On Tuesday May 16, 2017, our family was fortunate enough to attend one of Disney’s Pandora Annual Pass Preview Days at Animal Kingdom! To give a little bit of background here, we live in Ohio, and by the time we had confirmed that we nabbed one of the coveted dates, we already had a Disney trip scheduled a week earlier than that preview date. We didn’t want to cancel that trip, so this meant we would endure an 18 hour drive to Disney, an 18 hour drive back the week before Mother’s Day so we could spend it at home, then driving right back down to Disney. We actually ended up leaving around 10pm on Mother’s Day. To say we were tired is an understatement!!! But was the trip worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!!
Our time slot was from 6 – 8pm (I had opted for a late slot on the chance we might see Pandora at night). We spent the day at Animal Kingdom, did some live streams of our day on rides like Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, and Festival of the Lion King where I got picked to be the Warthog for our section, and our son Jack-Jack got to be part of the show as well (check out our Facebook Page for streams from that day). We got in line around 4:30pm to get in, and although the line was long, we were happy that they started letting us in around 5 and the line moved rather quickly. Once in, the amazement began! It was like stepping into another world. The Floating Mountains were just the beginning. The attention to detail, the other-worldly nature of the plants and surroundings are not to be missed.
We were given special FastPass tickets for our Flight of Passage ride, and anxiously anticipated our time slot. In the meantime, we continued to explore, and then took a ride on the Na’vi River Journey (Click here for our YouTube video). Again since this was a preview day, we were happy to learn there were no wait times. We just walked through the ride queue and boarded our boat. It is not an extremely long ride, but was described by my one son as “it’s a small world, only with an other-worldly creepy twist.” The animatronic toward the end of the ride is unbelievable! The smoothness of motion shows the next level Disney has taken this technology. It is so real looking, it is almost spooky!
Then came the moment of truth, our first ride on Flight Of Passage!!! Since we were using a special FastPass, we bypassed the line queue (we will discuss the queue a little later), and got right into the staging area, the setup show to the ride, and then the ride itself. The initial staging area is large, with several long rows to line up in before being sorted into the pre-ride area. This is where they show you a video feed from a couple of characters from the movie, explaining how they are going to match you with your own personal Avatar based on your DNA. It also gives you some info to prepare for the ride ahead of you. Interestingly enough, we went through this pre-ride area twice, and there were some differences from one ride to the other. So make sure you watch it!!!
Then you are moved along to the actual ride area, and matched up with your link chair based on the number you were standing on in the previous room, which holds 16 people. Each link chair is in a row but separate from each other. Be prepared to sit in a slightly forward leaning position, with harness restraints holding you from behind your legs and lower back. They give you a heads up before this happens. Then after a few moments of some techno noises and lights, scanning you and getting ready for your ride, there are some flashes and twinkles and in an instant, instead of a metal looking wall in front of you, you are now riding your own Banshee. It is truly a breathtaking moment! From this point on, I am not sure words alone can completely describe this ride. The nearest thing I can come up with is that it is like riding Soarin’ on Steroids! Wind, water, smells, motion, and don’t forget, it is 3D on top of all that! You really feel like you are on a banshee, all the way down to hearing and FEELING it breathing under your saddle. Absolutely a MUST RIDE attraction!!!
The funny thing is, during our preview ride, we were about 3/4 of the way through the ride, when everything went blank and the ride shut down. After a short while, they re-routed us back to the staging area and got us back on for a second ride! That is how we found out that the pre-show video changes from one ride to another. Not the way we intended to get two rides instead of just one, but it was completely worth it.
After our ride, the exit area was fun to explore as well, with mossy walls and other interesting plants and artifacts to examine. As with most of the bigger Disney rides, it eventually takes you to a gift shop, in this case called Windtraders, where you can buy a bunch of Pandora related items. Most notably, you can adopt your very own Shoulder Banshee. There is an area of the store where you can go and choose a banshee you are interested in adopting, then go through some quick training on how to flap its wings, make other motions and bring it to life!
Naturally, we were getting hungry, and wanted to try out some food in this new land. We went to Satu’li Canteen, a Fast Casual restaurant which interestingly serves American cuisine according to the My Disney Experience app. It is definitely a unique spin on food, and although using familiar ingredients, Disney has come up with presentations of the food to give you the feeling of eating some off-world dishes. Another bonus is that they are using actual silverware and dishes, rather then plastic and paper plates. This is a very nice feature!
After our meal, we wandered around the land a bit more, looking at the many details. There is a lot to take in. We decided to ride Na’vi River again since it did not require a special ride return time like Flight Of Passage did during this preview. We headed back over to FoP just in case we might get one more ride, but there was still a line for the people waiting to ride it a first time. Fortunately though, they told us we could go through the line queue, which we had bypassed earlier. This has got to be the longest and most immersive ride queue ever! I have heard that when full, it is long enough to hold about a 4 hour stand-by line. That is a long time, but thankfully the queue is interesting, and the majority of it is in air conditioning! Our one pass through the queue did not even begin to unlock all of the details, and based on how great the ride is, I am sure people will be going through that queue many, many times.
On the way out of Pandora, we were fortunate enough to be able to hang around at sunset and see the ground begin to glow with markings in the pavement, and some limited lighting of the surroundings. The full show of Pandora at night would not come until media days the following week, but we at least got a small taste of what it would look like at night. The final stop before heading out were the natural drums built into rocks and plants. Our kids enjoyed playing them for quite some time.
Pandora is a great new land at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, and I would highly recommend visiting. It is truly as if you are being transported to another world! So many details, so much to see. Na’vi River is as relaxing as Flight Of Passage is intense, but both rides are fun in their own way. And don’t forget the Floating Mountains. It’s hard not to appreciate them as they hang overhead during much of your visit to Pandora!!!
Let us know what you think of Pandora – The World Of Avatar in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out the Pandora Live Stream walkthroughs we did on our WDWpov Facebook page and YouTube Channel.
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