Saturday, May 20, 2017

Disney For the Weekend: Pandora Preview

Happy Saturday, everybody! It's been a little while since I've brought some Disney for your weekend, but I have something exciting to share!

You may or may not know that Disney is bringing Avatar's Pandora to Animal Kingdom. Why? I haven't the slightest clue, honestly. I have no idea why Disney thought a movie from almost 10 years ago was the best material to work with, but here we are anyway. Pandora opens on May 27th, 2017, but I had the amazing opportunity to attend an Annual Passholder's preview this past Monday and I have the details for you!

I arrived at Pandora at the beginning of my two hour window, which was 12pm - 2pm. Let me be the first to tell you, two hours is not nearly enough here. Sure, there are only two rides, but there is SO MUCH to look at! Walking up to the new land, you really cannot see anything.

Although I knew there should be floating mountains on the horizon, all I could see were the standard Animal Kingdom theming. I trekked on and the hype was building! A Cast Member handed me a FastPass for Flight of Passage, which ensured that not every guest would rush the ride right out of the gate. The trail wound around for a while until I finally came upon some distinctly alien plant life. 

I couldn't tell you what this thing is supposed to be, but it was pretty cool! The theming in this land has all the extra touches you'd expect from Disney World. Everything was totally unreal, but believable at the same time. And my favorite part was that I really felt like I was IN Pandora. I couldn't see any other part of Animal Kingdom once I crossed the threshold. I kept on down the path a little more and finally I saw what I'd been looking for!

Didn't I tell you it was gorgeous?? The floating mountains really look like they're FLOATING! I don't know how Disney Imagineering pulled it off, but they did and the pictures really don't do it justice. There are multiple levels to explore. You can see the mountains from several angles and they look incredible no matter where you're standing. 

Once I got my fill of sightseeing, I headed over to Na'vi River Journey: Discover Shaman of Songs, a dark boat ride through Pandora. I really don't know how to explain this to you other than that it's awesome. Yes, it's just a dark ride, but there is so much new technology in this ride that my jaw was open the entire time. There are realistic projections and amazingly fluid animatronics, among other things. I won't spoil it all for you, but I will share a couple videos from inside!

When I exited the ride, my time had come to experience Flight of Passage! I will preface this by telling you that I get severe motion sickness. I cannot ride any simulator without a hefty dose of Dramamine and even then I get pretty nauseous, to the point that I usually will not do them. But this was something new and had beed described as "Soarin' on steroids," so I decided to brave it and see what happened! 
The FastPass queue was well-themed and seemed to be leading us deep into some kind of laboratory. I know there is another really awesome animatronic in the standby queue, but I didn't have the chance to see it! Once we were lined up, we were ushered into a pre-show where a "scientist" described what we'd be experiencing. We were told we'd be matched with an avatar based on our genetic makeup in order to ride a banshee. It was honestly one of the longest pre-shows I've ever been in and I could have done with it being a little shorter. 
Finally, we were sent into the room with the ride vehicles! They looked a lot like motorcycles, which was a little weird, but I hopped on, donned my 3D glasses, and waited as the restraints locked into place behind my back and legs. I sat there and waited... and waited. 
The lights began to flash suddenly, momentarily blinding me. Then the wall was gone and in its place was a massive screen and on the screen was Pandora. I was flying! And I could feel the banshee breathing against the sides of my legs! It was the single most odd and cool ride vehicle I've ever been on. I soared through the skies on my banshee, mist in my face, and the scents of Pandora washing over me. This is definitely a full sensory experience. We banked and turned and plummeted at the last second to avoid another massive flying creature, and I didn't get the least bit nauseous. Whatever the ride engineers did with this particular simulator is A+ and I hope that this is how every simulator in the future is made. My flight did seem to last for a decent amount of time, but it wasn't nearly long enough! I exited the ride area with a smile on my face and already calculating when I could come back to do it again. 
I exited through the gift shop, where there were some really unique Pandora items for sale, including tiny banshees that could sit on your shoulder and move. I didn't even ask how much those cost, instead heading towards the one restaurant inside Pandora.

The restaurant was quick service, but the fare was pretty unique as far as Disney quick service goes. The first main option were bowls made at the grill including things like sweet potato hash, quinoa, kale, wood-grilled chicken, beef, and tofu. The second was steamed pods filled with a hamburger or curry vegetable filling. Obviously I skipped both of those and went straight for dessert. 

Ordering was the same as every other Disney counter service, but was quick and painless. I ordered the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, solely based on how pretty it looked in the pictures. I was not disappointed! I don't know how to describe it to you, but it was blueberry and cream cheesey and delicious. The inside was purple! And the outside was so gorgeous I didn't want to eat it (but I did)! I will definitely be ordering this dessert again. 
After I finished eating, my time had come to an end and I had to leave Pandora for the day. Like I said, two hours isn't nearly enough. I snapped one more picture in front of the floating mountains before heading out. 

Although I've seen some people say Pandora didn't live up to their expectations, I loved it! I do wish there was a little more to do, but I expect that with the massive wait times that are soon to come, what's there is probably plenty to keep everyone occupied. I thought Pandora was fantastic and I hope all of you get to experience it someday too! 

Have you been to Pandora? Did I forget anything?
Let me know in the comments!