Finally in May after literally years of waiting, the highly anticipated Pandora – The World of Avatar area opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and along with it Na’vi River Journey. I was fortunate enough to be there opening weekend with a Fastpass+ booked for this attraction. Having never seen the film, I had no idea what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. It may not be the most thrilling of attractions, but Na’vi River Journey is certainly peaceful, beautiful, and a perfect escape from the heat and crowds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here’s everything you need to know about the new attraction courtesy of Disney:
Set sail on a river journey unlike any other. On a moon that is light years from Earth.
You are not alone, either. This riverscape pulses with sensational sights and sounds that fill your senses. And, at journey’s end, a very special surprise.
Aboard the reed boats of the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, adventurers float through an alien world beyond their imagination. That wonderment begins in the very heart of Pandora – The World of Avatar, the all-new land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
As guests approach the iconic floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora, a towering totem beckons. Paying homage to the mystical Shaman of Songs, the massive totem was delicately woven by the Na’vi, the indigenous people of Pandora, and celebrates the shaman’s deep connection to the life force of Pandora.
The totem also invites guests to venture further into grottos that lead to the mystical river – and an eventual encounter with the shaman.
At the water’s edge, guests board those reed boats. Barely have the boats cut the first ripples of water when a Na’vi warrior appears. With a nod, he grants passage to the human voyagers, and soon an amazing scene unfolds. A spectacular bioluminescent rainforest surrounds guests. By day or night, boats pass through this darkened world, pushing deep into a jungle alive with exotic glowing plants and traversed by Pandoran creatures.
Keen observers will notice that the animals and Na’vi are moving in the same direction as they make their way to see the shaman. Music is heard, which means the shaman is not far off.
“Na’vi River Journey is a very sweet, lyrical adventure through a spectacular visual environment that just becomes more and more spectacular as you go on,” explains Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “The bioluminescent activity of the plants around you unfolds in richer and richer scenes in really just a very uplifting, wonderful kind of journey.”
The journey builds to an encounter with the remarkable Shaman of Songs. Like most Na’vi, she is nearly 10 feet tall.
Music is central in Na’vi culture. Guests observe the shaman in the midst of a musical ceremony, playing an instrument and singing. This mystical journey culminates in an encounter with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.
Disney technology put fluid energy into every movement and gesture, Rohde said.
“The shaman is even more extraordinary than we expected,” said Rohde. “Her facial expressions, little movements in the cheek, tiny movements in the eyelid – each one of these carries an emotion she’s capable of conveying.”
It is part of Disney’s attention to detail that makes Pandora a world of adventure, he added.
“There is a real edge to our Pandora,” he said, “just like the rest of Animal Kingdom. When guests get here and really look around, they will see there’s this edge, this little adventurous edge on the land. Na’vi River Journey helps complement that edge.”
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