When James Cameron’s Avatar hit theaters in December of 2009, the Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and director probably wouldn’t have believed that the brainchild of his imagination would one day take shape at a Disney park in the form of two attractions within his fictional land of Pandora. But that’s exactly what happened. On September 20, 2011, via the Disney Parks blog, it was announced that a deal had been struck among Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment. It was also announced that Disney’s Animal Kingdom would be the site of a new Avatar-themed land.
Over 5 ½ years later, on May 27, 2017, “Pandora: The World of Avatar” opened at Walt Disney World, and it became a hit with Guests almost overnight. Disney’s Animal Kingdom stayed open later than usual for much of the summer of 2017 to allow as many Guests as possible to experience the land of Pandora and the two attractions within it—Avatar: Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
Of the two attractions, Na’vi River Journey is the calmer, more peaceful attraction and has no height restrictions. It is the perfect attraction to experience as a family—you’ll want to go back for a second and third ride! Here are a few facts that make the ride spectacular, as well as a few tips for getting the most enjoyment out of the attraction.
9. You’re on a journey—a quest.
The word “journey” in the attraction’s name was not decided upon flippantly. The slow, peaceful ride along the Na’vi River aboard a reed boat is a quest to find the Shaman of Songs—the revered shaman who has a deep connection with Pandora. She chooses music as her way of celebrating that connection. She is found as the ride comes to an end, singing and swaying to the music. The Shaman of Songs is almost 10 feet tall, as are most of the Na’vi people. She is something amazing to behold so make sure you aren’t distracted and miss her.
8. New school technology is used.
Walt Disney Imagineers are leaders in the development and use of cutting-edge ride technology. They are not simply builders of great attractions. New technology was used in the creation of the Na’vi River Journey attraction. There are projections of a Na’vi warrior, as well as two dangerous Viperwolves. The animatronic Shaman of Songs at the end of the ride is the most technologically-advanced robot ever created by Disney Imagineering. She is a next-generation animatronic whose movements are incredibly fluid and lifelike.
7. Imagineers worked hard to make sure you can’t see the technology.
Imagineers create, build and develop attractions for Disney parks all the world over. They even develop the technology with which they realize attractions, including the genius behind new audio-animatronics whose movements are strikingly real. Imagineers say that one of their goals in the development of an attraction is to make sure Guests are unable to detect the technology used. They met this goal inside the Na’vi River Journey attraction. Though there are projections used as part of the attraction, it’s impossible to tell! You will think you’ve really seen a pair of Viperwolves. And it’s very difficult to tell that the Shaman of Songs is an animatronic robot; her movements are so real and lifelike that Guests wonder if she’s real or robot.
6. There’s so much to take in!
The beautiful Shaman of Songs isn’t the only thing you’ll see on your journey down the Na’vi River. There are amazing insects and creatures of all kinds native to the Pandoran bioluminescent rainforest. Tiny animals pitter-patter across leaves above your head as you travel through the jungle on your way to find the Shaman. The flora and fauna along the Na’vi River is breathtaking, and you cannot take it all in on just one journey!
5. You’ll just know the Shaman of Songs is real!
The arduous, painstaking work and attention to detail on the part of Disney Imagineers is obvious throughout this attraction, but nowhere is it more impressive that in the audio-animatronic Shaman of Songs. At nearly 10 feet tall (although she is seated in the attraction), you might think her movements would be small-scale so that she stays balanced. Instead, her movements are grand; her arms are long, and you will believe she is a Cast Member dressed as the Shaman because her movements are fluid and graceful as she sways and plays sounds to the music—just like a human moves.
4. You don’t have to know the Avatar story to appreciate the attraction.
Not every Guest who journeys down the Na’vi River has seen James Cameron’s Avatar. And you would think that might sully their appreciation for the ride, but the opposite is true. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you get a sense of what the natives of Pandora are like—their land, their animals and even their culture—as you take in the beauty of the rainforest along the Na’vi River.
3. Extra! Extra! Get your FastPass+!
The Na’vi River Journey is so popular that you’ll need to secure a FastPass+ time to make sure you have the opportunity to experience this impressive attraction. Remember to reserve your FastPass+ times 60 days in advance if you’ll be staying on Disney property and 30 days in advance if you’ll be staying off Disney property. Without a FastPass+ time, your time in the queue could easily exceed 2 hours, especially during peak times in the parks.
2. Experience the attraction at night.
Any time of day is good for enjoying this attraction, but nighttime is best because after you’ve taken your journey down the Na’vi River, stepping out into Pandora’s bioluminescence offers a continuation of the beauty inside the attraction, allowing your experience to continue outside the ride.
1. Take a trip down the river before you fly on the back of a banshee.
The Na’vi River Journey is one of two fascinating attractions created as part of the land of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you haven’t yet experienced either one, try to enjoy the Na’vi River before climbing on the back of a banshee at Avatar: Flight of Passage. Why? Because although the Na’vi River Journey is gorgeous and breathtaking, its Pandoran counterpart is more on the thrilling and exhilarating side, and if you experience Flight of Passage first, you may find yourself comparing the two, with the Na’vi River Journey falling short, as it is not the thrilling type of attraction at all. Be wowed by the Na’vi River, and then board a banshee. You won’t be disappointed!