Avatar Construction Update As Rivers of Light Dining Package Details Go Live Again

Edit: Rivers of Light FastPass+ and Dining Packages are both now available for booking.

During this quarter’s earnings call, Bob Iger announced what many had been speculating – Pandora – The World of Avatar will open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017. The picture above was taken from the patio outside Nomad Lounge on the afternoon of February 1st and represents the bridge that will soon transport guests over to the new land.

Considering this is the only image of the “World of Avatar” that Disney had provided prior to this week, the current status of the bridge seemed like an apt opening.

The nighttime lighting test taken from the same location offers a glimpse into what we can expect from what should prove to be the next generation of immersive theme park environments. In other words, it should make Diagon Alley up the street look like it was built by a bunch of Hufflepuffs. And I don’t mean that negatively. I’m a Hufflepuff. I might have spent three days crying about it. It might have ruined my life. But it’s fine.

The lighting tests are actually pretty active as technicians fiddle with the angles and projections.

The same area as the sun starts to set.

Or during the day. This is just inside the entrance with the mountains appearing over Guest Relations.


Compare that to how it looked at this time last year.

The same lighting test at the gate near Rainforest Cafe.

A few more from this week:

The timing of the announcement makes some sense as the average number of weeks between when a guest initially books their Walt Disney World vacation and when they actually arrive in Lake Buena Vista is up to about 15 weeks after bottoming out around 12 weeks seven years ago. And if you fast forward 15 weeks from the announcement date…what do you get…May 23rd, 2017…or the week of Avatar’s official opening.

The Memorial Day Weekend date should be welcome news to guests planning summer vacations as there was some chatter that “summer” could be as late as September technically speaking. But with attendance last June-August being so soft, it makes sense that Disney will do what it can to push more domestic visitors into visiting with South America visitation continuing its steep decline compared to four years ago.

Our days of having Nomad Lounge to ourselves may be coming to an end as the path leading into Pandora will soon be one of the most traversed in the Park rather than one of the better opportunities to play one of my favorite games: “Which sad blogger taking pictures of the wall is this.”

But it will be interesting to see what Avatar does to attendance, wait times, and crowd flow at the Park.

Disney is expecting a healthy 20% bump in attendance over the summer, pushing daily attendance up to around 37,000 guests a day.

It remains to be seen how much of that comes from the other Parks – and perhaps Hollywood Studios in particular. With two rides, the store, a quick service, and a bar, Pandora should add about three hours to most guests’ days. Considering most guests spend fewer than six hours inside Animal Kingdom, pushing that number up to seven, eight, or nine hours isn’t going to necessitate a second day spent here in the majority of cases. Or at least most guests may not expect to spend two days here.

So in that respect, guests with five days are probably still looking at spending two days at Magic Kingdom and one each at the rest of the Parks. But guests with just two-, three-, or four-day tickets may now be more likely to visit Animal Kingdom over Hollywood Studios or Epcot.

But we’ll see what the capacities of the new attractions end up being and what that means as far as FastPass+ availability and wait times are concerned. With some talk that Avatar could keep Animal Kingdom open as late as 1am over the summer, there should be plenty of opportunities to experience the new land during the day and at night, when the enzymatic reaction that is bioluminescence provides what should be a unique, must-see experience.

Rivers of Light looks set to officially debut on February 17th.

Disney offered a performance of what is likely the final version of the show to “Disney’s Social Media Moms” after hours on Tuesday night.

With Rivers of Light cast members scheduled for training at the end of this week, weekend previews seem likely.

We’ll see.

But Dining Package details are again live on the website:

Just wait until you see these boats light up and glide across the water…

At Tusker House, the upcharge compared to the regular prices is $7/adult and $5/child. At Tiffins, you can do quite a bit of damage as you could order the $16 Grilled Marinated Octopus, $53 Wagyu Striploin, and $12 South American Ganache and come away with an $81 meal for $67.

The details are available here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/animal-kingdom/rivers-of-light-dining-package/.

It’s going to be an exciting 15 weeks as we look ahead to the debut of a show that’s been delayed almost a year from the original opening date and a new land that was announced back in 2011. I’ll probably start staking out soft openings tomorrow. Somebody has to sit at Nomad Lounge all day…every day…sipping scotch…


  1. zavandor says

    “Or at least most guests may not expect to spend two days here.”

    I’ve spent 3 days at Animal Kingdom this January. It was my favorite park before it will became your favorite park!

  2. Lance says

    So the Rivers of Life Dinning is hypothetically available on 3/7 . We have previously scheduled that day for AK on our next vacation and the park is supposed to close at 7 pm. Any idea on what time the show would run?

  3. Emily C says

    Historically when does WDW start offering fast passes for a new attraction? Any guesses as to how long waits might be during a soft opening based on what has happened in the past?

  4. Scott says

    Lance – Show times are now available on the Disney site. ROL is not every night, and for now looks to be running just one show @7:15 At least on the days that I checked.

  5. Stephan says

    Hi Josh,

    Rivers of light seems to be scheduled starting february 17th evrery second day or so….it’s scheduled at 7h15 pm on tueasday, thursday, saturday and sunday

  6. Darren says

    There is nothing better than waking up at 4am and seeing a tweet from josh hours ago that ROL is offering dining packages. Made for a very exciting morning but I booked a Tiffins on April 9th. Can’t wait.

  7. Dawn says

    Thank you JOSH!! I had just looked, I thought thoroughly, and didn’t search correctly to pull up the dining packages…went back and snagged a Tusker House ROL pkg for May 1st. There was no later availability than 4:20, even playing with my table number (2,3,4)…the calendar says the show is at 9:15, it does not list two shows right now. If this remains the only show I would presume they would open up later times, up to probably 6:30.so we’ll see. Thanks again!

  8. Brian says

    Is Tiffin’s still going to be a two credit Signature meal for this or are we looking at a single credit loophole? The site isn’t clear.

  9. Mark says

    What makes Diagon Alley/Hogsmeade impressive is not only the themeing but the connection to the story.
    Pandora will no doubt look amazing, but all those flourescent lights will have little meaning, not too much of a cult following out there for Avatar.

  10. Different Josh says

    The 27th is the last day of our trip. I’m hoping for a soft opening earlier that week, otherwise would a 6AM arrival be early enough for the 8AM opening? Any recent precedent for such an opening? Did the new Fantasyland open at once (all except for 7DMT)? Rhetorical questions, but if anyone has any insight, it’d be much appreciated.
    Thanks for the heads up about the dining packages. I’m doing a little Tiffins dance right now.

    • brenda says

      That sounds early but about right. I remember when frozen ever after opened people were lining up at 7 for a 9 opening and that was just one ride not even a whole new land.

  11. Paul says

    My trip is planned for April 24-May 5… between this opening later in May, and the new fireworks show at MK begining later in May, also, wondering if crowds might be down during my stay… here’s hoping so!

  12. Susan says

    I have booked a fast pass for 4th April, time given is 8.05, show at 8.30.
    Park hours are showing as open until 9.30pm that evening.

  13. Big Pete says

    Changed our 3/26 Tiffin reservation to ROL Dinner Package. That date starts at 8:15 and you have to eat/arrive at restaurants 3 hours before show.

  14. Disney Fanboy says

    Announced: 2011
    Open: 2017
    Duration: 6 years

    I got to give Disney credit for keeping the period between announcement and open under 10 years! I heard a lot of people saying that it would take 10 years to open Avatarland. Once again Disney beats expectations!

    • Steve B says

      Construction Started: 2014

      Only 3 years for James Cameron to get the design of those floating mountains just right and then 3 years to build the new land.

    • Andy says

      Yes, while I agree that Disney takes a while with their construction- I don’t hold the announcement against them. Is it how I would do it? No. I’d be more like Universal and announce it as its already started construction. Disney, on the other hand, announces before theyve even finalized plans.

      So to be fair, construction was only ~3 years- which is pretty similar to any other major project like Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley.

      Interestingly enough, with Nintendoland, Universal announced that long before construction too. And if it opens in 2020, that’ll be “5 years” since announcement.

      I’m more concerned with construction time than announcement -> reality. Now Toy Story land is where it’s the most ridiculous. Any local regional park could have that thing opened in a single offseason…

  15. Liz W says

    I’m a little worried that the Avatar opening will cause my Memorial Day plan to backfire. That is our first full day of our vacation and I figured AK would be the best option even with EMH, but I’m wondering if the opening is going to draw people in.

    I’m hoping that we between the EMH and FP+, we’ll still be able to miss a lot of the crowds. Of course, we won’t even have any idea of how things are going beforehand.

  16. GrumpyDad4 says

    Hufflepuff? Don’t you mean H. R. Pufnstuf? Do you still anticipate multiple showings of ROL considering the shortened show and theatre capacity?

  17. E Ticket says

    In addition to the dining package, FastPases are available too!! I just selected passes for March 12. Awesome. We can’t wait!

  18. Ava says

    Guess I will need to plan for a full day at AK on our August trip! I was not planning on that being a late night for us so unless the reviews are stellar we may skip ROL this time and just try to see Pandora. I’m glad it will be open for a month or so before I need to choose FPs so I’ll be able to read reports & updated touring strategies.


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