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Construction continues on Pandora: The Land of Avatar and "Rivers of Light" at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park

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Construction continues on Pandora: The Land of Avatar and "Rivers of Light" at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park

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Given that -- late last month -- Disney Parks & Resorts released that shot of the model of Pandora's floating mountains ...


Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Coporation / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
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... I thought that it might be time to check out how far along construction has actually gotten on Disney's Animal Kingdom's new land-of-AVATAR. So after driving on over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and then hopping on a bus for DAK, I soon found myself rolling past the massive "Soarin'-Over-Pandora" show building.


Photo by Jim Hill

To give you a sense of how truly enormous this still-under-construction structure is, I've included a second shot where -- if you look closely at the base of the building -- you can see the full-sized blue SUV rolling past the construction fence that rings this show building's perimeter.


Photo by Jim Hill

And if you look even closer at this collection of steel girders, you can then make out the two massive mirror-image theaters where DAK visitors will then be able to climb on the back of a mechanical banshee and then take off on a faux flight over Pandora.

As Disney CEO Bob Iger reflected on a recent test of this attraction during a December 2014 interview with Variety:

"It felt so real, so lifelike," Iger said of the prototype vehicle guests will board to travel through the fictional land. "There's never been anything like it."

The vessels that guests will ride upon will essentially be the banshees themselves, with bodies that move to mimic a breathing beast. The flying sequences will be brought to life through large video screens -- similar to "Soarin'" -- with vehicles moving with the 3D action inside a massive theater.


Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Coporation / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
 

If you'd like to get some shots of the inner workings of this massive structure, I'd suggest you get a move on. According to what my sources at Imagineering have told me, Disney expects to have all of this show building's exterior walls up within 60 days. Whereupon the outside will then  be painted look-away grey or go-away green.

And speaking of construction ... While Guests visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom these days do have to deal with a seemingly never-ending gauntlet of construction fences ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... there are some fun new things to be found in this theme park. Take -- for example -- that new sets of roots which the Tree of Life acquired back in February.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I just love the idea that the Imagineers -- while they were looking for ways to widen the walkways around Discovery Island (not to mention creating a great new photo spot in front of this theme park's 145 foot-tall icon) ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... -- then circled back on the Tree of Life's central creative conceit (i.e., that this structure's "bark" was covered with more than 325 animal carvings).


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why it would only stand to reason that -- when the Tree of Life's roots burst up through the ground elsewhere within the bounds of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park -- they too would be festooned with elaborate carvings of elephants, elk ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... and bison.


Photo by Jim Hill

Continuing on around Discovery River, I decided to go check on how the construction of "Rivers of Light" was going.


Photo by Jim Hill

Work first began on this nighttime extravaganza back in April of 2014. And while we're still more than a year out from "Rivers of Light" 's official grand opening ...


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... much of the greenery which WDW Horticultural Department planted nearly 19 years ago along that river bank has since been removed.


Photo by Jim Hill

Disney is now used earthmovers & backhoes to shave down the hillside so that they can then construct a proper viewing area for "Rivers of Light" ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... which will be presented (quoting now from the Official Disney Parks Blog) " ...  on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest."


Photo by Jim Hill

Look for this nighttime spectacular -- which will combine (again quoting from the Official Disney Parks Blog) " ... live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery" to be something that you can book in advance (a la those new fireworks viewing areas that have just been added to the Magic Kingdom's Hub area) via the My Disney Experience program.

Mind you, not every bit of Disney magic still has to be booked months in advance. Take -- for example -- what I stumbled upon as I walked past the Disney Outfitters store.


Photo by Jim Hill

That extendoplatform was being used to help train all of the macaws that take part in DAK's "Winged Encounters - The Kingdom Takes Flight" presentation. Which recently moved to that newly opened walkway / photo spot in front of the Tree of Life that I mentioned earlier on in this article.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that it was quite a kick to get to see so many of these colorful birds up-close.


Photo by Jim Hill

Not mention hearing that gasp the crowd made as this flock of macaws took off from their new centrally located display spot ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... and then flew back to their training perch out behind the Disney Outfitters.


Photo by Jim Hill

Those Disney handlers continued to train these macaws over the course of that day. And it was interesting to watch how far afield those birds began to fly around that theme park over time. Here's a quartet of macaws I spotted while walking to the Animal Kingdom's bus station who flew well outside the bounds of that theme park before then they finally turned and headed back to their new perch just below the Tree of Life.


Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, it was a pretty fun and informative day at Disney's Animal Kingdom. And I genuinely look forward to seeing what Joe Rohde & James Cameron have cooked up together when Pandora: The Land of Avatar officially opens its doors in 2017.


Photo by Jim Hill

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  • Considering that Soarin' at EPCOT will construct a third theater to meet demand, I wonder why they only have 2 theaters for Avatar. If we assume this show will be an advance of the concept, it will be the top new must-see attraction at Animal Kingdom. We might get 4 hour Standby waits easily. The only other solution is they figured out how to increase capacity to meet demand.

    That they fixed the trail to the Tree of Life is helpful. I never gotten close to it from the way the park is constructed.

  • Great update and pics!

    I'm curious about the activity going on at Kilimanjaro Safari for the night-time safari.

    How's this going and is it going to work?

    TimG,

    I thought early leaks of the floor plan showed 4 theaters, was this confirmed?

  • I'm still hoping that Avatar Land is just a nightmare of mine...

  • I've seen another aerial view of the site and they have 4 theaters.

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