Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Disney's Animal Kingdom Avatar Land 1st Anniversary : Secrets of the Pandora That Never Was

Two days ago, on May 27, Disney's Animal Kingdom Pandora: The World of Avatar celebrated its first anniversary. The land was a huge success since opening day and for good reasons as Flight of Passage or Navi River Journey are memorable rides, not to mention how Joe Rhode and his team of WDI Imagineers recreated the extraterrestrial planet Pandora with an amazing theming.

We'll have a look today at the "Pandora that never was" as, you may not know it, but some planned elements or special effects were cancelled for budget or time limit reasons, and i'll share with you today a couple of hidden facts that you may have never heard about.

Let's start by something which both exist and don't at the same time. See the trees on the picture above? These are interactive trees but most of the guests just walk and don't notice the interactivity. There are four sensors within this area of Pandora where you place your hand in the wooden area and it triggers sounds as well as lights at night time. Originally they were supposed to add more sensors around the land, but they never made it to the final time frame. You can see some of the sensors and the holes inside the trees in the pictures below.

The interactive trees were a direct response to the interactive parts with magic wands at Harry Potter Wizarding World. It was the beginning of creating an interactive land experience and only four of these trees were created. Why didn't they created the others trees, was it a budget problem? From what i've been told, they were over budget for sure and some of the plants went from interactive to just literally a plug in to a power source. They also couldn’t afford the pulse effect where you would walk around and a pulse would run through the land. Pulse effect? What would have it been exactly? For example, you would touch the tree and the entire area would ripple with light. Or, as you walk around, the floor below would glow. That got cancelled and replaced with paint for the "bioluminescent lighting" night effect.

However there is still interactivity elements in Pandora. For instance, the giant pink tree below on this picture shot by Blog Mickey is called the "Flaska Reclinata" and if you simply touch the pink area, it makes a noise... sometime it does it even if you don’t touch it.

The biggest cut which apparently has been done was Navi River Journey’s extended queue. I was told that Navi River Journey was supposed to have a more extensive queue and now the queue gets really backed up outside in a Pandora path because they didn’t build enough queue space, most probably for budget reasons.

Among the things planned and cancelled that you've never heard about, there was a puppet show. Imagineers loved the puppet show in Universal Diagon Alley, and for Pandora they had planned a puppet show which would have talked about the animals of Pandora. So, they built a walkway for the performers to run up and down the pathway while a narrator would talk about the animals. Basically, near the restrooms of Pandora there are bushes, and behind the bushes there is a cement walkway where the performers would have run up and down the walkway. From a guest point of view it would have look like an animal was running in the distance. They did some testing but the illusion didn’t work, so it was canceled at the last minute.

The picture below show a Leucomelas Viperwolf which would have been one of the puppets and the performers would use sticks to run them back and forth. As i've said, it was only in testing phase and unfortunately it never went live. The Viperwolf puppet was a prototype and is gone, probably sitting backstage in a warehouse. All Pandora cast-members thought the show was coming and it may come in the future, who knows?

Talking about animals, did you noticed the Stingbats. You can see them walking up the pathway in the Avatar Flight of Passage queue, on your left before entering the caves. Hidden the back of the floating these apparently sleeping animals are called Stingbats. They are small aerial predators with a developed navigational system and four eyes and they're Banshee’s favorite food.

Something now that DID exist and was unfortunately cancelled: when Pandora opened there was a team called "the immersion team" with cast members who would walk the land the entire day and shared about the plants and animals around Pandora. They would also walk around with an ACE translator - picture below - that they sell in the gift shop to teach the Navi language. This lasted 2 months and then they canceled this team. WDI Imagineers took the inspiration from Harry Potter Wizarding World where team members teach guests how to use their magic wands. It was really cool to see cast members teaching about each of the plants and what they do in Pandora...

As there is no more "immersion team", here is some description of the Pandora plants with pictures for each of them:

The first name for the plant above and below was the “Grinch tree”. they could not copyright that name so it turned into the “Goblin Thistle”, This tree has twisted tree trunks with blue bioluminescent tips.

The “vein pods” below are on Pandora to help detoxify the atmosphere. Each vein pod act like sponges to maintain stability in the environment. The vein pod is inspired by James Cameron’s Aliens.

“Flaska Reclinata” is a plant that is entirely above ground and the roots purifies toxins in the atmosphere. The flaska germinates by shooting out the top and you can spot baby flaska reclinatas along the old camp Minnie river at the entrance of Pandora.

“Spiny whip” - picture below - collects rain water in pandora and different species in pandora utilize this plant as a source for water.

Next is “Dapophet”:  this plant is utilized by the local Navi to treat cuts and burns with its healing powers. The Navi also use this for portable hydration.

“Panopyra” capture water and minerals from dew and fog. The resulting liquid is used by the Na’vi as a healing drink.

“Puffball tree” scattered around Pandora and this plant can grow as much as 15 meters. The Navi will harvest the puffball tree and use it to feed their animals on Pandora.

The blue things on the picture below are “Bladder Polyps”. No special information on them except that they can be seen all over Pandora.

One more for the road with the plant below which is called the “Episoth”. This plant holds spiny fruit and they explode off the plant when ripe.

A little bit of Pandora trivia now with this staircase above the restrooms which, from what i've been told, came from Disney's Hollywood Studios Streets of America where they had the Osborne light show.

In the background of the picture below you can see the staircase from Hollywood Studios Streets of America.

More trivia: the Pandora groundbreaking picture had Tom Staggs, Meg Crofren, and Bruce Vaughn ( first picture below ). Since the three are no longer working at Disney, they photoshopped them out of the picture ( second below ) that is on display inside Satuli Canteen. No kidding.

One more thing about Pandora, and that's not about the past but the present and it's not a good news. Apparently a manager placed a disco ball (!) inside of the quick service stand Pongu Pongu and decided to not get this approved by Imagineering and go ahead. A D&M reader sent me pictures and just shared how much bad show this is and how disappointing and desperate it looks. The disco ball was not approved by Imagineering and is definitely “bad show”.

This is a permanent disco ball, not just to celebrate Pandora 1st Anniversary, and i was told it’s to “help revenue”...  Basically they think that, by putting a disco ball, it will bring more revenue and attract the typical guest to buy items... Note: the picture belowe is just a reference for the one they've put inside Pongu Pongu, it's not an item sold in the shop.

Well, that's all for today and if some of you are disappointed by the cancelled elements, you shouldn't be. There is always a moment where blue sky projects meet reality and almost any attraction faced some cuts, it's inevitable and it's what is called the reality. It didn't stopped Pandora : the World of Avatar to be a stunning creation that each Animal Kingdom guest enjoy daily thanks to its fantastic rides and the team of Pandora cast-members that you can see on the picture below on opening day!

You can read more about Pandora hidden details in the article HERE.

Let's end with three great 4K videos filmed by recently by Max, D&M contributor and showing Pandora by day or at night as well as the full Navi River Journey ride.

Pictures: copyright D&M, Disney, Blog Mickey, Orlando Park Stop


Matthew Lemerond said...

That's very interesting I always thought there should have been more to this area. I was just at universal diagon alley for the first time and thought wow this is really immersive and has a lot of places and things to see than Disney did with Pandora.

CR said...

While the disco ball may not have been an approved addition, I would not consider it "bad show." It's a hippie Ex Pat bar on a foreign moon, seems like the exact thing an ExPat bar somewhere in the carribbean would have to increase business.

BetaCygni said...

We were surprised there were no Navi walking around or somewhere besides the Navi River Journey & Flights of Passage.