Disney’s Animal Kingdom
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---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(4/20/15) Parkwide Construction Update (MORE...)
(3/27/15) Avatar Construction Update (MORE...)
(2/28/15) New Avatar Artwork and Video (MORE...)
(2/24/15) Avatar Attraction Building Photo (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Flame Tree BBQ - NOW CLOSED through Apr. 22
Creature Comforts - NOW CLOSED through June 14
General Park News - (4/20/15) The latest construction update from Animal Kingdom has been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week, showing off the progress being made over at Avatar, the refurbished Mercantile area, new work around the Flame Tree BBQ area, work on a new Starbucks location, Rivers of Light shoreline construction and more.
(11/26/14) A new construction update from Animal Kingdom has been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week, checking out the numerous construction walls set up around the park for various projects, and of course, the new Avatar land.
(9/3/14) DaMouse shows off a new animal exhibit area for the Cotton-Top Tamarin being relocated to Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island.
(7/24/14) The lastest photo update from Animal Kingdom posted to OrlandoParksNews shows off a collection of tall cranes that are now all in use over in the Avatar area. Meanwhile there are now construction walls up all over the park as well, as other changes are quietly being put into place.
???? - Rivers of Light - Confirmed - (9/18/14) Orlando Parks News takes a tour around Animal Kingdom this week to check in on the latest park construction, as massive sections of land are being transformed into two amphitheater style viewing areas for the park’s new Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular, facing Discovery River. Meanwhile work is also underway outside the park for the new ‘Yeti’ parking lot, plus other various enhancement and upgrade projects all around.
(5/5/14) OrlandoParkNews checks out Animal Kingdom this week to check out the latest progress on the new Festival of the Lion King theater, and on page 2 they venture over to take a look around the future Rivers of Light show location.
(5/3/14) “Rivers of Light” is the official name for the new nighttime spectacular coming to Animal Kingdom. The new water based show will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screen and a lot of projected animal majesty, to be located on the Discovery River between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest where we’ve been seeing them playing with test barges on and off for the last year. No official opening date was announced for Rivers of Light however.
2017 - PANDORA:
THE WORLD OF AVATAR
(3/27/15) Some great new aerial photos of Pandora: The World of Avatar have been posted to WDWNT this week, and as you can see, not only has there been a LOT more vertical construction since the last time we saw it, but the structure that is going up for the new flight simulator attraction looks exactly like those leaked plans discovered back in 2012 (see below).
(2/28/15) Disney released a little new concept artwork (see below) and another preview video about the creation of the new Avatar themed land for Animal Kingdom, along with a video of the WDI crew in Glendale showing off what they've been working on to James Cameron, including a brief look at what the illuminated forest and plants may be like and how they could respond to guests as they pass by.
(2/24/15) A reader send in a picture (see below) of the streel framework for an unknown attraction going up on the Avatar construction site at Animal Kingdom. If I had to guess, this looks like it is likely the flight simulator ride.
(2/2/15) Remember that drone-cam footage shot over the Avatar construction site a few weeks ago before it was quickly pulled? The local news caught up with the story and tracked down the pilot on Facebook briefly, who had previously posted a number of videos of footage over the Orlando area's theme parks, including footage of the New Year's Eve fireworks show hovering over the Magic Kingdom at the time. Since then the videos were all pulled and the operator has gone dark. You can view the news report on the action, which also goes into the legal aspect of flying your own drone over private property by clicking here.
(1/17/15) While the drone-cam aerial view footage of Pandora: The World of Avatar was taken down, one of our readers for fortunate enough to get clearance to fly over the park in late December in a Cessna at 2,000 ft and take his own legal pictures of the site and has graciously agreed to share them with Screamscape. (Photo credit: Camden G.)
You can now clearly see the Plus (+) shaped structure that matches up to the leaked blueprints from 2012 (scroll down to see below) as being the site of the new flight simulator attraction. The large concrete pad next door is what was previously said to be the site for a new boat ride attraction that will take guests for a journey into the bioluminescent forest environment of Pandora, where I assume you’ll see some examples of the planet’s unique animal life-forms along the way. If I had to guess the “pit” area of concrete area may be intended as the water reservoir for the attraction, giving the water in the upper level(s) a place to flow into when the pumps are turned off, without flooding the rest of the lowest level.
(1/16/15) Unfortunately if you missed viewing the Drone-Cam footage of the Avatar construction site, the video has since been removed. In other news, various Hollywood news reports say that the release of Avatar 2 has been pushed back a year to Christmas 2017, with the two follow up films to be released back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. With the Avatar land expected to open in 2017, it could tie-in well with the release of the new film, even if it opens in Summer 2017, this would be the right time for Fox to start pumping out the Avatar 2 trailers and bring the Avatar Hype-Machine to life, using the Avatar land itself as a giant walk-through advertisement for the new movies.
(1/14/15) A stunning new video showing off aerial drone-cam footage of the Avatar construction site was found posted to YouTube this week. While this video really has to be seen to be believed, I also this it is also a very dangerous example of what not to do with a drone-cam... namely flying into and over an active construction site without permission. As you can see from the video, the drone goes in very deep into the construction site, which is surrounded by three very large construction cranes that reach up into the sky to about the same height that the drone appears to be flying at.
Maybe I've seen too many movies, but at one point I was expecting the construction workers below to start pointing up and try to shoot it out of the sky. I'm sure Disney is aware of this drone by now and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more intense security around the site, and eyes scanning the air, from now on.
(1/6/15) PixelsAtTheParks has posted some new pictures from Animal Kingdom that include some new visuals of Avatar steel rising up into place.
(12/16/14) OrlandoParksNews takes us back to Animal Kingdom revealing the first large steel beam to go into Avatar, which has been signed by a few hundred cast members from the look of it, being set into place.
(12/1/14) For the first time we get a peek inside the progress on Pandora: The World of Avatar thanks to new aerial pictures taken by ThemeparX this week. The large visible concrete pad is not the new flight simulator ride however, but rather I think that this might be the location of the flume ride next door that was visible in the leaked plans. However next to this you can see what looks like a series of concrete footers and slightly rounded walls in an almost diamond pattern that matches up perfectly in the shape of the four sided flight simulator ride plans. I’m guesing that the other visible structure going up nearby will be for either a restaurant or more likely, a large enclosed gift shop that will serve as the exit to the new E-Ticket attraction.
(11/19/14) Screamscape sources tell us that the first bit of vertical construction has started on the Avatar work site, where vertical supports for some kind of structure are now going up just behind where the old Pocahontas show theater used to be. Many concrete support footers have also been poured around the site, though much of the overall site is said to still be just in the dirt pushing phase, making it hard to tell what is what.
(5/5/14) Several more pictures of the demolition taking place for Avatar have been posted to ParkJourney this week, as well as a look at some new clearing taking place between Africa and Asia. Anyone know what this is for?
(5/3/14) Sorry folks, Disney has confirmed that Avatar wont be ready to open until 2017. This is what I’ve been saying for some time now, but I know many readers still can’t believe that this could be another 3 years away still.
(4/30/14) A couple of new pictures that may show off the future site of Pandora being cleared out have been added to ParkJourney this week. According to several readers, this is the site of the former Festival of the Lion King show area, soon to be part of Pandora: The World of Avatar.
(2/5/14) I’m not sure how true this one, but we’ve heard it said that the boat ride going into Pandora: The World of Avatar may be somewhat similar in feel to Pirates of the Caribbean. The fantasy ride through the bio-luminescent world of Pandora may include encounters with animatronic creatures, very cool lighting and projection effects and perhaps a small drop or two along the way to keep things exciting.
(1/13/14) The Disney Parks Blog confirmed what we already knew about… that construction was now officially under way, along with a special groundbreaking photos from the Avatar construction site.
(11/5/13) A new write up about the upcoming Avatar land at Animal Kingdom can be found at CentralFloridaTop5 this week, which features some new details and rumors about the expected after dark entertainment and water show, including thoughts about who may be involved.
They also have posted some rumors that I have heard as well about how the Tree of Life may be preparing to undergo a major retrofit over the next couple of years, where they could end up rebuilding it branch by branch with new more sturdy materials and possibly loaded with light effects to offer a new after dark appearance.
(10/21/13) About Theme Parks is back with a small new report on the Avatar project, after getting a chance to talk with Joe Rohde during a recent event at the Aulani resort in Hawaii, mostly revealing a few more minor details about the land’s E-Ticket attraction, the new Banshee flight simulator attraction.
(10/16/13) The latest update to JimHillMedia takes a look at the Avatar land announcement and has a good reason as to why this was shown off at the Tokyo D23 show. The theory is that WDI has been trying to sell OLC on the idea of adding their own Land of Avatar to Tokyo DisneySea. According to the report, there has been some tension between WDI and OLC as of late, as OLC seems to be more resistant to the high budget price estimates WDI has been giving them for new large proposals like the Cars Land one they turned down.
Jim also hits on another good point… with Avatar 2 on the slate for a 2015 release and Avatar 3 looking good for mid to late 2017, Walt Disney World is likely planning on trying to host a series of Avatar fan-weekend events in the park once the new land is ready, similar to the popular Star Wars Weekends that take place over at the Studios.
On a related note, it sounds like we will see Camp Minnie/Mickey close down sometime in 2014… probably once the new Festival of the Lion King theater is getting close to completion and they are ready to move the props and cast over to the new facility for installation.
Finally… we get more Avatar love from Disney this week as well, in the form of a new video presentation from Joe Rohde and James Cameron to talk all about Avatar. This features video footage showing off more of the giant Pandora model created by WDI, lots of fun Avatar footage to show off the kind of look they are going for and even a peek at what looks new POV footage in flight around the world of Pandora projected onto a giant screen. Can you say, “Soarin’ Over Pandora”? Plus some prototypes of what the bioluminescent plants of the land may look like. Disney & More goes gives their take on the video as well this week, along with some screen captures of some interesting scenes.
(10/12/13) The Disney Parks Blog surprised everyone this morning with an update with artwork for the Avatar land, now coming to Animal Kingdom in 2017. The details were first leaked at the D23 Expo in Japan this week and now online to everyone. According to the description, guests will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains, wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound and discover what it feels like to fly in the sky riding a Banshee.
When Avatar opens, more changes will also come to the rest of the Animal Kingdom park. They will open a new nighttime spectacular show full of music, floating lanterns, water screens and animal imagery on the Discovery River. Other nighttiume entertainment will be added around the park including live performers and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. In other words… Animal Kingdom’s hours will finally be increased and the park will likely be open after dark nightly.
(5/1/13) In case anyone is wondering, Disney did apparently confirm during their media event last week that they are still hard at work designing the Avatar land project. Nothing has been cancelled.
(12/10/12) Disney issued a minor update on the status of the Avatar land coming to Animal Kingdom at last week’s media events, and even showed off an interesting pictures of Cameron looking over a model with Imagineering. While there wasn’t much in the way of details on the model itself, the image on the wall in the background appeared to show some very interesting looking rock spires and arches that could very well serve as the entrance portal into the world of Pandora. Check out the video of the brief talk about Avatar as posted by Attractions Magazine.
(11/9/12) A weird new rumor floated my way, offering up some interesting details about that C-Ticket Boat Ride attraction seen in the leaked Avatar plans. According to our source, this slow family ride is intended to essentially server as a crash course in PANDORA 101, a way to bring all guests up to speed on the world of Avatar, and why humans have traveled across the stars to visit.
Intended as a sort of informational family attraction, the overall tone of the ride’s theme may actually have a bit in common with one of the Edutainment rides at Epcot. In short, this of this as a Pandora version of “Living with the Land”, showing guests the various plant and animal lifeforms of this new world.
(10/29/12) I wasn’t sure if I was going to post these right away, but since other sites have also obtained most of these same pictures, I’ll show my hand as well. What you see here is supposed to be early layout plans for the 3D flight simulator ride planned for Avatar: World of Pandora. From studying the plans myself for a few days, which seems to indicate three different floors in the building, I can verify the 3D aspect of the attraction plans, as the lower floorplan, which also shows off a boat ride layout for a C-Ticket attraction, has one room in the center of the four theaters labeled as the room to clean the glasses, complete with a pair of “chutes” up to the next floor, which seem to link up with what looks like pre-show rooms. This same second level piece of artwork, which I have yet to see anywhere else, also shows off the layout of the attraction’s themed queue which would be built on top of the indoor portion of the C-Ticket Boat Ride.
What has been bothering me post is the layout of the individual theaters, as they seem to feature a large circular screen, but also two more screens above the main screen that appear to have a gap of some kind in between them. Putting a “hole” in the middle of your view screen seems a bit crazy to me, at least in terms of a normal simulator style ride experience, so this may be something a bit out of the ordinary.
For one possible idea I came across that would perfectly fit into this concept very easily was something shown off at IAAPA 2011 by a company called Simtec called HEXaFLITE. It was their own take on creating a more dynamic version of the Soarin’ style flight simulator experience, but kind of flipping everything around, top to bottom. While you would load in the horizontal position, as you do in Soarin’, your seats were connected to the floor instead of inverted coaster style. Then at the start of the ride, your entire theater platform would move forward and drop into a vertical dive posture… as if you were going over the edge on a vertical drop coaster, except your seats would roll forward with you to keep you level and upright. Best to see the concept art that Simtec was showing off to really get a firm idea of what I’m talking about. Simtec said that the they could customize the system to have everything from a very mellow and simple (ie: Soarin’) range of motion, up to a fully dynamic 6-DOF full range of motion controls.
Now while I have not heard about any official connection between Simtec and Disney regarding this project, the similarities in the ride’s overall design style are close enough to lead me to believe that I may be on the right track here by pointing out this Simtec design. I also find if very interesting that Simtec has a rather humble website that doesn’t even attempt to flaunt this amazing new ride system concept on the front page, but instead has opted to bury it deep in the back end rather than try to promote it to the world. Could an exclusive use deal with Disney be pending? One has to wonder…
(10/26/12) Pandora: The World of Avatar may still be years away, but who’s ready to find out just what kind of major new attractions we can expect to find inside? From what I’ve heard so far, there are a few different proposals floating around with different offerings and different budget levels to choose from, as the final choice has not yet been made. That said, it does seem as if Disney may have selected their primary E-Ticket attraction for the land, which would some kind of new open simulator style ride using a large circular multi-story screen. While this may sound a bit like Soarin’ at first, I’m hearing that this is likely to be a different kind of beast, able to take advantage of the new style digital 3D system Disney used on Star Tours 2, and while it may be about flying around Pandora, I think we’ll see a more active and adventurous motion system used here, as travel through the World of Pandora will not involve the same mellow friendly skies we experienced from Disney’s Soarin.
Attached to this E-Ticket ride structure, which will apparently feature four different theaters to deal with the capacity problems, will be a second C-Ticket level adventure ride that will feature both indoor and outdoor scenes. I’ve heard that it may be family friendly boat ride experience (Small World of Pandora?) though I’d also got a hunch that it could be a land based dark ride system as well as it seems the early proposal may feature 6 to 9 passenger vehicles, using 3 rows of seats.
For those hoping for a little more action and adventure, I’ve also heard that Disney has drawn up some plans for a second E-Ticket ride that could use the same Vekoma MotoBike based coaster system that they are putting to use in Shanghai as a Tron Light Cycle ride. Budget is the primary factor here, as adding the launched coaster to the land would increase the budget by good number of digits. Hope to have more information to share about The World of Avatar soon… so stay tuned.
(9/7/12) Despite the rumor from IGN claiming that the Avatar project may have hit a speed bump, local sources say that the early prep work projects are moving full steam ahead, with deadlines to keep.
(9/5/12) According to a report at IGN, there may be a delay in the start of James Cameron’s planned back to back shoot of Avatar 2 and 3. They also claim that this delay could carry over into the Pandora: The World of Avatar land at Animal Kingdom. Of course, it was just a few weeks ago that we heard that the early work for this new land was starting, and with the pressure on from Universal Orlando with attractions like Transformers and a second Harry Potter land on the way, I don’t think Disney will be willing to wait.
(8/9/12) Engadget reports that Disney is working with Berlin-based Studio NAND to create a new kind of interactivity between humans and real life plants called Botanicus Interacticus. Through the use of a capacitive sensor, a low level current is piped through the plant so that the system knows exactly where you are touching it resulting in a variety of reactions. Examples of the technology was put on display at the SIGGRAPH show, where the results are displayed as an effect on a mirror image behind the plant.
While no actual practical use was mentioned for the project, this seems like something we would see added to Pandora: The World of Avatar for sure.
(8/6/12) A reader was kind enough to send in a picture they snapped early in the morning just outside Animal Kingdom showing off the fleet of balloons that were lifted over the park the other morning. While you can’t make it out in the early morning light, apparently some of the balloons were different colors (Yellow, Red, etc) seemingly to indicate either different height levels, locations, or both. To the view of one source, the red balloons seemed to be higher than the yellow, with one of the red balloons appearing to come up from a location just behind guest relations.
(8/3/12) A couple of interesting things were reported from Animal Kingdom early on Thursday. According to a Screamscape source, CM’s arriving early at Animal Kingdom that morning could see height test balloons being flown over the park, reaching an estimated 200 feet in height. (That’s about the same height of Tower of Terror for comparison’s sake…) The location in the park hasn’t been confirmed, but is thought to be in the Camp Minnie / Mickey area.
On a related note, apparently Joe Rohde sent out word to his staff that today was also the first day of on-site construction work for “Pandora – The World of Avatar”. So get ready for Avatar mania to begin…
(6/26/12) Disney Imagineering has been spotted testing something very odd at a small airport north of Bakersfield, CA. It can be best described as a heavily modified Ultralight style personal aircraft, heavily themed to appear as a dragon in flight. According to the local news report sent in, the dragon’s mouth can open and close, breath a little fire, tail wag and more. Apparently Disney signed a secret deal with the airport to keep quiet about the project, which is being kept inside a rented aircraft hanger at Shatter’s Minter Field. Some believe that the flying dragon may be a wild prototype created for possible inclusion in a new Avatar themed show concept for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
(3/14/12) In a perfect bit of timing, Disney CEO Bob Iger reaffirmed at the Disney shareholder meeting that their plans to build an Avatar themed land at Animal Kingdom are still on track to see it open by 2015. So looks like the rumors about possible Avatar setbacks were simply bad rumors.
(3/13/12) I’m not sure where this is coming from, but there is a buzz around the ‘net lately claiming that Disney may be re-thinking their plans to add an entire Avatar themed land to the Animal Kingdom. This does not mean that Disney is abandoning their plans to make Avatar themed attractions or lands in general… only that they may have come to the realization that Animal Kingdom may not have been the best place to build it. AK needs help, that is for sure, and there is no denying that a ton of major attractions have been pitched as possibly solutions to expand the park and add a new land to replace “Beastly Kingdom” over the years, but the Avatar land was the only one officially announced and confirmed by Disney so far.
Last I heard through the rumor mill was that the various attraction design pitches had been going well, and the look and feel of the land was really starting to solidify. Perhaps it was this more solid look at what would best represent Avatar as a brand that may have caused some second thoughts about putting it into Animal Kingdom. After all, one thing we did see a lot of in the movie was fighting, death, destruction, guns, mecha-troopers and much more. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if the attractions would also feature similar themes, it may fit in better over at the Studios. Anyone know a bit more about what may be going on, one way or the other?
(12/12/11) Stitch Kingdom has posted an interesting article about a new patent Disney has filed for detailing a new kind of attraction, officially titled as ‘Amusement Park Ride with Cable-Suspended Vehicles”. In a way, it kind of looks like a revamp of the old Konfrontation style ride concept at Universal, with the ability of the cabin to move through a real 3D space, while being able to control the altitude, pitch, roll and yaw of the rider cabin.The concept goes even further, suggesting that guests could be able control certain aspects of the ride’s movement, that could change the storyline or thrill level of the ride experience.
So just what ride may this really be for? There is some speculation that this could possibly be put to the test as an AVATAR based attraction, though given the timeline, I do have to wonder if it may have been dreamed up for something for the Shanghai park first.
(10/19/11) The latest news from the official Disney Park Blog shows off James Cameron touring Animal Kingdom with Tom Staggs (Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) and Joe Rohde (Disney Imagineer) to explore the park and get a feel of how the world of AVATAR will take shape in the park in the near future.
(9/22/11) The buzz over Disney building a whole land themed to Avatar is still rocking the industry right now, and from what I’ve heard, the deal itself is so fresh, the ink on the contracts is probably still wet. So at this point, it’s far too early to even think about just what kind of rides and attractions will be coming into the land for sure. After all, this is the ultimate Blue Sky phase, as Disney Imagineering has been tasked with creating a themed environment to represent an entire planet in the middle of Animal Kingdom.
That said, the budget is going to be huge… and while nothing is off the table at this point, I’m hearing that the estimated budget limit to create the world of Pandora is sitting around the $500 million mark. It’s hard to imagine any kind of limits with that much money at your disposal, which is a fantastic place to begin.
(9/21/11) Shocking announcement from Disney today… and probably the big announcement that everyone had been hoping they would drop at the D23 Expo back in August. Disney has signed a deal with Fox and James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment to develop attractions and experiences based on the Avatar film series. Yes, there are two more films set in the Avatar universe on the way which promise new characters, new stories and new locations in the Avatar universe to explore.
The first project out the gate will be an entire Avatar themed land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. While they were not ready to say just when it will be ready to open, they did confirm that construction was expected to begin by 2013, so we’re probably looking at a 2015 opening date at the earliest.
According to the press release, “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.”
As a long time fan of James Cameron’s films myself, I have to admit to geeking out at this announcement in a big way. And it’s a nice bit of justifications for Cameron to find himself in good company alongside George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Jim Henson by having a Disney theme park attraction themed to his creative vision. And please note that this will only be the first Avatar themed lands to come to Disney’s theme parks. “Future locations for additional AVATAR-themed lands will be determined with our international theme park partners at a later date.”
As for the location… well this certainly will finally give Animal Kingdom that huge long overdue shot in the arm people have been begging for, and perhaps finally find a way to make people forget about the long lost Beastly Kingdom concept in favor of the world of Pandora.