Animal Kingdom

Unique Way to Contribute to the Disney Conservation Fund

by on May 19, 2017

©Disney

With the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar rapidly approaching, Disney has announced a creative way for Guests to help contribute to the Disney Conservation Fund, which supports conservation efforts here on Earth.

With the new mobile adventure called Connect to Protect, when Guests enter the land, by utilizing the My Disney Experience app, Guests are invited to participate in conservation missions to help protect the habits of at-risk animals. During the missions, you will be able to interact with a digital scientist all while exploring the land. Guests will instant message with one of the moon’s ecological specialists, Fitsimti “Fits” Buckley. Fits will share information about conservation along the way that applies to both Earth and Pandora.

Once Guests complete at least one mission, they will be able to unlock a $10 contribution from Disney Parks. If you just discuss conservation, you’ll be able to contribute $5 through the Disney Conservation Fund. Guests will have the option to choose where their money gets donated. They can choose from one of 10 threatened animal categories – butterflies, apes, coral reefs, cranes, elephants, monkeys, rhinos, rays and sharks, sea turtles, or tigers.

Pretty cool way to help raise funds for endangered animals, right? I know I’m going to make sure to complete a mission when I’m visiting Pandora on opening day!

 

Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 18, 2017: A Mother of a Weekend

by on May 18, 2017

You know that whole “need a vacation to recover from a vacation”? I think I’m there after this week. It isn’t often that a new section of a theme park opens, so we decided to make the most of it. As locals, we don’t spend as many DVC points, so when we heard that there was a DVC preview in Pandora for Mother’s Day weekend, we booked a room at the Beach Club and signed up. (And consider this the spoiler alert–there will be some mild spoiler pictures later on in the article.) Our time slot was for 9 AM on Saturday morning, so in theory we needed to get an early night’s sleep. But Friday night was also the first night of Happily Ever After. My husband and I had seen some of it when it was in testing at 1 AM, but our daughter slept through it. We let her stay up to watch, and she had fun making “water effects” for it in the pool.

Thankfully, even with all that excitement, she was able to get some sleep. The next morning we got up and arrived at Animal Kingdom around 8:30. We walked over to the Annual Passholder line and there was a crowd just hanging out. The Cast Member there asked if we were Passholders, and we said yes. She asked if we were staying on property, and we said yes, but were a little confused how she knew. She scanned our Magic Bands and it occurred to us–everyone else was standing around because they couldn’t go in yet. It was a morning Extra Magic Hour for resort guests. Yay! In we went. Getting in early meant we could say hi to the animals on our way to Pandora. Specifically, an anteater came to say good morning. He certainly looks like he would belong on Pandora, doesn’t he?

It was about quarter of nine, but they let us walk right in. We got a FastPass return slip for Flight of Passage and admired the landscape as we walked over to the Na’vi River Journey.

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Satu’li Canteen And Mobile Ordering Rejuvenate Quick Service Disney Dining

by on May 17, 2017

Pandora - The World of AvatarRecently, I was lucky enough to attend an Annual Passholder Preview for Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and of course, as your resident dining reviewer, my first priority was trying out all the new food options available at the land’s quick service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen. I was also excited to try out the new mobile ordering option from the My Disney Experience app, currently exclusively used at Satu’li Canteen. I’ll run through the process of how to use mobile ordering (it’s super easy!), and give a few first impressions of the food I sampled in this Satu’li Canteen review.

Mobile Ordering Basics

First things first, you have to have the My Disney Experience app installed on your mobile device, and for optimal use, you’ve got to have location services and notifications enabled for app use. Currently, mobile ordering does not support the use of the Disney Dining Plan for payment, either – only credit cards, so keep in mind if you want to make use of your plan credits, you’ll need to order at the counter as you would normally at a quick service location. Also keep in mind, mobile ordering is only available for guests taking part in a preview of Pandora at this time, as the land is not yet open to everyone (May 27th is almost here, though!)

Mobile ordering is a pretty straightforward process (if you’ve ever used UberEats, you’ll be an expert already) – essentially, you order your food on the app, then once you arrive at the restaurant, you click “I’m here!”, at which point they’ll make your order. They’ll notify you once it’s ready, and since you’ve already paid through the app, you simple pick up your food and you’re on your way. Think of mobile ordering as a FastPass+ to skip the sometimes-lengthy ordering lines at every quick service restaurant.

The app will remind you what menu you’re ordering from (breakfast vs lunch/dinner), and will tell you the cut-off time for picking up your mobile order from Satu’li Canteen. At the top of several pages in the process, I saw a warning saying I had to pick up my order before 8:00 PM (when the restaurant closes). Basically, once a meal period starts for that day, you can order anytime between opening and close, and just show up when you’re ready. Simple, right? Very… I was really impressed that I didn’t have to pick a time to return, but I’d also warn to keep in mind that the food isn’t made until you arrive (more on that shortly), so if you pick a busy time of day to return, you’ll still wait a little for your food.

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Review: Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on May 15, 2017

How We Got to Pandora

The success of Universal’s Harry Potter lands – Hogsmeade Village at Islands of Aventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios – put the fear of God into Disney’s theme park management. The idea that their closest competitor could turn a worldwide film franchise into an immersive, immense tourist draw probably caused more sleepless nights than a warehouse full of wool pajamas. What Disney wanted desperately was to make sure they got the next big franchise for their own parks.

Valley of Mo'ara in Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The problem that Disney faced was that only a handful of writers like J.K. Rowling can produce globally beloved stories worth billions of dollars: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron are on the short list. With Spielberg and Lucas nearing retirement, however, and Peter Jackson reportedly non-committal, Disney signed Cameron to a theme park development deal for his Avatar film franchise in September 2011.

That Avatar deal puzzled many Disney theme park fans, including us. Yes, Avatar is the second-highest grossing film of all time (Gone with the Wind is #1), earning more than $3 billion in inflation-adjusted ticket sales since its release in 2009. But it did so because of its then-revolutionary 3-D digital effects, not its writing. Avatar, we joked, was the film everyone saw about characters nobody liked. For Disney, whose motto had always been “It all begins with a story,” building rides based on Avatar was going to be its own kind of alien experience.

Disney tapped Joe Rohde, now an industry legend, to bring Avatar to life at the Animal Kingdom. Camp Minnie-Mickey was demolished to make way, its Festival of the Lion King stage show moved to the park’s Africa section. Five years of construction ensued – long enough for Universal to build a couple more hotels, several new rides, and an entire water park. Disney’s gamble on the Avatar franchise seemed riskier by the day.

Is Pandora Better than Diagon Alley?

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Animal Kingdom Operating Hours For Pandora

by on May 10, 2017

Pandora World of Avatar operating hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom

First all of, a huge thanks to Annette Johnson at Build A Better Mouse Trip for not just suggesting this article, but for collating the information.

Pandora – World of Avatar has been open for cast member previews this week. Annual Passholders who previously registered will get their own looks beginning later this week. And media will have previews during the week before the grand opening. Expect soft openings (unannounced times when Disney will let the general public in) in the next weeks. Animal Kingdom closes early (3:30 PM) on the 24th for an evening media event. For more on what we know about Disney’s newest themed land, read this article.

Pandora will finally open to the public May 27, 2017, in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney has extended park hours through the summer for the expected crowds. The park will have a morning Extra Magic Hour at 7:00 AM that day for Disney resort guests. It will open to the general public at 8:00. There are also evening Extra Magic Hours from 11Pm to 1AM that day.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, April 27, 2017: Happy B-Earth Day

by on April 27, 2017

As some people know, I’m quite the introvert. So getting notice in the mail that I had been selected for jury duty was more than a little stressful. To unwind, we decided to take a trip to Animal Kingdom. Because it was Earth Day weekend, we knew the crowds would be fairly high in the day, so we opted for an evening stroll. It was just the relaxation that we all needed.

It never fails that when people arrive at Animal Kingdom, they rush through the first area you come to, the Oasis, but that is one of our favorite places to spend time. There’s a handful of exhibits with some fairly quiet and shy animals, but especially in the afternoons they come out. One who isn’t shy was this duck who was just plain sassy.

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Preview of Beverages for Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on April 19, 2017

We already know about some of the unique food offerings Guests will be able to enjoy when they enter Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Today, we have a first look at some of the beverages that Guests will be able to purchase.

First, Guests who visit Pongu Pongu will be able to enjoy the Night Blossom. This frozen non-alcoholic drink is a mixture of limeade, apple, and desert pear that is topped with passion fruit boba balls. (This drink can be served in a souvenir mug and can become “bioluminecent” courtesy of a purchased glow cube.) There’s also the Mo’ara Frozen Margarita. This one is made with Sauza Conmemorativo Añejo Tequila with strawberry and blood orange flavor topped with strawberry boba balls.

Pandora - The World of Avatar Beverages

©Disney

 

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Rivers of Light Now Being Shown Nightly

by on April 9, 2017

©Rikki Niblett

As a reminder, beginning tonight and throughout the spring and summer seasons, the new nighttime spectacular for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Rivers of Light, will now be shown on a nightly basis.

The show, which takes place on the Discovery River, will be performed twice nightly during this busy spring break/Easter season, from April 9 until April 22. Then, beginning April 23 and running through September 4, the show is currently scheduled to be performed once each evening.

The show begins with an awakening of fireflies that lead to a procession across the water. From there, clusters of lanterns appear as one of four beautiful animal spirit forms—the Tiger, Turtle, Elephant and Owl. Rivers of Light features song, light, color water, shaman storytellers, and more. I found the show to be beautiful. Rivers of Light lasts approximately 15 minutes.

For those looking to guarantee that they get to see the show, FastPass+ reservations are available to be made. In addition, Rivers of Light dining packages are also available at either Tiffins or at Tusker House.

For more helpful information, make sure to read up on our tips.

Updated FastPass+ Listing for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on March 24, 2017

FastPass+ information for Disney's Animal Kingdom

©Disney

Well, we all had a feeling the tiering system was coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and turns out, it was. With the roll out of FastPass+ for the attractions that will be found in Pandora – The World of Avatar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will officially become a park that offers the tiered FastPass+ system.

Here are the FastPass+ options that you have to choose from going forward:

Tier 1 (Choose 1):

  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Avatar Flight of Passage

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Annual Passholders Can Sign Up to Get Preview of Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on March 24, 2017

 

Pandora - The World of Avatar

©Disney

Annual Passholders can now made reservations to get an early peek of Pandora – The World of Avatar! This preview opportunity is only available for a limited time beginning May 13.

AP Holders will be able to ride both the attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. They will also be able to purchase cuisine from Satu’li Canteen and make purchases at Windtraders. Do keep in mind that because this is a preview, some areas may not be open to Guests and attractions may go down at any time.

Guests will only have a two hour window with which to preview this new land.

Here is what you need to know about registering for this event:

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