The following article initially ran on Monday, April 1st, as an April Fools Day piece. Enjoy the silly fun below and pray Disney doesn’t get any ideas from this article.
On September 20th, 2011, Disney announced their partnership with James Cameron and FOX to bring the world of Avatar to the Disney Parks. It was widely assumed that we would see blue creatures show up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom first. However, that project has been nothing but trouble and has been creating more problems for Disney than it would solve. With Iger breathing hard on the necks of Imagineers, something had to happen. And it looks like Disneyland will now be the first park to explore the mysteries of Pandora.
Do you have your pair of blueberry Pop Tarts unwrapped? Got that Blue Mountain Coffee brewed? Because today we tell the tale of something which will have you turning blue.
Whenever a classic Disney attraction is put on the chopping block, management trots out the old Walt quote that Disneyland would never be complete. Expect that phrase to be shouted from megaphones in an attempt to drown out what is sure to be fan outrage as Disney remakes Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, a 1955 opening day attraction.
Jungle Cruise is one of those attractions with staying power, but at 58 years old, is long overdue for a facelift. The attraction takes up one of the largest swaths of real estate in a park challenged with expansion room. With projects already in the works for Tomorrowland and Frontierland, increasing pressure has put Jungle Cruise in the sights of redevelopment. As with the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse before it, a small band of purist Imagineers hope to save a bit of early Disneyland magic by reskinning it. In this case, blue.
With potential Indiana Jones projects in the early stages which would have completely removed the jungle rivers, it was thought by some camps in Imagineering that the only way to save a classic would be to fight franchise with franchise. Since no one is more upset that Avatar isn’t progressing than Bob Iger, it was logical to follow that path.
“AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we’ll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said James Cameron. “I’m chomping at the bit to start work with Disney’s legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and to give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality.”
As proposed, the Pandora River Adventure would use advanced pilot-less motion-based boats to traverse the beautiful, but dangerous, jungles of Cameron’s multi-billion dollar world. The sharp pencil boys up in Burbank are also interested in the idea as it would mean removing skippers from the jungles, saving Disney hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
While many of the aged animals you love will be removed, some will remain, though reskinned as creatures reminiscent of those seen in the film. For example, at least one hippo-like creature will remain in the river, with four ears wiggling around as it dangerously blows bubbles. Though, this time around, when the Pandorian Hippo charges your boat, he’ll seemingly hit it, causing the boat to tip on its motion base. You’ll narrowly escape doom as a giant Na’vi riding dragon creature rises out of the lagoon, scaring off the hippos and turning your boat toward the safety of a narrow inlet.
Next gen technology will be a central element of the new attraction. The current Jungle Cruise dock will be rethemed to look like a military base which has been reclaimed by the jungle over time. It will be covered in vines and other-worldly flowers and insects, some of which will interact with guests. But it is the optical guns you’ll be trained to use which will make this adventure different from anything you’ve ever experienced before. Three small shooting galleries will be set up in the station; one downstairs and two upstairs. Each will teach you a different objective and skill; one of which is to decipher the good creatures from the bad.
As you progress on your journey, you’ll have the opportunity to shoot at hundreds of elements in the attraction. Everything from cute bunny-like creatures to massive dragon-like beasts will be possible targets. However, what you choose to kill and what you don’t will affect the outcome of the story. Will you be on the side of good or evil? Government or environment? The choice will be up to you, but you’ll feel the consequences of your actions and see how they impact Pandora and its inhabitants. But no decision will be more important than what you choose to do when you reach the Tree of Souls located in the former rhino/explorers up a pole scene. Should you fail to protect the tree, your path will take a very dark turn.
The river will retain it’s current path, however, once you pass behind the waterfall, the short remainder of the ride will be enclosed, allowing for advanced projection technology to play out the results of your earlier shooting spree. Your boat will swirl, tilt and turn with the projections, setting up a truly thrilling experience.
Facial recognition will allow your image to play out on the walls around you. Possible scenarios will see you hailed as an honorary Na’vi, military hero, ravager of Pandora, and many others. You can be with the Na’vi or destroy them and their world completely. But the biggest reward and the most exciting payoffs will be for protecting Pandora. It’s a lesson that Cameron insists must be at the core of all Avatar projects.
As with many of the newer Disney projects, it’s what happens at the end of the ride that has the suits truly excited. In the space currently occupied by Aladdin’s Oasis will be a brand new Avatar gift shop. The dock will be completely reconfigured with three zones. The entry zone will be very much like you remember it, although the new boats will be much smaller 12 person vehicles, which seat 4 people each in 4 separate rows. The unloading zone will be much further back than the boats currently disembark, allowing you to exit directly into the new store. The middle zone will hold empty vehicles just waiting to be loaded. Boats will load three at a time and will head immediately around a corner into a new curved path where your seat belts will be checked and you’ll be instructed by a military representative to take no prisoners.
The shop will completely change the former Tahitian Terrace facility. The facade will look like a huge tree with lights and luminescent strands within the branches. At night, it promises to be a spectacular focal point in Adventureland, as does the Tree of Souls within the ride itself. While there has been some discussion about expanding the shop into the adjacent Tiki Room, that concept has been shelved for now. If the Avatar-themed Jungle Cruise is a huge hit, all bets are off for future expansions throughout Adventureland, or should we say Avatarland. Though Indiana Jones is fully expected to hold its own, as Disney now owns that franchise as well.
Studies on next-gen technology are currently being run to see if it is feasible to create DVD on demand which will combine your image and the choices you made in the ride with footage from the movie to create a truly personalized film just for you, with you as the star!
We’ve had a bit of fun creating images of what we think the new attraction will look like. I’d like to thank Fishbulb and Andy Castro for their photographic help with this article.
Oh-kay – that should do it for today. Let us know if this news has you blue in a good way or bad. We’ve started a discussion on the MiceChat Forums – LINK
See you at Disneyland!