Pandora: Here, There… Everywhere!

Star Wars Land Parade/Show Rehearsal Footage!

Over the past few weeks Walt Disney World has been hyping a new addition to their Animal Kingdom park, based on James Cameron’s successful, yet nowadays mostly forgotten, 2009 film Avatar as the theme. But did you know James Cameron is also putting together his own bus and truck tour version of the show, known (in-house) as a “Pandora Pop-up?” Apparently this touring version is on its way to selected communities around the world. So why bother with battling the Florida crowds, trying to book expensive hotel rooms, dining packages and airfare just to gawk at a couple of shops, a few snack stands and two re-themed ride systems with blue plastic as the dominant decorating item?

Complicating everything of course was that within a day of Disney’s huge media launch Cameron went ahead and did what he has become legendary for, throwing a bucket of ice cold water on everything by announcing yet another delay (the fourth!) on the first Avatar sequel of four being planned for the franchise. (My guess? Maybe he still can’t come up with any Avatar characters you can remember after the movie ends!)

From two sources, one at Disney, the other at Cameron’s Lightstorm, we have early versions of a press release/talking points memo on both the Disney/WDW “Pandora – The World of Avatar” at Animal Kingdom, and Cameron’s almost identically titled bus and truck tour, “Pandora Pop-Up: The World of Avatar.” I’m sure you’ll take note that these are obviously rough drafts; they offer the reader a revealing look into the process before the PR folks put their “magical” spin on it for the public.

The Disney Draft: LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (April 1, 2017) – Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens May 27 at Walt Disney World Resort,

Floating fiberglass and cement mountains along with exotic plants (plus some blue-hued character favorites) overrun the landscape at Pandora – The World of Avatar, which opens May 27, 2017 at Disney Animal Kingdom. This expansion will bring a variety of much needed new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Cruise and of course the expected new food & beverage and glow carts everywhere. (Kent Phillips, photographer).

The largest addition in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora’s expansion into a theme park land will celebrate an intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action as well as dramatically increasing the sales of glow merchandise.

Based on Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron’s almost decade old box-office success, Avatar, the new land will welcome guests to the lush world of the movie (of course… um “inspired” by Roger Deans trippy album cover art for ‘70s prog rock bands) long after the human conflict with the native Na’vi inhabitants has ended.

The look of Pandora is inspired by Roger Dean’s trippy 70’s album art.


The dramatic shiny plastic-like daytime beauty of the land transforms to black-light glow by night when bioluminescent flora and intricate nighttime experiences add a dance club-like quality to Pandora. The all-new experiences will immerse guests in a mystical world of dining opportunities, offer trance-like bioluminescent souvenirs to collect and provide breathtaking new attraction experiences this Summer.

Pandora – The World of Avatar is a marketing collaboration of Walt Disney Imagineering, Cameron and Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. “We are taking our guests on a journey to this world in an experience that’s as realistic and immersive as possible with oodles of green and blue paint and plastic,” says Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “If you can remember the movie at all, the world of Pandora is a setting for action and characters whose story we’ll try our damnest to follow. Here, guests are the primary characters immersed in an extremely vivid, very nightclub-like experience.”

Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will cross the park’s Discovery River into Pandora – The World of Avatar and continue along a winding rainforest path for their first glimpse of the land’s iconic floating mountains behind the almost identically themed Rainforest Cafe.

“Logos are so cool.” – James Cameron


“When guests come across the bridge, they are hounded by the land’s vending staff and a few entertainment/atmosphere types until they admit/confess/plead that they have been transferred light-years away, to the Alpha-Centauri solar system and Pandora,” says Jon Landau, Avatar producer, Lightstorm Entertainment. “It’s a trippy otherworldly, fully-themed experience. Not that I have much to do with anything here, mind you. Sheesh, it might take away from my real job of just showing up at handprint/sidewalk star ceremonies and movie premieres being overheard loudly chatting on my cell phone taking credit for everyone else’s work.”

As guests explore the verdant AstroTurf-like terrain sprawling beneath cement mountains that appear to float in the sky, they see waterfalls cascading down the mountainside into meandering streams and pools, as they empty out their pockets of spare change into them, and discover two thrilling new expeditions: Avatar: Flight of Passage and Avatar: Na’vi River Cruise.

“Flights made during Pandora’s rush hours can take longer.” Noted Rhode.


Avatar: Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – a faceoff with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx. “It’s amazing what can be done in front of an IMAX screen nowadays with Bluetooth, spray bottles, a fan or two, and a big blue rubber chicken on a robotic arm.” Rhode said, “We’ll even pretend to make it fun to get the Guest chained into this contraption with big iron hooks and Velcro.”

The Great Lenopternyx will appear in the Avatar: Flight of Passage attraction, sponsored by Honda.


On the family-friendly Na’vi River Cruise, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent (glow) rainforest. The eight-seat plastic reed boats float past exotic (glow) plants as Pandoran and other family friendly creatures who are also blue colored are glimpsed via the back side of water as they glide into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical tiki-like journey culminates in an encounter with a breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy through her music (voiced by Disney star Demi Lovato) into the forest. “She also offers a familiar deal,” Rohde mentions, “One of your heads for two of hers, plus a digital song download on your phone. The kiddies will find it all so hip and cool. Wizards can’t do that!”

All the main characters are blue!


“The Pandora landscape will be alive with creatures,” Rohde says. “We’re bringing to life everything from the largest creature you might encounter to the most microscopic. Blue mosquitoes buzz your ears and green ants nibble your sandled toes as animals appear out of the underbrush – big Pandoran animals appear at the edge of the forest and you’ll hear the very complicated calls they issue back and forth, presented by Verizon.” “Since the nine-foot tall blue Na’vi characters were found to scare smaller children and many elderly during soft openings,” Rhode described how Disney worked around the problem, “We had to stay ‘on theme’ – and thanks to a few licensing deals we were able to lock up most of the blue colored family friendly characters from films and TV. Smurfs, Oompah-Loompahs, and many others join Disney’s Genie from Aladdin to insure no guest leaves without a full PhotoPass card.”

Smurfs are statistically 42.5% less scary than Na’vi and have the same pleasing skin tone that is found to increase guest spending. Best of all, because only 9% of guests can remember the original Avatar movie, the average tourist can’t distinguish a Smurf from a Na’vi. “If it’s blue, it’s true.”


That thriving Pandoran landscape helps convey intrinsic Disney resort messages of the value of advance reservations, bus transportation (always an adventure!) and exchanging polite conversation in long attraction, hotel check in/out and restaurant queues.

The artful storytelling in Pandora continues as guests stop for sustenance at the land’s Satu’li Canteen (pronounced “Sa-too-lee”), a Quonset-hut-style building sponsored by Arby’s. The fast-casual restaurant presents itself as being inspired the healthful bounty of Pandora – wholesome grains, fresh vegetables, and hearty proteins. Most visitors will then quickly note this is not the real menu as they discover where the Turkey Legs, Burgers, Corn Dogs or Chicken Strips are sold and make a beeline to the handily located adjacent outdoor vending area. Here even the ubiquitous Churro is carefully and creatively reimagined as blue sugar covered “Na’vi fingers,” and kids love ‘em. Guests can grab a stiff Blue-Margarita Na’vi cocktail at nearby Pongu Pongu. Windtraders (sponsored by the People’s Republic of China) is a shopper’s delight where guests can choose from Na’vi cultural items, glow toys, science kits and more glow. Think Rain Forest Cafe gift shop with the Neiman/Marcus pricing guests have come to expect from Disney.

Rainforest Cafe Windtraders shopping!


Authenticity and realism were drivers in the creation of Pandora, and the result is a world beyond budgets – with guests able to easily schedule monthly payments on most items. “The attractions have very deliberate marketing moments crafted into them, the way any good Disney, Lucasfilm or Marvel franchise deserves.” Rohde says. “It’s not as simple as just coming to a place that looks well merchandised. It’s a place that’s been deliberately imbued with the proper stock, in respect for retail harmony.”


Spectacular New Interactive Attraction Will Showcase the Science and Technology
of the Amazing Environments and Creatures of Pandora. Eat and shop too!


The Lightstorm Draft: Glendale, Calif. [April 1, 2017] — Avatar: Discover Pandora Pop-Up, a spectacular new, state-of-the-art interactive exhibition, with shopping and dining had its global premiere in Taipei, Taiwan, late last year. GES, along with Lightstorm Entertainment, and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products (Fox) tell us this just because they can.

Avatar: Discover Pandora is inspired by and filled with the extraordinary creatures, breathtaking environments and inspirational cultures of the James Cameron film, just as it might be seen in a theme park, minus the big ol’ honkin rides. GES, a global events provider, is partnering with Beast Kingdom Co., Ltd., to move Avatar: Discover Pandora from Taipei City, Taiwan to Anaheim’s Garden Walk mall in California for its next showcase. Additional details about this exciting exhibition will be released in the coming months. For more information, please visit Also keep your eyes open for any huge closed indoor malls, abandoned sports arenas or overbuilt Indian casino parking structures to sprout “Pandora: Coming Soon” banners near you.

In this new 12,000,000-square-foot entertainment and educational experience, visitors of all ages will be able to explore the scientific and wondrous discoveries, plus dining and shopping found on the world of Pandora. Presenting Pandora as a real place, Avatar: Discover Pandora will give visitors the opportunity to interact with the exhibition through a series of exciting and engaging immersive environments that highlight Pandora’s diverse glow flora and fauna, exotic wildlife, and the amazing culture and mythology of its indigenous people, the Na’vi. They can even eat and shop just like them!


GES’s creative team has been working closely with Lightstorm and Fox to create an exhibition as authentic and groundbreaking as James Cameron’s remarkable 2009 film, Avatar. The scope for Avatar: Discover Pandora captures the phenomenal beauty of the alien world, and brings it back to Earth for an intriguing look at the many ways Pandora reflects our own planet, if it was sponsored by American Express.

Kathy Franklin, President, Franchise Development, Lightstorm Entertainment, added, “Our fans around the world often tell us that they wish they could travel to Pandora, and this touring exhibition gives us a unique opportunity to bring the wonders of Pandora to them. Forget trying to figure out what you’ll pay that day to get in.” Franklin commented, “We’ve got only one set of ticket prices, as well as merchandise and food costs. This exhibition has something for everyone, from fans of the film who want to experience Pandora in a brand-new way as they wait decades for our four theatrical film sequels, to families looking for an exciting activity, or to school groups wanting to explore science in any way that doesn’t yet again involve visiting their local zoo.”

Featuring wallpaper hung everywhere printed with captivating settings such as the Hallelujah Mountains and Tree of Souls, as well as life-sized blue rubber and plastic recreations of movie creatures including the Banshee, Direhorse, and Viperwolf, visitors to Avatar: Discover Pandora will be able to experience the science and wonder of Pandora firsthand without that soul-sucking Florida humidity.

The dynamic guest experience will allow visitors to:

  • Enter an exhibition curated by the Pandoran Research Foundation where they will leave the 21st century behind (via a strobing black light and plywood shaker platform, sponsored by Samsung) and step into a 22nd century world of the Avatar franchise;
  • Learn about space travel and the history behind the discovery of Pandora in the Alpha Centauri solar system, (brought to you by the Telsa Automobile Company);
  • Explore recreations of Pandora’s most compelling environments showcasing its unique plants and animals and what they can teach us about our own planet (brought to you by Scotts Turf Products);
  • Engage in interactive activities based on the culture, language and music of the Na’vi, the nine-foot-plus-tall humanoids who are the indigenous people of Pandora (brought to you by Expedia);
  • Experience the jewel-like glow of Pandora’s bioluminescent plants and animals (brought to you by HSN’s Jewelry Hour presented by Lisa Renna);
  • Interact with banshees, learn to operate an AMP suit, picture yourself as part of the Avatar Program (brought to you by KinderCare and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza);
  • Dine in Pandora at Na’vi Yum Yum – where the wacky out of this world animal wait staff hurl blue pizzas, burgers and chicken strips your way!
  • And so much more!
Catch ‘em if you can!


“In collaboration with the visionary team at Lightstorm and our technologically advanced partners at GES, we are thrilled to support Avatar: Discover Pandora – which I am confident will be a highly entertaining exhibition that promises to engage, educate and captivate visitors around the world,” said Greg Lombardo, SVP of Global Live and Location Based Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Consumer Products. “Just think of all the e-mail addresses we can gather and then spam endlessly about mail order Viagra and other fine drugs shipped from Canada.”

“Beast Kingdom has always been dedicated to bringing the newest, hottest European and American film peripheral products as well as major international exhibitions,” said KK Yang, President, Beast Kingdom. “We are elated to work with teams from Fox, Lightstorm and GES to make Taiwan and then Anaheim the first stops of the worldwide tour of Avatar: Discover Pandora. We are just thrilled that our commemorative t-shirts will be available for sale at every swap meet and outlet mall from the coasts to the middle of the country, making America great again for themed merchandise.”

“For the last two years, GES’ creative team has been hard at work designing and producing large and small scale displays, as well as branded sippy cups, bibs and blue-goo filled teething rings. As fans of James Cameron’s artistic vision, we utilized the best special effects experts, production designers and artists in the business to create a truly authentic, immersive, and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages,” said Eddie Newquist, Chief Creative Officer and Executive Vice President of Entertainment at GES. Looking through a plastic eyehole, into a glow-painted cardboard box filled with blue rubber monsters, sponsored by Huggies, our Guests will believe they are actually right there in Pandora. Damn we’re good!”

BONUS – here’s a link to that StarWarsLand Show/Parade Rehearsal Footage!

Where’s Bea Arthur when you need her?

It's new, it's blue, and it's coming soon to you. Are you ready for Pandora: World of Avatar? Click To Tweet

Happy April 1st everyone. We’ll see you again soon with more theme park adventures.