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.
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…