It’s usually the good, the bad, and the ugly. But with Disney’s Pandora – The World of Avatar, themed after the almost decade old movie Avatar by James Cameron, it’s all about the good, better, and best. And there is quite a lot to say about each.
The new section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not even open, but every cast member we encountered greeted us in the Na’vi language, the spoken tongue of the aliens from Pandora. They immerse you in the experience that transports you to this wonderland. The colorful blue of their costumes call to mind the beautiful blue shade of the native Na’vi people, and they all already love working in this part of the Disney Imagineared world.
Also in the good list are the frozen beverages available at Pongu Pongu (Na’vi for Party Party). A special bioluminescent “ice cube” is available for the drinks if you purchase them in the souvenir cup, but you can buy them without the added magic. We sampled the non-alcoholic Night Blossom, a frozen limeade with layers of desert pear and apple topped with passion fruit boba balls. Although tasty, this is really, really sweet. After two sips, I needed a big drink of water to cleanse my palate. But it was a hit with Granuaile. This walk up stand also has a couple of ales and a delicious dessert called Pongu Lumpia – a pineapple cream cheese spring roll. Think fried pineapple cheesecake. What’s not to love. Very good.
There are two attractions in Disney’s Pandora. The first one is the Na’vi River Journey. This boat ride is a slow drift through the Valley of Mo’ara as you search for the Shaman of Songs. The attraction is visually stunning. Most noteworthy here is the use of bioluminescence, the glowing soft colored light you see throughout your ride. Because the background is dark, the blues, pinks, and purples that prevail magically pop and wrap you in the warm glow. Being compared to It’s a Small World, the ride is definitely gentle and family friendly, but the technology kicks it up to a level Walt Disney couldn’t dare dream.
The one counter service dining location inside Pandora will be Satu’li Canteen, and everything was good. One of the better options on our tray was the blueberry cream cheese mousse. Highlighting the colors of Pandora and the Na’vi people, this light and delectable dessert pairs a passion fruit curd with sweet cream cheese and bold blueberries. It is light, fruity, pretty, and fun.
A quick nod here to the other souvenir cup, offered at the Satu’li Canteen. According to Granuaile, the Na’vi Flute Cup is awesome, but the Pandora Sunrise beverage inside, not so much. It’s a blend of fruit juices with Powerade melon drink over ice. Granuaile thinks the drink was weird, although I’m sure the Powerade was a good choice for a 90+ degree day. So, the cup earns a better, the drink – well, maybe ask for the cup with a soda.
Everything out there so far about the brand new thrill ride, Flight of Passage, is true. It is beyond amazing. I was anxious going into this attraction, which I’ll talk about shortly, but I have never experienced a theme park attraction like this anywhere. When I tell you I wanted to cry when I got off, I mean it most sincerely. There was such a feeling of exhiliration, as you dive through the valley, over the river, and then glide through the beautiful Mo’ara Valley.
It’s not that the ride ended that made me sad, it was just the rush of emotion, the scents, the visual beauty – it was a lot to take in. I should have followed Granuaile up the hill for a second trip, but that will have to wait for the next trip. Think Soarin’ on steroids. You are there, in Pandora, on the back of a banshee that has been specially chosen for you, and it is amazing.
They didn’t allow photos inside the actual attraction, but the Imaginears really pushed the limits with the queue as well. Stunning and spectacular from the get go.
One of the best counter service meals I’ve ever had was at Satu’li Canteen. This “mess hall” themed restaurant features actually pretty healthy choices, and while we only sampled one of the Create Your Own Satu’li Bowls, it was delicious. The bowls give you the option to choose your own protein, a base, and a sauce, so you can really make what you want. I opted for the chopped wood-grilled chicken as my protein, then based on reviews of other preview visitors, selected the red and sweet potato hash. I went with the creamy herb dressing over top.
The boba balls on top were yogurt, and they are definitely a theme at Pandora. The chicken was tender and delicious, but Oh. My. Yum. The hash was incredible. Sweet, savory, and a forkful of comfort, I could eat this all day long. Also on the dish was a crunchy vegetable slaw, which balanced the sweet and creamy potatoes.
I would venture to guess most of the people visiting Pandora have never seen the Avatar movie. Although it would help to be familiar with the amazing scenery from the film, you will still be impressed with the themeing in Pandora.
And then there’s the opportunity to adopt a banshee. More than anything, Granuaile looked forward to this, and she was not disappointed. The thing hasn’t come off of her shoulder since we bought it. Definitely a purchase to consider carefully with a $50 price tag, it’s cool.
The Not So Good
While I came out of Disney’s Pandora wearing lapis colored glasses, I was not completely blinded to the drawbacks. The issues guests are having fitting on to the Flight of Passage attraction are real. Even though I felt prepared and hoped I would fit, I went in there about ready to pee myself with worry. I was the largest one in my group of 16 going in, and I was already dreading the embarassment of being asked to leave. Although working out well for me, the attraction is designed so that not only weight, but height and width of your calves could impact your ability to enjoy the attraction.
Aside from the “fit” of the ride, the walk up there might be a bit of a journey in itself. A cast member told me the queue was built to accommodate a six hour wait time – so the walk up there is LONG. And uphill. And then there are steps at the end to climb to get to the ride (and come down from when you are through). This is not a Mount Everest climb, but if you are out of shape (like me), you can get out of breath.
The Wrap Up
You need to go.