Why Pandora: The World of Avatar Completes Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora: The World of AvatarPandora: The World of Avatar is perhaps an odd choice for an expansion to open at Animal Kingdom.  But, here’s why it actually is the last piece of the theme park puzzle to complete Animal Kingdom in its original intent…

Original Concepts

Animal Kingdom from its inception was to have something called a Beastly Kingdom.  Animal Kingdom was always the celebration of real, extinct, and mythical animals.  Where the real animals and extinct were built in phase one of the park, the mythical were going to come in on phase two.

Amongst the attractions in development for this fantasy land were a roller coaster where riders came up close and personal with a dragon.  Another was a boat ride through scenes of the classic Fantasia.  Another would be a walk through puzzle filled labyrinth to find a unicorn.

As Animal Kingdom began to open, it became more apparent this Beastly Kingdom would not be produced.  Due to unforeseen circumstances of cost and

Beastly Kingdom concept art

implementation, plans were scrapped.  Small homages were put in place, like the image of a dragon on the logo, and rocks forming a dragon’s head on the now closed river cruise around the park.  However, no mythical land with fantastic creatures were being built.

The Problem Persists

So, a problem remained.  Animal Kingdom, for a long time, has not been an “all day” park.  It is widely known as not the most popular theme park in the resort, also.  It has needed something more.  Another problem popped up.  Attractions that featured a bit of a similar theme of creatures were made for Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure.  Dragons and unicorns were there.  If Animal Kingdom suddenly built those it may look like copying.

Pandora: The World of Avatar Kingdom

Seems like Pandora – The World of Avatar may sound like an odd choice to solve the problems above, but it ends up being the fulfillment of a two decade promise.  There has been a desire to have a mythical element to the park – a place with imaginary creatures and landscape.

In this new themed area of the park, we have two familiar attractions to the original Beastly Kingdom concept: a boat ride sight-seeing imaginary creatures, and a flying thrill attraction with getting up close to beasts that are dragon-like.  As things go at Imagineering, nothing gets thrown away.

Pandora - the World of AVATAR renderingPandora: The World of Avatar is not quite the Beastly Kingdom that was once thought up.  This place is something bigger.  James Cameron’s franchise is a new mythology to complement age old tales of dragons and unicorns.  It’s American mythology.  It’s science fiction.  The World of Avatar actually takes the Beastly Kingdom idea and expands on it to open up new possibilities for Animal Kingdom.  Could we have a Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy landscape with alien animals in the future?  In my opinion, yes.  It would go alongside Pandora, and still represent creatures of the imagination.  And, even Rocket himself is a mythical creature, though based on the real.


Pandora is about setting the imagination free to see animals we can only dream of.  We aren’t just seeing a dragon, we’re riding a dragon now.  We aren’t just finding a unicorn, we’re immersed in bioluminescent animals.  This is Beastly Kingdom as it wasn’t just dreamed of, but expanded.

Animal Kingdom now has the three elements that it was supposed to have all along.  We have had the real, the extinct, and now the imaginary.  With this last one it doesn’t complete Animal Kingdom in the way that things will stop for the park.  And, now it opens up new possibilities for it.


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