AVATAR Themed Land Announced for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on September 20, 2011 55 Comments

Filed under: Recent News

Disney announced a new Avatar (the movie)-themed land will be added to the Animal Kingdom theme park. Construction will begin in 2013. The press conference with further details is ongoing as we write this. This post will be updated with further details as they become available. Tom Staggs will be responding to questions emailed to questionsfortom@disney.com later today on the Disney Parks blog.

A long-term creative partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the fantasy world of AVATAR to life at Disney Parks. And it’ll all begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.

AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks

James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve as creative consultants on the project and will work side-by-side with our Walt Disney Imagineers as we dream up experiences that will take our guests deep into worlds of AVATAR like never before. There are also two sequels to the record setting first film in the works, which will offer more fascinating stories, characters and locations to explore in the AVATAR universe. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort is planned as the site of the first AVATAR-themed land with construction expected to begin by 2013.

We believe Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great fit for this project because it was created to give guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.


Posted on September 20, 2011

55 Responses to “AVATAR Themed Land Announced for Disney’s Animal Kingdom”

  • (Head a-splodes.)

  • Oh my god!!!! This is the best news EVER! I really love Avatar, i’ve watched it more than 20 times, so this is really AWESOME 😀
    Thanks Disney, this is the reason (actually, another reason) to say that WDW is really the place where dreams come true 😀

  • Has to be also on Disney’s mind to make AK more than a “half day” park as others claim it to be. Certainly opportunities for lots of rides!

  • What an absolutely terrible idea. This doesn’t sound like Disney. It sounds like Universal. The movie wasn’t even good (besides the special effects).

  • Thanks, Anna. I thought I’d be the first to groan at the news.

  • Avatar? Really?

  • Sorry, but no. I wish Disney would get back to creating its own worlds—enough riding on the backs of other people’s movie franchises. Beastly Kingdom, what could have been….

  • I’m open-minded about a land dedicated to Weresmurfs. AVATAR does have a strong fan-base with lots of fan-fiction and the unique language, etc.. much like Star Trek or Harry Potter. I will admit it struck me as entirely odd, to the point of not believing it, when first announced.

    • Hmmm… maybe King’s Island has some of the animatronics from their (ancient) Smurf ride still around…

      • Wow, Rob, you just took me way back! And don’t forget Smurf Mountain from Kings Dominion, too.

        I’m with R.A. — when someone told me the news today I thought they were kidding. Now I see press release pictures, so I guess not. eh.

  • Crap…..does that mean i’m going to actually have to finally break down and watch the movie to know what they are doing. Ugh.

  • Other thoughts:

    o This explains the cancellation of the Pocohantas show. Why pay for the “Avatar” license when they already have the original running?

    o They could just re-skin “Dino-Rama”; maybe that’s why “Triceratop Spin” has been delayed? The story is just as deep, and the effects as ground-breaking…

  • Epic!

  • This is the most disappointed I’ve been with any Disney decision in a long time. It’s worse than the removal of Horizons! Maybe even worse than the removal of Figment and the Dreamfinder!

  • Very Disappointing!! No desire to see the movie, let alone extend my half-day at AK to tour a land based on it.

    Why not…Beastly Kingdom, Monsters Inc. roller coaster in HS, a National Treasure attraction, anything…but Avatar.

  • Funny – when I saw Avatar, I thought they just ripped off Pocahontas. Now Disney is building an entire area based on a movie that ripped off their own movie.

    This is a very un-Disney-type move and seems a short-sighted response to Harry Potter. Avatar is not Harry Potter – Harry Potter will be beloved in 50 years (probably more due to the books than the movies). Avatar will be mostly forgotten.

    The thing that’s a shame is Harry Potter would have fit well in the Disney universe, and Avatar probably would fit in Universal well. The wrong companies got the wrong properties!

  • Epic Fail on so many levels. This seems like a grasp at straws solution to counter Harry Potter.

  • Oh no! Horrible idea. Add another continent to Animal Kingdom- maybe Australia. South America would lend itself to Up!/Wilderness Explorers theming.

    If Avatar belongs anywhere in WDW it would be as part of The Great Movie Ride.

  • I am truly amazed at the response of so many above.
    I am happy they are finally expanding Animal Kingdom. In addition,
    James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment have shown 20+ years of being at the cutting edge visual effects and technology (starting from Terminator 2 to Tiantic to Avatar). While I might not be a fan of all those movies, I am excited that such talented people will be working with Disney to bring those same cutting edge technologies to the Disney Parks. So, I myself will wait to see the resulting product before condemning it.

    • I’m with you. I’m not a big fan of the movie, I thought it was OK but certainly not to the tune of almost $3 billion. However, I’m excited at the possibilities this brings and certainly would withhold any judgement until I’ve actually experienced the new land.

      Likewise, I’m not really a fan of Star Wars I-III but am really looking forward to going to the new Star Tours.

  • Think roller coasters, rides and beautiful landscapes. Tie in the ecology factor and it fits in well with AK. Regardless of whether you like the movie, there’s a lot of fun potential with expansion in the AK.

  • I must have had my head in the sand, because I had absolutely no idea the movie was that big of a deal. However, I am excited about the prospect of some new rides and attractions. I am sure they will still be enjoyable to those of us who couldn’t care less about the movie.

  • While I wish that Disney were doing something original (ala Beastly Kingdom), I do think this will be a nice extension to AK. Do I think it will bring in droves of people wanting to visit Avatar land like WWoHP has done for IoA? No. But will I be happy to visit it on my one day through AK? Yes.

  • I’m so upset by this news. It’s like Disney’s trying to beat out Universal and they’r edoing it with a truly horrible movie. Three hours of my life were already gone watching something with a horrible stolen plotline. Now I have to see my favorite of the Disney parks get massacred and have this huge zit of a movie on it for the rest of its lifetime? For once, I hope that Disney runs out of money.

  • i think this is a great idea. i dont know why people are getting upset by an expansion like this. animal kingdom needs more things anyway that isnt just stuff you can look at. you all know disney and cameron will make a crazy awesome legit ride that will all blow our minds. lets just sit back and see what they conjure up.

  • Just be glad it’s not Twilight…

  • Interesting that they are leaving the door open to Avatar attractions at the other parks, as well.

    I’m not a huge Avatar fan, but James Cameron–like Disney–is known for doing spectacles really well, so it should be interesting to see what comes of the collaboration. (The Terminator 2 stage show at Universal Orlando is one of the best around.) That said, I think it would have been easier, made more sense, and made a more cohesive park–notice how the press release has to explain how Avatar fits in with Animal Kingdom–if Disney were developing new lands for Animal Kingdom in-house. Lots of opportunities left on the table with this decision.

    For as much money as it made, to my eye Avatar has not had the cultural impact of some of the other properties that Disney has licensed (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Twilight Zone), and not as much as some of Universal’s licenses either (Marvel, Harry Potter). I wonder how excited people will be about an Avatar land in 20 years.

  • I wonder where it will be located? Camp Minnie-Mickey? Dinoland U.S.A.? Somewhere else??

    • by Andrew Carrieri on September 20, 2011, at 8:05 pm EST

      I would go with where Rafiki’s Planet Watch is now-it’s not popular anyway maybe you can even keep Wildlife Express as a means of transport to Avatar’s mythical world.

  • I read this post twice, because the first time I was pretty sure it was a joke of some sort. (You know, along the lines of where to take a last stand in the Magic Kingdom during a zombie apocalypse. Thanks for those nightmares, Len.)

    I just don’t get it. I’m sure they have a plan, and I hope it turns out to be fantastic. I just don’t get it. Of course, that’s probably one of the many reasons that I’m not an imagineer. Wow.

  • I think that, in the short term, this is great idea. Note that I said “in the short term”–I’ll get to that in a minute. But right now, this could bring people–and revenue–to the Animal Kingdom, which is much needed due to its reputation as a “half-day park.” Furthermore, it could also enhance the idea of Disney World to the young adult, the age group who might’ve grown up with Toy Story, but got left behind as Disney continued its path of movies that seem to be geared mostly towards children, which is reflected in their theme parks. Just as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will bring in the young adults smitten with Ron, Hermione, and Harry (but less smitten with Shrek and the Marvel superheroes), so should Avatar-land bring in young adults who enjoyed that film but have no need for Fantasyland. The Animal Kingdom is in great need of something to turn it into the kind of park that the Magic Kingdom or Epcot is–the kind of park that you don’t want to miss, ever, and that most will agree takes at least a day to really appreciate fully.
    That being said, these are all short-term benefits, and Disney is no short-term company. A land entirely devoted to one movie (at least Wizarding World has 7 books to use) can’t have all that much to offer based directly out of the movie. Even if it includes all 3 of the planned Avatar movies (which are still in the works, which means that as long as those movies are still in the works, the full scheme of the Avatar-land is also in the works), there’s not a lot of material to base an entire land off of. Plus, while the young adults who currently love Avatar might love the idea of an Avatar section in the Animal Kingdom, what happens in 20-30-40 years? While I do believe that Avatar will be “one of those movies” that remain popular for many generations to follow, that does not necessarily translate to the kind of fandom that launches an entire land. Disney is taking a huge gamble on Avatar being a movie that will launch a long-term fan base and will be considered a classic movie 30 years from now (and I do feel that Avatar will likely become a classic movie), and while the gamble might pay off in the long run, I sincerely doubt that Avatar-land will be current many years from now, nor do I believe that there will be the kind of fanbase necessary to support Avatar as a “land” 30+ years from now.
    I am interested to see what kind of merchandising Disney comes up with for Avatar. How will they handle the characters–will we be able to meet the blue Avatar characters in a few years once the land opens up? What kind of merchandise will they sell–plush Avatar characters, anyone?
    What I think would be the best option for Disney would be this: First, give up the idea of making any one movie (even one of their own movies) into a theme park or even a “land” of a theme park. Second, build the Beastly Kindom that was part of the original plan. Third, because Avatar is popular and will likely become a classic movie, incorporate Avatar into the Beastly Kindom, perhaps with a show or a ride. Not the entire land, mind you–just a couple little things, just like there was some Pocahontas and there is some Lion King in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Then, if it works out well, they can add more Avatar in, if demand calls for it, or, if Avatar doesn’t turn out to be the kind of movie with staying power for generations to come, they can phase it out and change it to reflect current ideas that would fall into the Beastly Kingdom. They can still reap the benefits of the massive popularity of Avatar, combat the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in their own unique way, and be able to adapt and work towards the long term, instead of taking huge gambles on one idea that might not be popular 20 or 30 years from now.
    I’m going to echo the sentiment of another commentor now–at least it’s not Twilight.

    • I understand all of these points except the one about what will it be 30 or 40 years from now? Who cares, we will all probably be dead then and Disney makes changes with the times. I’m just happy they are doing something to AK to level the playing field with the other 3 parks.

    • I completely agree with this- you should go to work for Disney! =)

  • I have to echo thinking this was a joke when I first read it. This is a huge mistake. Most people have not even seen the movie. Avatar does not have a following that will stand and is in no way comparable to Harry Potter which was a classic the day it was released. I think the UP Rainforest idea is the best, yet! Take a movie with long standing substance, that tells a story like Disney does so well, and that deals in reality. Animal Kingdom represents real life. Avatar does not fit. JMHO! I think it is fabulous to have a park you don’t plan to visit until 12am. It is the perfect mid-week vacation park to do it all and then have a yummy dinner, swim and go to bed. No need to add more “stuff” to it if it is not quality. Sounds like a waste of money. Build a monorail from Animal Kingdom to the TTC. Now that would be money well spent!

  • I am also surprised by all the negativity. I also thought the movie was good (not exceptional) but visual effects were outstanding. We are talking about a themed land, not a necessarily a rehash of the story. This definitely could make the Animal Kingdom a full day park and also help extend the operating hours into the evening on a regular basis. So I for one am excited about the possibilities and looking forward to seeing what they come up with. As long as it is a themed land and not a Dinoland 2, it should be amazing. WDWMagic.com has a picture of 2 possible areas marked out where the new land might go.


  • My first reaction was “Meh.” I thought the movie was OK but overrated (“Dances With Wolves” with a CGI layover). Seems odd that they’d base such a huge capital investment on that concept. However, I’m willing to withhold final judgment until I see the finished product. The theming and attractions will make or break it. After all, many of our favorite WDW attractions are based on concepts which sound marginal in the abstract (Splash Mountain based on a fairly mediocre Disney movie which nobody can even watch anymore, for example).

  • From what I’ve read in the WSJ, it looks like Disney may have jumped on this because Cameron is forking over most of the $400+ million it will cost. If that’s the case, I can see them doing it. Why spend their money when they can spend Cameron’s?

    • Exactly. It’s one big sell-out on Disney’s part. I’m hugely disappointed by this whole thing. Avatar was awful and I have no desire to “visit Pandora.” And for those who are citing movie tie-ins to a single attraction, like Star Tours or Splash, we’re talking about a whole land here.

      Why can’t they just give us the Monsters, Inc. coaster at DHS, or the Up/South America continent at AK (fabulous idea)? Or a new country in the World Showcase? Sigh.

      • Well, along the same lines – i’m not thrilled with Cars Land at DCA because I wasn’t a big fan of Cars or Cars 2 as movies. I am excited for Cars Land though because of the rides it is introducing which should be fun.

        The budget is reportedly north of $400 million with Cameron footing much of the bill akin to Disney’s sponsor deals of the past. That’s enough for at least 2 rides, and further, it is said to not affect the fiscal budget for other developments. (I’m still holding out hope that Brazil and Disney agree to a pavilion.)

  • Imagine an entire land that looks just like the ending of the E.T. ride at Universal! Won’t that be awesome?!?
    This sounds really lame. But if it’s Camerons money then they can just bulldoze it or re-theme it when the hype dies. I just hope they didn’t agree to a very long term for this.
    The best thing that come out of this is that Lucas gets jealous and forks over $500M for a Star Wars land!