No, I didn’t miss the big announcement last week. Interestingly enough, while we were at Walt Disney World there was no buzz about the coming Avatar Land. We had to read this news on the internet like everybody else! And another interesting tidbit, this news came on the very day that our family was in Animal Kingdom and had come to a decision: on our next WDW vacation, we would skip AK altogether. It’s our least favorite Disney Park, after all. And we have pretty much seen the Festival of the Lion King and Finding NEMO: The Musical enough times to recite the entire script or sing along with every melody. So, we just decided we’d concentrate on our favorite Parks next visit.
So that’s the filter through which we received news that Disney would add an entire section to Animal Kingdom, themed entirely on the James Cameron blockbuster movie Avatar. Honestly, I thought it was a joke when I first read it. It seems a bit out of left field to me–I mean, I realize Disney is trying to do something that could compare with the scale of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But HP is a wildly popular book and movie series… Avatar is, thus far, one blockbuster movie. Honestly, if I had not seen it in 3D IMAX, I’m not sure I would have found the movie all that impressive. It’s visually stunning, but I did not enjoy the implied message that humans are selfish and destructive and only concerned with the almighty dollar. It was a bit over-the-top, in my humble opinion.
Still, the potential for both thrill rides (how about a ride on an Ikran?), character interaction (Na’vi meet-n-greets), and especially the possibility of adding evening value to a Park that goes to bed early (can’t you just see the technicolor, illuminating wonderland of Pandora?) is intriguing. Here are some of the questions posed on message boards, along with counter-arguments:
- Avatar was rated a not-so-family friendly PG-13. But one could argue that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were also. Still, Pirates was an attraction first; the movies came later. This could be a sticking point for some families.
- The Na’vi aren’t exactly animals–they are aliens. Sure, there are many animals in the movie, but they are all fictional. The Disney answer seems to be that Animal Kingdom features all sorts of animals, both real and imaginary. This is a bit of a stretch for me. As far as I can tell, all of the other animals at AK are at least based in reality. For example, Nemo is a talking fish…but he is a fish, a real animal. And dinosaurs are extinct…but they did live on the earth at one time. The only exception I can come up with is Stitch, and he doesn’t have an overwhelming presence in AK.
- Will Avatar Land age well? It’s based on one movie…not an entire series, and not books which tend to have more staying power, even in our technologically advanced society. Could it be considered a classic? I don’t think anyone would try that argument. Truth be told, will anyone even remember this movie ten or twenty years from now? I guess if they build Avatar Land, then we will!
- In Avatar, the human race is presented as the enemy. How will Disney present this story without alienating guests? They’ll downplay it, of course. Sure, the movie was hard-hitting and shed an unflattering light on human greed and lack of ecological responsibility. But Disney will instead focus on the beauty of the planet Pandora and the animal inhabitants there. No messy social messages, please.
So, that’s the gist of things. Obviously, most of this is wild speculation at this point. And, yes, our family will definitely return to Animal Kingdom in a few years to see what Disney and James Cameron have come up with for Avatar Land–if merely for curiosity’s sake. Until then, I’ll be sure to provide details as they become available.