Friday, January 31, 2014

Avatarland Has Officially Broken Ground at Disney's Animal Kingdom


Disney's Animal Kingdom is a-changing.  Camp Minnie-Mickey has officially closed.  We've all seen the posed footage of both Disney and Avatar executives at the ground breaking ceremony that took place a couple of weeks ago. (Which by the way...does anyone else think it's funny that they took a pile of dirt and some ferns and seemingly put them on a pathway at Camp Minnie-Mickey to make it look like they were breaking ground...cause I do!)

Of course, there have been times in the past where attractions or even World Showcase Pavilions didn't come to fruition, even when announced (with the most recent non-built project being Hyperion Wharf for Downtown Disney just a couple of years ago). And yes, there were rumors that James Cameron was possibly butting heads with Disney previously, the fact of the matter is, now that ground has broken, it seems unlikely that Avatarland will not be built.  (I  mean, I would think that there would have to be a MAJOR rift to occur here soon for things not to continue to progress.)

With all that said, I think you all know my stance on Avatarland.  I am happy to see new attractions being included in Disney's Animal Kingdom, a park that desperately needs attractions.  Because, despite the zoological nature, it is still a theme park and people do go to theme parks expecting to experience attractions.  Overall, though, the use of Avatar as the basis for these attractions baffles me.

I'm still convinced they think this is going to turn into a Harry Potter juggernaut type land.  (Which I can tell you right now, it's not.  There's always a possibility I could be wrong, but I honestly don't think I am.)  I stand by the fact that one of the main reasons that Avatar is the number one grossing movie is because 3D technology for movie theaters was relatively new still and this was one of the most visually stunning movies to use that technology.  Not that people were excited to see the story of Avatar.  I have my doubts that the sequels will be as successful as they think they will be, though I would certainly like to be proven wrong.

So, despite my reservations on the chosen theme, I was anxious to see a video of a presentation that was given to Cast Members at Disney's Animal Kingdom that featured Imagineer Joe Rhode and Avatar producer Jon Landau.  Here's the video from my friend BigFatPanda:

In it, Joe discussed how Avatar and it's message did fit with the ideals of Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Those themes include:

  1. The intrinsic value of nature - the idea that no other value can trump nature.  Nature is going to be more powerful than anything else.
  2. Transformation through adventure - the idea that if you experience something you've never experienced before, that it makes you a new person. 
  3. The sense of a personal call to action - the park's stories are about you and through your experiences, you will react with an appeal towards nature.
I'll admit, I've not seen the movie, however, even I know that based on the details that I know about this movie, that Avatar does seem to fit those three qualities. So, at least that's a step in the right direction.

It's also a good thing to see Joe Rhode so excited about this idea of a land.  He's been a driving force behind the park from the beginning, and he's really good at storytelling, so my hope is, that with him so willingly on board, this land will focus on telling a great story.  My overall hope is that they focus more on showcasing the land of Pandora and less on the giant blue aliens.  (Though that promo ground breaking photo does have an awful photoshopped alien in, that gives me some pause.)

I have talked about in the past how I think that the creation of this new land will bring about something that is sorely need in Disney's Animal Kingdom and that's attractions.  Especially attractions that the entire family can enjoy.  (Because I mean let's face it, the park is the most divisive between even my small family - and there are just two of us.  I love certain attractions found in the park, like Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest, Brian hates those.  He prefers Dinosaur and well, I think that's really it.) This park craves rides that appeal to almost everyone.  From what I've seen concept art wise, as well as in leaked blueprints that obviously match the concept art, there are two attractions here that I think the entire family will enjoy.

While I'm still not crazy about the Avatar theme and still think it's not the answer to Harry Potter that they probably secretly hope it will be...I have a teeny tiny ray of hope.  My hope is that if they can build a land that's immersive and includes incredible attraction experiences, it will benefit the park.  If they rely too much on trying to sell merchandise or on those blue aliens, I will think that my initial distaste for Avatar was probably right on the money.

What are your thoughts?  Did that video help to sway you a bit or do you still have intense hatred of the Avatar idea?  Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page.

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