Avatar Land details teased at 2013 D23 Expo as Imagineers “visit” Pandora to prepare Walt Disney World attractions

in Disney, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Entertainment, Events, Movies, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Details for Avatar Land coming to Walt Disney World have been hinted at tonight at the 2013 D23 Expo during a press preview of the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts pavilion. Walt Disney Imagineers apparently recently returned from Pandora, having spent plenty of time researching with the Na’vi to obtain ideas for the land of Pandora set to be built at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

Since it was first announced in September 2011, less than a month after the last D23 Expo, much secrecy has surrounded the “Avatar” project. But this year fans attending the 3-day Anaheim event have a chance to get up close to elements from Pandora and talk to Imagineers who are telling their stories from a first-hand perspective.

Among the interesting items sitting on a recreated desk area in the middle of the Disney Parks & Resorts pavilion are a glowing plant and a floating shard of Unobtanium, along with a laptop playing a slideshow of Imagineers exploring Pandora and interacting with the Na’vi.

Imagineer Brandon Kleyla talked to me about the Imagineers’ trek to Pandora and what they brought back to inspire them for the upcoming theme park addition.

Video: Interview with Imagineer Brandon Kleyla about Avatar Land for Walt Disney World

The 2013 D23 Expo is sold out for Saturday, August 10, but tickets are still available for Friday and Sunday, both offering an opportunity to explore the world of Disney Parks through the eyes of Walt Disney Imagineering. And fans visiting the Avatar section of the Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion can have their picture with Imagineers working on the project while wearing their choice of a expedition backpack or oversized Na’vi boots.


  1. The Human Conglomerate

    Couldn’t help but crack a smile while reading this. While I understand that a vast majority have rejected this project, I am one of the few who cannot WAIT to experience it. Thank you for posting.

    1. bobby

      people like you happy for this disgust me lol. Instead of giving us Beastly Kingdom like they should we are getting a really crappy Avatar land?

      Does anyone actually like that Pocahonta’s ripoff? like, Why? why would anyone like that?
      there are so many better movies out there, why would anyone waste their time with this crap???

      1. Truecoat

        What you like and what others like are two different things. You don’t have to like Avatar but you also don’t have others who do. I’m sure if I found out all your likes, I’d be rolling my eyes at many.

      2. The Human Conglomerate

        You’re disgusted by people whose preferences differ from yours? How petty.

  2. Victoria

    I am freakin psyched for this!!!!! I think this will be more fun and amazing than people realize!! What if the palce is lit up at night with glowing plants!!!!! I want merchandise from Avatar very badly!! And what looks like a sneak peak drawing of the land looks promising!!! I loved the movie Avatar so much!!! I am very excite for the sequel/prequel! I hope it turns out to be very very good!

  3. Victoria

    Can any one get a clear zoomed up image of the park map and design above it??

  4. Victoria

    You know how Disney has the where you can get yourself in Carbonite or a Stormtrooper? What if you can get yourself turned into an Avatar!!!!!!

    Also I just thought of this, could they be creating realistic fake pandora trees amoungst real ones where they are kinda like the tree of life but a lot smaller and thinner but still tower over Avatar/Pandora land and then at night they glow??!!??!


    This disappoints me greatly. I have zero interest in Avatar. What are they thinking? So sad that they will do this to DAK.

  6. Ben

    Is this the only “sneak preview” they have? Kinda weak..

    1. Since1976

      Disney was responding to head-scratching park fans from the moment this project was announced (try and find the original Q&A on the Disney Parks Blog). I don’t think Iger and co. expected such a reaction. Perhaps they saw the movie’s high gross and thought that was all the proof they needed that a whole land devoted to the movie made sense. But if that were all the criteria needed, we’d have an INDEPENDENCE DAY LAND too.

      I think Disney would rather have waited for AVATAR 2 to come out to judge the story’s long-term appeal, but they jumped the gun on this fearing that Universal might snap up the property first (given Cameron’s already established connection via T2: BATTLE ACROSS TIME).

      Notice how news on AVATAR LAND seemed to slow down once Disney got itself anchored with STAR WARS and Marvel?

      1. frostysnowman

        Ha! I’d rather go to Independence Day Land. It was a better movie.

      2. Woolf

        I think the opinion of the average WDW park-goer will be much different than how negatively many Disnerds have reacted to the whole Avatar concept. I am waiting to see what Disney actually does before I make up my mind about it. If they are able to recreate a real location that looks like it did in the film then it could be a very entertaining experience (even for people who did not like the story told in Avatar).

        And if its not your thing, go somewhere else that is. I have no interest in the princess experiences. But for so many others it is what they come to the parks for. It is nice to have a wide variety of experiences to choose from.

  7. For all of you haters, you are not in the majority. Like it or not, Avatar is the most successful and popular movie of all time. Movies do not succeed on that level if they do not have a lot of fans. You might not like the story, but you have to admit James Cameron did create a stunningly beautiful and diverse world with its own virtual eco system. This is going to be Amazing when applied to a Disney attraction.

    1. Jones

      No, it isn´t – not financially, and it cannot even be mentioned in the same sentence with, say, Star Wars. Have you ever heard one single person quote a line from it? Do you know anybody who has merchandise from it? I don´t – sure, everybody has seen it – but nobody I know has even thought about byuing a Na´vi figurine or anything like that – it was simply a movie that came along at precisely the right time, it would not work today, with 3D in a steep decline. In short: It simply will never be a classic. That has *nothing* to do with hate, it is a fun and entertaining movie – but there should be no place for it at WDW.

      1. Victoria

        I understand Not everyone likes Avatar but If you think 3D is what made Avatar amazing to many other poeple, you are very very wrong. You could say the same thing about Star War not belonging, but it has been in the parks for many many years before Disney bought it. And people love it, they even have Star Wars Weekends every year. Avatar does not have the long term fandom Star Wars has but Avatar still has a Lot of potential as a series, and there is a reason why the film got a lot of attention, because people liked it a lot. It was the motion capture technology ( that created a digital costume), story and beautiful visual environments that made the film very successful.

        1. Victoria

          Our theater as well as others I am sure did not have 3D tech at the time of Avatars Release. So I never got to see it as that version.

    2. Don

      Yes the movie did good at the box office. It was the first 3D movie that did 3D right and because of that it was an attraction in itself.
      The story was crap. Not one likable character to be found and the story itself was silly. merchandising for this game did very bad and even in geek world you won’t see people embrace the universe.
      Paring with Disney was even more amazingly inappropriate. A smoking and swearing Sigourney Weaver will probably not make it into the ride just like the bad money grabbing company (that looked a lot like Disney with it’s money bracelet).
      Yes it will have many fake trees (with netting to come a few years later) and fake plant that’ll light up with neon and fiber optics. And yes it will have a 4D movie simulator that shows the world. But it won’t have a hart. To put that in a park that needs something for every demographic, not the male teen who loved the movie but who want’s to ride a coaster with 14 looping’s) I’m sure this’ll be a huge failure.

    3. Lee

      No it isn’t. When adjusted for inflation, Avatar comes out to number 14.
      Source: http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm

      Ben Hur beat it. Which means that Disney would better be doing an “Ancient Rome” section of the park, featuring chariot races.

      1. Dave

        its number 2…your numbers at 14 is domestic only
        2.8 billion
        9 academy award nominations 3 wins
        all time blue ray seller

        fox spending a billion on 3 new movies because clearly nobody liked it

        so you might want to check your sources a little better
        relax its a theme park land

        1. I am very much looking forward to Avatar 2 just tanking at the box office.

          1. Dave

            you re right it will only make about half what it did the first film so about 1.4 billion

          2. Mark

            Maybe it gets a cross over with Star Wars and they’ll include Jar Jar Binks?
            I think a box office hit doesn’t make a great theme park land. I sure don’t care for the Titanic to be a land. The franchise needs to appeal to many people (needs to have hart), make great rides, beautiful theming, themed food and merchandise. Avatar doesn’t tick all those boxes and no matter how many fake rock Disney is going to throw at the project it’ll never be a success to what Harry Potter is or to what Star Wars could be if done right.

  8. Since1976

    This whole project feels like an also-ran now that Disney owns STAR WARS. Imagine if Universal announced a Percy Jackson Land and *then* got the rights to Harry Potter.

  9. Robert Dannenberg

    I see this as the beginning of Disney not bothering to keep the parks purely Disney. They will now be throwing in what ever lands they feel like and not strictly Disney properties. Disney parks will then become amusement parks and not Disney anymore. I don’t see this as a good thing.

    1. NB

      Neither Star Wars nor Indiana Jones was a Disney property when those attractions debuted. While I’m not a fan of the idea of Pandora myself, this isn’t the first time they’ve used something that wasn’t an IP in the parks.

      1. Lee

        Yeah, but at least with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, it was a single attraction made for each, instead of a whole themed land.
        In California, Star Tours went to Tomorrowland, while Indy went to Adventureland.
        In Florida, both Star Tours and the Indy stunt show were both in Hollywood Studios.

    2. I would argue that this process already began with them shoehorning Pixar rides wherever they had room, regardless of whether it was a thematic fit.

      I don’t have any problem with whole lands being devoted to a single property. In some cases I prefer it: in Tokyo Disneysea, I loved Mysterious Island and was free not to bother with Mermaid Lagoon. Avatar keeping to its own land where it can’t bother anybody is a Heck of a lot better than seeing an Avatar ride suddenly show up in the middle of Tomorrowland.

      What it is really symptomatic of is Disney’s transition from a creative producer to an IP firm. As Disney stops making anything worthwhile and just buys up more and more companies or leases other companies’ franchises, you’ll see more and more of them just stuffing rides and attractions in wherever there’s room. Maybe if they buy Mattel next, we’ll get He-Man and Barbie face characters and Autopia will get a Hot Wheels overlay…

  10. whereisthewalrus

    Interesting that with all these years they’ve had of research, this is all they have to show. Even the guide can’t pronounce Na’vi correctly. Not to mention the photoshopped images of imagineers on Pandora are lacking some serious details (like gas masks, which is needed for the planet’s poisonous atmosphere, and they look much too big next to the supposedly 10 foot tall aliens..) Either way, you can tell there’s not a lot of heart set onto the project.

    1. Don

      I was thinking exactly the same thing!

  11. NB

    I do think it’s interesting that they more or less confirmed an interest in keeping AK open at night once Avatarland is open. Sadly, that’s about all I actually got from listening to him. Still no projected date…makes me think it could be 2020 before we see bulldozers moving…

    1. Mark

      I think it’ll only be the Avatar land that will stay open after dark. It’s close to the exit so they can easily close the rest of pushing the crowd into the Pandora twinkling light extravaganza. It’ll be like the Osborn family Christmas lights.

  12. AnonymousNJ

    🙁 Avatar Land. Noooooooooooooo….. I’ll be avoiding this area completely at Disney World. I’d take Cars Land over Avatar Land, any day.

    1. Dave

      way to prejudge a project before you even know what it is

  13. Moony

    Ahah, the only thing that bothers me is that when they were showing off pictures of their time on Pandora they weren’t wearing masks! Isn’t the air toxic to humans?

  14. Eddie

    Forget what you thought of the movie, who would not want to go to Pamdora. Disney and Avatar will add up to the state of the art theme park. Can’t wait.

  15. Nicky

    The popularity of a film and how much it makes are two different things. Imagine how many people still paid but didn’t like the movie. Sure it may be the highest grossing film of all time but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE liked it. I think the main reason we protest this project goes beyond the film to the ever present was or ORIGINAL vs FRANCHISE based attractions and shows. Beastly Kingdom is a wonderful idea if done right, but once again Disney took the cheaper route design wise. No wonder WDI has been laying off, they already have designs if they take a film based ride.

    1. domiii

      So did anybody else notice that the Imangineer was wearing a name tag and he is from ‘Gravity Falls Or’


    2. Dave

      word of mouth is what made the movie successful

      the real question is can WDI pull off pandora at night

  16. domiii

    So did anybody else notice that the Imangineer was wearing a name tag and he is from ‘Gravity Falls Or’


  17. Daniel R. Galvan

    Avatar was a success solely because of ILM’s (Lucasfilm) state of the art 3D visual effects. Period. I can see teenagers dazzled by the effects liking this movie and hard core environmentalists, not much anybody else.

    1. Which is funny because most environmentalist reviews I read hated it. Sitting in a movie theatre watching a CGI cartoon about characters who jack into a global fibre-optic network with their USB cables is kind of the opposite of environmentalism. It’s kind of fascinating to see how alienated we are from nature that we can’t even conceive of it except in terms of the Internet.

  18. Dave

    all you guys that are against this answer these two questions
    whats the better ride experience Tower of terror or Star Tours?
    whats the better IP star wars or Twilight Zone?

    you cant equate the movie to the theme park product

    1. Twilight Zone and the Tower of Terror, easily. Comparing Star Wars to Twilight Zone is like comparing Beyonce to Beethoven.

      1. Dave

        tower of terror is obviously the better ride and star wars is obviously the better IP

        so judging a theme park ride only on a movie (even though this movie was as successful s a movie can be) is very shortsided

        1. Mark

          But when you both compare them to Mystic Manor then the later is on top. Yes it’s the ride that is the most imported thing but because the rides need to be shorter they can have less narrative (what killed the imagination ride). They opt for a movie so they can surf on that story. But when you go for a known ip (movie) you need to choose one that most people like. Avatar had no likable characters, non. It’s success was based on a gimmick, 3D. So no one is buying the merchandise, food and other stuff that is important for the business side. They will sell some light up toys and those stupid Mickey ears but that’s it.
          But I can’t wait to see the stilt walkers trying to look like Na’ve with their little cloth and genital hair.

          1. Dave

            avatar was as successful as a movie can be both commercially, critically, and home sales ie dvd blue ray

            if cars land and mysterious island can be successful i have no doubt this will be
            great themeing
            great e ticket
            and you ve got a huge winner
            cant believe its even being debated

            give it a chance when it opens you may like it

        2. Star Wars is pretty awful. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and the fanboys were whining about how Star Wars would be “ruined,” I had to wonder where they have been the last 15 years.

          But I guess it depends on whether you’re talking about artistic integrity or money. Based on your comments about Avatar, you seem to be fixated on the idea that making lots of money means something is good. I don’t make that equation. Twilight Zone is not just a good TV show: it is a TV show that helped define the whole medium of television.

          In terms of quality, Avatar will not be “as successful as a movie can be” until people are heralding it as a classic in 50, 60 or 70 years. As we’ve seen with the fiascoes over Lone Ranger and John Carter these last few years, the opinions of critics are so out of touch with any concept of what makes a good movie that their opinion is inadmissible. The public spent a lot of money on Avatar 1, but they also continue to watch movies by Adam Sandler. But if you base your idea of what is good on what makes money, well, there you go. Personally, I don’t know a single person who saw Avatar who liked it.

          1. dave

            Im not “fixated” on money thats why it s just one example/fact on why avatar was successful.. box office, home sales, critical success, rotten tomatoes all show avatar was a unique high quality film, but even if you dont like the movie it can be a great theme park success…my kids have never heard of twilight zone but love the ride

  19. Tina

    I personally liked the movie, didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I am excited to see a new land going into AK and I believe that with the cost involved in an undertaking of this size Disney will be sure to do it right. I believe the negative commentators on here will find that the imagineers will come up with some amazing new attractions that AK sorely needs regardless of whether the story line is a perfect fit or not.


    Wasn’t this a popular movie like… four-ish years ago? six, seven-ish years ago by the time they complete the project? I’d rather go on the terminator or backdraft attractions at universal – at least those were current to the films when they opened….

    1. DdisneyFAN

      The 500M est budget can be used elsewhere. Avatar is ok but doesn’t have the long lasting impact of other characters/attractions/lands in WDW. They are scrambling to “match” the success of Harry Potter and have made a hasty and potentially costly decision here. It is not too late to cut your loses. How about a Marvel superhero park/land the Disney way.

  21. Wonderful article! We will be linking to this great article on our site.

    Keep up the great writing.


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