Posts Tagged ‘Valley of Mo’ara’

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?

Read the rest of this entry »