5 Big Questions We Have About Disney’s Animal Kingdom Pandora Expansion

By Cassie

When Walt Disney World announced the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history, of course we all had lots of questions. We learned that the expansion will feature AVATAR inspired attractions, dining, etc. We know that it will be something purposely designed to be even more stunning at night and that fits with the park’s goal to become one guests will want to be in for an entire day, and evening. There will be nighttime spectacular entertainment added as well as a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris. We will have three new AVATAR sequel films that will renew interest in the mythical land of Pandora. The typical shot of the exec’s with shovels photo op showed them with giant blue Pandora-sized shovels.

Who made the decision that this would be good for Animal Kingdom? It is reported that Disney CEO Bob Iger really wanted this particular expansion and has been actively involved in the project. Tom Staggs, then-chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, approached James Cameron with the idea that they join together in an effort to recreate the world of Pandora at Disney parks. Creative Imagineer Joe Rohde appears in many of the Disney videos regarding the expansion. He and his creative team have been working with the designer and artist team at Lightstorm. Disney believes the goals of AVATAR match the eco-friendly goals of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Pandora/Disney promote some of the same beliefs of family, loyalty, and in the power of one person as well as harmony with nature. Disney’s Animal Kingdom was devised to allow guests’ exposure to animals both real and imaginary. The Pandora expansion helps to meet that goal.

What attractions will there be in this expansion? Tom Staggs, (former) chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts tell us “We are adding a spectacular new world and an exciting set of attractions unlike any our guests have experienced.” Well, that certainly begs more information please? The Disney Parks blog reported “Guests will experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with banshees and explore a rich natural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night. (It) will be unlike anything ever experienced at a Disney park.” Fans will get to explore “Pandora” where the “land” itself will respond. Although still in a design phase, Disney did reveal that we can expect “multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations, restaurants and other immersive elements.”

What are the height requirements for any rides? Since Disney has announced that this area of the park will be very family friendly, appealing to guests of all ages, we expect a variety of height requirements on some of the rides but certainly include a no-height requirement one to appeal to families with young children. There is a concept drawing of a boat ride that looks similar to the boats on Pirates of the Caribbean or “it’s a small world”, both of which have no height requirement. The riding-a-banshee attraction may have a height requirement and it is rumored to be similar to Soarin’ in a 3-D adventure.

What kind of food will be offered? We don’t know any menu items yet, but we can expect a variety of themed restaurants. Even Rainforest Café is expected to be replaced by a new restaurant.

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When will it be open to the public? When construction began January 8, 2014 we were told it would take roughly five years to complete it. No exact date was given but it looks like a late 2017/ early 2018 opening day is being bantered about. Keep in mind the new films are expected to debut in December of 2017, 2018, 2019 after an announcement was made that the first sequel needed to be pushed back a year from its target date of December 2016. No news on that affecting the opening for the “land” at the park. The project is expected to cost between $400 -$500 million. We will let you know when more official information is released about this.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.