Gone are the days of rigid, clanky robots; Disney is about to usher in a new age of hyperrealistic animatronics with Walt Disney World's new #Avatar Pandora expansion.
Updates have been few and far between, but Disney just have kicked things up a notch with a preview of "the reclusive Shaman of Songs, a revered member of the Na’vi people of Pandora", who will act as a guide for the River Journey attraction:
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In previous teaser videos, Joe Rohde of Disney Imagineering promised eager fans "new technology", and he certainly wasn't lying. Pandora will be an expansion for Disney World's Animal Kingdom, extending opening hours and offering something the likes of which we've never quite seen before. So what can we expect from this enchanting alien realm?
1. Pandora Will Open Sooner Than Expected
James Cameron has been working closely with Disney for over three years to bring his vision of an interactive, lifelike "Avatar Land" to life. But the wait is almost over— Animal Kingdom's Pandora is set to open Summer 2017!
The entire experience will be presented as a guided tour by the fictional Alpha Centauri Expeditions, an intergalactic tourism business charged with guiding human guests on the journey 4.4 lightyears from Earth.
2. Authentic Scenery
Avatar's breathtaking scenery captured the imaginations of us all. Now, you can experience that same magical world in a new, immersive way. Pandora will boast edible alien delicacies, glowing forests and even those famous floating mountains.
3. Nighttime Attractions
The addition of the Pandora expansion has extended Animal Kingdom's hours, and for good reason. The park is a completely different experience at night, with a diverse array of psychedelic flora glowing vividly under the veil of darkness.
4. Interactive Environment
The small teasers of Pandora's bioluminescent surroundings show just a sample of how interactivity is going to be seamlessly blended in to every aspect of the park. According to Rohde:
In other words, thousands of children are going to be putting their grubby little hands on literally everything.
5. Banshee Rides
By far the most exciting feature, Pandora will even offer Banshee rides. The Flight of Passage attraction offers guests the opportunity to "fly across the planet on the wings of one of those giant creatures". I wonder if it's going to involve ponytail bonding?
6. New Technology
There's good reason for the expansion taking so long to open to the public. Three years ago, the technology simply wasn't adequate to fully bring to life Cameron's vision for a real-life Pandora experience. According to Rohde:
"A world of this much imagination is pretty much flat-out impossible to build; unless you think up and innovate new ways to do it."
With an animatronic Na'Vi so realistic that it could be mistaken for CGI, it's obvious the Imagineering team have been working pretty hard. In fact, the robot looks so real that it could almost be mistaken for a Westworld host.
Avatar pushed the limits of technology with film, and now we're about to see the same challenge tackled in a real-world environment. With over six months to go til the park opens, lifelike animatronics are likely only the beginning of what's to come.
What are you most looking forward to experiencing at Pandora?