It doesn’t seem to rain much in the rainforest-like environment of Avatar’s Pandora, but we’re pretty sure that if and when it does rain there, it pours. No sooner than a forum thread pop up suggesting James Cameron gave the okay to Disney to proceed with AvatarLand at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, that purported ‘leaked’ blueprints of some sort involving the layout of the new land’s attractions.
While many tout its authenticity and nobody appears to doubt its validity, at question is whether the leak was intentional or not, which is essentially the same scenario proposed when a far more detailed design of the New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom surfaced months before the formal announcement. Of course then it wasn’t a confirmed project at the time, whereas AvatarLand should come as no shock to anyone at this point (other than it apparently is in the on-again stage of the development process).
The surfaced images show layouts for two attractions, suspiciously identified as ‘E-ticket’ and ‘C-ticket,’ but it’s possible these are just terms to suggest their scope to an outsider such as a contractor or sponsor. The ‘E-ticket,’ which is known in some circles as ‘Soarin’ 2.0,’ is shown as a massive multi-level show building with four independent theaters, believed to house a 3D flight over Pandora, but using a ride vehicle that perhaps moves along a track or at least moves quite a bit more than the Soarin’ handglider vehicle does. Arguably even more interesting is that the layout calls for a 3D glasses cleaning area which is as equally fascinating as it is suspicious. Granted a new 3D attraction calls for more 3D glasses, Walt Disney World already has a ‘central’ location for cleaning glasses from all attractions at Epcot, so it’s worth noting that perhaps the additional load, coupled with Animal Kingdom’s ‘isolation’ is enough to justify an additional cleaning system which would presumably also handle the glasses from ‘It’s Tough To Be A Bug.’ The second attraction appears to be a water-based attraction such as a mild flume ride, that many are likening to ‘Living with the Land.’
AvatarLand is expected to consume the area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Camp Minnie-Mickey, home to several character meet and greets as well as the Festival of the Lion King stage show. Although we did previously report that it looked as though the show would close at is present location in early 2013, reportedly for about six months until a permanent location in Africa was available, we also noted recently on Twitter that Walt Disney World is now casting for the show throughout November, suggesting an immediate closure is not nearly as likely to occur. As of this time, those auditions are still listed as happening, although we will advise of any changes.
Many are anticipating that Disney Parks and Resorts will make further announcements and perhaps release concept art during its media extravaganza for New Fantasyland on December 7, but it’s fair to note it would not be unprecedented if the day came and went without so much as a whisper.
What you see here is one of Walt Disney Imagineering’s newest inventions being tested earlier this year at Minter Field Airport in Shafter, California — a flying dragon puppet that even — get this — breathes fire.
The flying fantasy object was recently spotted as reported by the Bakersfield Californian, but this picture here, amongst others, has actually been online since May. It comes via the Facebook page of Tammy Jackson-Zaninovich who reports the sighting as ‘just another day’ at the airport.
According to the report, the dragon has been making monthly appearances at the airport where Disney has been renting a hangar, golf cart and other paraphernalia and plans to ship the dragon (not fly it) to Orlando later this summer.
While all signs point to possible research for Avatarland at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one commenter on the original photo in May says it’s not Avatar related, though she wasn’t sure what the intent was. To her credit, she was also able to note the flying puppet would be able to breathe fire as well that it would return to the airport for further testing in June/July.
At the 109th Annual International Toy Fair in New York City, Tonner Doll Company debuted all new dolls for 2012 including these prototypes for TRON Legacy and Avatar. Tonner had previously released a Kevin Flynn figure based on the original TRON from 1982 and now they take on the sequel. Included in the collection are Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and Gem (Beau Garrett).
Although it’s only loosely connected to Disney by way of the upcoming Avatarland at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, also on display were prototypes were dolls of Jake and Neytiri from James Cameron’s Avatar. The dolls measure approximately an impressive 22″ in height and feature all new sculpts created specifically for these dolls which are expected to be produced at a very low number.
Please note that all of the dolls pictured above are in pre-production and are still awaiting final approval. The designs may in fact change by the time the dolls are produced.
Finally, you may have noticed a blurry, partial Captain Jack Sparrow in some of the images. Tonner is producing an Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which, along with several Marvel characters, are already available for pre-order on their official website.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.
“With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”
“James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible,” said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”
“AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we’ll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said James Cameron. “I’m chomping at the bit to start work with Disney’s legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality.”
The agreement announced today gives The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) exclusive global theme park rights to the AVATAR franchise and provides for additional AVATAR themed lands at other Disney parks. The other locations will be determined by Disney and its international theme park partners. James Cameron, Jon Landau and their Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects and will partner with Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and development of the AVATAR themed lands.
“This exciting new venture combines the world of AVATAR with the enormous reach of Disney and the incomparable talent of Jim Cameron,” commented Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman. “While Jim is bringing audiences further into Pandora with the next two chapters in the AVATAR motion picture saga, the theme park attraction will likewise bring a new dimension to the amazing universe he created.”
“AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures, and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney,” said Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We can’t wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of AVATAR in person.”
In addition to setting a global box office record, AVATAR has been hailed as one of the most innovative and visually stunning movies ever produced. With its advanced motion capture and 3-D digital projection technologies developed by James Cameron and his team, moviegoers were able to connect with the world of AVATAR in new and engaging ways.
This new venture complements Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ strategic efforts to continue to invest in its core theme park businesses around the world while simultaneously expanding into other parts of the family vacation business.
Photos courtesy Disney