, "The oceans play a big part in the future film. You saw one that would give people a glimpse."
And side note, though a prequel to Avatar was at one point going to be part of the upcoming film slate, it's tabled for now. "A prequel is in the distant future works. If I live long enough, we'll jump back and we'll start with the first expedition to Pandora, the first landing the first contact," Cameron said, "Because to me the first contact story is a potentially amazing story. But the four sequels that are written and that we're doing now actually carry forward from the events of the movie but are in the past of the land."
Even though the story of Pandora: The World of Avatar is set far into the future, it's still inspiring the actors. Sigourney Weaver is set to appear in the sequels and told us, "For the character I am playing, being here in Pandora, and especially that ride which gives me such an intimate experience with all the nature and all the creatures and everything--it's incredibly valuable for me because of what I need to do."
She also had nothing but praise for the scripts for the Avatar sequels. "I think the scripts are each so extraordinary. I mean, I was an English major so I'm very tough on scripts. I was just floored, each script floored me about as much as that ride did. It was so meaningful, moving, funny, scary, it's extraordinary storytelling," she said.
Now, let's look at seven especially cool and/or weird food and merchandise you can get inside Pandora: World of Avatar.
Want to make a beverage look like it's from another planet? Add boba balls. They're part of a few items on the food and drinks menu because they add a different shape and texture. The frozen Night Blossom beverage has limeade, apple, and desert pear flavors. It's not too sweet, it's very refreshing, and it's made for photos.
Disney Parks and Stores sell a plethora of baby versions of their characters wrapped in blankets. I have a baby Baymax that's to die for. In Pandora, you can get a baby Na'vi of your very own to cuddle.
Vein Pod Krispy
The candy inside the gift shop, Windtraders, is themed to plant and animal specimens inside Pandora. One such snack is the Vein Pod Krispy, modeled on the vein pods you'll see around the area. They're an important plant that helps detoxify the air so humans can breathe without help from masks.
Get a Banshee
If you want a banshee of your very own, you can get matched with one through a special process. The wand chooses its wizard, and the banshee chooses its human. For $49.99, you can acquire a pal to sit on your shoulder and control with a few puppet movements.
Hawkes' Grog Ale
Green. Beer. Yep.
If you want to dress like an Avatar or a Na'vi, you can purchase a tail to wear--and also ears and accessories. I don't know how to feel about that.
If you find yourself with a sweet tooth while in Pandora, go to the Satu'li Canteen and get the blueberry cream cheese mousse. The design aspects are lovely, and the dessert is light and just right for a hot day (which seem to be most days in Florida).
Don't forget to soar on down to the gallery below for additional food and merchandise photos from Pandora--including Na'vi onesies and so much more.
And finally, if you're into this sort of thing, I saw two hidden Mickeys in Pandora. Hidden Mickeys are the three circles of Mickey Mouse heads tucked into kind of subtle places around the parks. I spotted this one on the ground by a mossy wall directly in front of Windtraders:
A friend noticed this Mickey hanging from the tree in the exit of Flight of Passage. As you head into Windtraders (because of course the attraction leads to a gift shop), look up and into the tree on the left.
I saw what I think is a hidden Mickey in Flight of Passage, too, but you have to be pretty centered in your flight to view it. The Mickey shows up in the cave on the floor when all the pink circles glow. If you're in the center, the hidden Mickey is to the left.
Will you be visiting Pandora after it opens on Saturday, May 27? Tell me in the comments.
Images: Amy Ratcliffe, Aaron Fairbanks