Disney’s ‘Avatarland’ expansion, based on the successful James Cameron film franchise, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom may in fact be in trouble as rampant rumors have speculated in recent months. Yet just as recently as December, Disney has remained adamant that everything was just fine, according to this article by the Orlando Sentinel.
But according to paperwork recently filed with the Orange County comptroller’s office, everything may not be hunky-dory in the land of the Na’vi. The document calls for the installation of FASTPASS+ for ‘Festival of the Lion King,’ a show that was expected to close and relocate elsewhere in the park to make way for the ‘Avatarland,’ which is said to replace Camp Minnie-Mickey.
While installing FASTPASS+ capability for the show is not a life-time commitment by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not insignificant either. For beginners, the show has never formally had FASTPASS which means a brand new installation, which involves underground wiring for distribution machines and the like. The Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is also one of the last to receive the FASTPASS+ treatment with the ‘My Disney Experience’ NextGen project focus being placed on Magic Kingdom, followed by Epcot. In other words, it seems like an awful lot of investment in time and resources for a location whose razing was once supposedly imminent (‘Avatarland’ is supposed to break ground in 2013).
This news couldn’t come at a stranger time for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, as in addition to the reports of challenges in working with James Cameron, there is a major reorganization of theme park leadership effective as of today. In addition, Tony Baxer, the senior vice president of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering, is expected to formally announce his retirement today, shifting into more of a consulting role. Add to that the recent Magic Kingdom expansion of ‘New Fantasyland’ and Disney’s recent addition of proven franchises: Cars Land at Disney California Adventure (rumored to be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and Lucasfilm / Star Wars and suddenly the road to ‘Avatarland’ has sprung up a lot of potential forks along the way.