Monday, August 27, 2018

D&M Exclusive : Shanghaî Disneyland Envision to Build Pandora - The Land of Avatar Near SDL Adventure Isle - Now Updated With Answers to Comments

We'll start the week on D&M by some exclusive insider infos and this time it's all about Shanghaî Disneyland! D&M has learned from a very reliable source that Shanghaî Disneyland execs envision to bring Pandora as a new land for Shanghaî Disneyland. Let's make something clear from the start: "envision" means "thinking seriously about it", it doesn't mean "have decided to". The fact that Disney plan to build more Avatar lands in others theme parks is no big surprise in itself but what makes the infos more interesting is what i've been told:

"Shanghai Disneyland executives are highly considering an Avatar land for SDL and to place Pandora behind the Adventure Isle land. They came to Disney's Animal Kingdom a bit more than 10 months ago to have a tour of Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom but they plan to build only at SDL Pandora "Flight of Passage" and a different version of a smaller kid ride. The reason why they wouldn't build the "Navi' River Journey" boat ride is because they already have two water rides right next to each other. They also said they could look into more interactive plants that were originally planned for Pandora at DAK and not added for budget reasons. It was confirmed by a close friend of mine, who was sent to open Shanghai Disneyland, that there were talks as early as 2015 to plan works on a Pandora land coming to SDL. Now, today 2018, executives have to look and consider if Pandora is successful and if it will work with Chinese culture? They already have Soaring at Adventure Isle, so do they need another screen motion simulator right next door to it? Only time will tell what is next. They are due for an E-ticket expansion very soon, though."

Couldn't be more explicit, right? Now, what you need to keep in mind is that Disney will certainly not build any new Pandora land in others Disney theme parks before James Cameron's Avatar sequels will be released, to see how successful they'll be, 11 years after the Avatar original film released in 2009. James Cameron is shooting all four sequels back-to-back and the release dates are set for 18 December 2020 for the first sequel and then 17 December 2021, 20 December 2024, and 19 December 2025 for the three others. So, Disney will wait at least to see the B.O of the first sequel released in December 2020 before deciding to bring Pandora at SDL - and may be also at DLP WDS, by the way.
Of course Shanghaî Disneyland being in main land China all will depends of the success of the movie in China and how popular it will be with Chinese audiences. But, considering that Disney now own FOX it's a safe bet to think that Disney will launch a huge marketing campaign to make sure that the sequels will be successful - not only to make as much as possible money out of the movies themselves but also because a success of the sequels will open the gates to others Pandora lands in others Disney theme parks.

That said, we're happy to hear that SDL execs envision to bring Pandora at SDL but let's see if they have enough room to build it, as Pandora is not specially a small land. To check this i've been on Google Earth where you can find tools to calculate the size of any land and at Animal Kingdom the size - in square meters, sorry, but 1 square meter = 10.76 square foot for those of you "speaking" in square foot - and the surface of DAK Pandora makes around 60670 sqm. See screen capture below.

So, now let's see if SDL has a land available making 60670 square meters. You remember that SDL execs would like to put the Pandora land near Adventure Isle. Considering that on the left of Adventure Isle there is Treasure Cove, the Pirates land, then the location for a Pandora land should be instead on the right of Adventure Isle where they have indeed a big piece of empty land that anyone coming out of SDL train station can see. I had the good idea to shoot a picture of it the first time i went to visit the park - see picture below, the brown structure in the background is the lift for Roaring Rapids.

And how big is that land, you ask? Well, according to Google Earth ( see picture below ) the size of the land is 74788 sqm! Bingo! They have more room than the 60670 needed square meters to build Pandora there, so yes Pandora - The Land of Avatar will fit in that land.

Yes, but... i remember seeing in one of the early renderings or plans that they had initially planned an hotel there, and then changed their mind and didn't built it. Are they keeping this land for a future hotel or for a Pandora land? Future will tell but if they choose to finally build an additional hotel there, is there others lands at Shanghaî Disneyland where they could build Pandora? Actually, yes, there is at least two other locations at SDL which are kept for future expansions. The first one is behind Fantasyland but it makes "only" 59884 sqm - and this because i did a polygon big enough to have 60670 sqm... But i don't think they will build Pandora there.

The other land is also in the back of the park and this one makes 52617 sqm, and here also because i did a polygon with the biggest surface possible.

I don't think they will build Pandora there too, the best location is really near Adventure Isle and thematically the transition from the tropical theming of Adventure Isle to Pandora would be perfect.
Now when could we expect an announcement from Shanghaî Disneyland IF they still plan to build Pandora? The first sequel being released in December 2020, it means that by Summer 2021 Disney will know how successful the movie has been in China. Why Summer 2021? Because 2021 is a D23 Expo year - the next one is August 2019, so the one after will be in Summer 2021. And we know that Disney Parks keep its biggest announcements for the D23 Expos, when they're not done before. So, if you want to place your bets on a SDL Pandora land announcement, you can place them - not all your bets but let's say half of them - on the 2021 D23 Expo which, if they announce it there will put a land opening around 2024.  In the meantime, cross your fingers!

EDITING 8/29 with answers to some readers comments posted to this article: Mitch said: "If they removed the Tarzan show, which I would imagine would be earmarked as "temporary", I could envision it going in between Pirates and Adventure Isle. It would require relocation of one backstage building and a little landfill, but could see that being an easier location to access." and Matthieu also said: "They might consider expanding between the Tarzan Show and Treasure Cove. I doubt the expansion pad next to the park entrance is for anything else than a hotel."

Here is the problem: As we've seen they need at least 60000 sqm for a Pandora land, so i've been on Google Earth to check how big is the space available behind the Tarzan show theatre, between Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle. There is a big water reservoir behind to which they won't touch and plenty of backstage buildings too. If they don't remove one of the buildings they have roughly 26225 sqm - see picture below.

And if they remove one backstage building located between a parking lot and an apparently empty land there is still only 34150 sqm. So, in both cases, far from the 60670 sqm needed. Even if they would build a smaller Pandora, they won't cut it in half. So, i doubt that they will build it here.

Matthieu also said: "The raft ride creates a huge berm and there's no room for a pathway towards another land behind it. What do you think?"

What i think is that it's right that Roaring Rapids raft ride creates a huge berm and there is hardly some room to create a path to reach the available land behind. On this plan, putting Pandora in the back of Fantasyland or Treasure Cove would make it more easily accessible, but ...that's not what SDL execs have in plans - though they can change their mind. So, let's see how they could do. They certainly won't create a path behind Roaring Rapids mountain, there is the Soaring show building there. But they could easily create one on the bottom of Adventure Isle ( see white arrow on the picture below ). It would need to remove some Roaring Rapids queue structures but that part will be easy to do.

The other solution would be to create a path which would go under the Roaring Rapids lift structure to reach the land behind ( blue arrow ), but i'm not sure they can do that, both technically and because there might be some Camp Discovery structure there or it would mean that guests would need to enter Camp Discovery to reach the other land and i hardly see SDL Imagineers doing that. The first solution is probably easier, though in both cases they would need to cross the backstage road but they probably can change it with a backstage road which would go all around Pandora.

Pictures: copyright Disney, Google Earth.


Mitch said...

If they removed the Tarzan show, which I would imagine would be earmarked as "temporary", I could envision it going in between Pirates and Adventure Isle. It would require relocation of one backstage building and a little landfill, but could see that being an easier location to access.

Allan said...

I thought Shanghai Disneyland had plan to build Expedition Everest in the park. I remember seeing it laid out in one of the plans.

mcc said...

They might consider expanding between the Tarzan Show and Treasure Cove.
I doubt the expansion pad next to the park entrance is for anything else than a hotel.
The raft ride creates a huge berm and there's no room for a pathway towards another land behind it.
What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Avatar was quite successfull in China... Untill the governement shut it down because it didn't fancy the theme of save nature/challenging Authority of the movie.

As much as TWDC would be thrilled to duplicate the land to save development costs and comply with the mandate of IP invasion of parks. Not to mention validate the very expensive acquisition of FOX. But this might be decided at a top political level. Remember the fate of Winnie the Pooh...

Unknown said...

Interesting how they mention not wanting to build Navi River as they wouldn't want two boat rides near each other BUT are happy to put a flight of Passage clone next to their Sourin!!

mcc said...

Thanks for your edit Alain!
How unlikely is it for them to consider opening a second gate at this time? Sooner or later they'll HAVE to have Galaxy's Edge, Pandora and some Marvel. The park is extremely successful and there's not enough room for all the current franchises to fit. (Back in the 90s, "MGM studios Europe" was scheduled for 1995, only 3 years after EuroDisney had opened. So I guess it's within the realm of possibilities)

Alain Littaye said...

In general there is 10 years more or less between the first gate and another park opening, i don't see them opening a second gate at SDL before that. Specially with Bob Iger who prefer to use every square inch available before opening a new park for operations costs reason, see Star Wars land at Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

From what I heard the gate hotel is still going to be built , and the office building behind tarzan theater is the HQ of Team Disney Shanghai, I dont believe it will be removed for a new themed land.

mcc said...

I see, that makes a lot of sense!