Fans Upset as Beloved Disney World Icon Remains Closed Off

in Walt Disney World

Exterior of Cinderella Castle

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Walt Disney World is known for its immersive theming and use of IPs even as the Resorts turn to more modern and minimal styles in direct contrast.

From the sights, the smells, and the music, each Disney World Park puts a significant effort into making Guests feel like they’re part of the magic. Some of that has come under fire recently as the Disney Parks start to focus on retheming their existing attractions to popular IPs and franchises. Recently, Disneyland announced a complete overhaul of its San Francisco area in Disney California Adventure to a San Fransokyo theme based off of Big Hero 6 (2014).

San Fransokyo - Disney Delights Fans With Sneak Peek of Exciting New Area, While Tempting Their Taste Buds With Delectable Menu Teasers
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While EPCOT is still under construction with its overhaul project, Walt Disney World hasn’t had a major land open since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in late 2019. Prior to that, Toy Story Land and Pandora: The World of Avatar opened in 2018 and 2017, respectively, but as fans have started to complain about the amount of time EPCOT is taking, it’s called attention to the fact that there’s an area that Guests still haven’t had much access to, even six years after opening.

The sun sets over the Millennium Falcon at Hollywood Studios' Galaxy's Edge
Credit: Disney

Pandora was added to Animal Kingdom in 2017 to celebrate and immerse Guests into Disney’s recently acquired (and still incredibly successful) Avatar franchise. Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey opened as two brand new attractions along with a new quick-service food location and an immersive new area of the Park. Guests can enjoy the ambiance of alien floral, fauna, and sounds while taking in the breathtaking floating rocks and other environmental designs of the area.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World
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However, perhaps the best part of Pandora is one that Guests have rarely seen due to Animal Kingdom’s operating hours. Each night the world of Pandora transforms with bioluminescence and mood lighting to completely transport Guests. It was a feat of Imagineering when it was first unveiled, but the lit-up pathway that Guests walk through the area is barely seen because Animal Kingdom closes so early.

Pandora -- World of Avatar at night
Credit: Disney

Pandora was built with the intention to be seen by Guests at night, with designers putting in as much effort to transform the area for the nighttime as they did for daytime. Due to the animals that the Park has, however, the Park often closes around or before sundown, typically around 7 p.m. Because of this, the Park is also the only Park at Walt Disney World to not offer any form of nighttime entertainment or fireworks, and hasn’t for a few years.

pandora disney world animal kingdom
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If you visit Disney World in the winter months when it gets darker earlier, you may be able to not only see Pandora all lit up, but also catch the Tree of Life Awakenings projection show. Previously, Animal Kingdom did offer Rivers of Light, a nightly show that took place around the Discovery River that had live music and performers, water projections, floating lanterns, and tons of gorgeously displayed lights and projection sequences.

Rivers of Light show at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Credit: Disney

Although the animals have often been cited as the reason for the Park closing early, fans have complained that there’s no reason why the animal encounters couldn’t be closed and the rest of the Park allowed to stay open later, especially considering Pandora was built with the intention of giving Guests something to do later in the day. It’s disappointing for Guests to be unable to experience so much of Animal Kingdom due to its short hours.

Tree of Life 'awakens' for Christmas
Credit: Disney

While the amount of detail given to Pandora proves that Disney Imagineering focuses on the little details, it’s upsetting that arguably the best part of Walt Disney World goes unseen for so much of the year. Hopefully a nighttime show will make its way back to Animal Kingdom one day soon and allow Guests to not only experience the magic of Animal Kingdom after dark (when it’s much, much less hot), but also to experience the incredible work that went into Pandora’s nighttime facade.

Have you ever experienced Pandora at night? Share your experience with Inside the Magic!

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