Avatar is coming to Animal Kingdom in a New Land

Disney announced one of the most perplexing pieces of news this week completely out of the blue (ha ha, puns): Avatar is coming to the Animal Kingdom as a new land, construction will start in 2013 and is set to open sometime in 2016. That’s it, that’s all they announced. There was also the normal PR statements like:

“James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible,” said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”

My problem with this statement is that unless the movie is rated R, James Cameron’s movies are overly long and kind of suck. What movies do people think about when they’re talking about James Cameron? Terminator and Aliens, not Avatar and Titanic.

“AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we’ll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said James Cameron. “I’m chomping at the bit to start work with Disney’s legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality.”

Ugh, a trilogy of Avatar films? Maybe they’ll actually have stories that are worth telling.

“AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures, and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney,” said Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We can’t wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of AVATAR in person.”

Spectacular settings? Yes. Imaginative creatures? Yes. Strong themes of family and loyalty? Yes. Intriguing characters? WRONG. The characters were one dimensional stereotypes that were completely uninteresting to watch on film and only made the story seem even less interesting than it already was. The Avatar land is very obviously Disney’s response to the runaway success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I am dubious as to the staying power of Avatar compared to the staying power of Harry Potter.

I really did not like Avatar. I thought it was a pretty movie that was completely vapid when it came to characters and story. All of this was made worse by the fact that it was about an hour to an hour and a half too long. That being said, I am cautiously optimistic about this new Avatar/Animal Kingdom project. The world building in Avatar was very impressive and I would love to explore the world of Pandora, just as long as they keep the story and characters from the movie out of it. Avatar just does not have a strong enough story to hold up a single attraction let alone an entire land. Besides, a Disney park is no place for any form of military industrial complex.

The possibilities of this land is what interests me the most. In 2010, Disney patented a technology that would allow puppeteers and their puppets the ability to “fly” with their puppets and the obvious implementation of this is to have the dragon things and the Na’vi in some sort of show. The world of Avatar is a very well designed one and they could do some very cool things with the Living Character Initiative for interacting with animals if Disney were to put the necessary money into it (and the land is supposedly going to cost 200 million dollars) and the attractions could end up being very cool if they stay away from the story of the movie. The world of Pandora could work inside Animal Kingdom if they handle it correctly, and I really hope they do. Animal Kingdom was supposed to be about both real life animals and beasts of fantasy, the fantasy inspired Beastly Kingdom land seems to be completely gone at this point, so Pandora could fill in that role (actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if they use some of the plans for Beastly Kingdom for Pandora).

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