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.
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.
Ahead of any official announcement, we have learned that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment plans to release Ghosts of the Abyss, the James Cameron documentary on the RMS Titanic, on Disney Blu-ray 3D on April 17, just a couple of days after the centennial marking of the ship’s fate.
Originally shot exclusively for IMAX 3D, the film has previously been released on DVD in 2D format, making this the first time the film will be available for 3D viewing in the home.
In Ghosts of the Abyss – narrated by actor Bill Paxton — James Cameron leads a team of the world’s foremost historical and marine experts back to the site of his greatest inspiration — the legendary wreck of the RMS Titanic.
During the voyage, you will explore inside the entire ship, deck by deck, room by room, encountering mysteries that have remained hidden for almost a century. Revolutionary underwater robots were designed and built solely for the purpose of allowing the explorers to peer deep into the remains of the once-great ship and bring those surreal and haunting images back to the surface world.
There is no word on any bonus features, but the DVD edition came equipped with unseen footage, revealing interviews and more. We will update as more information becomes available to us.