Edit: On Sunday, day two, Disney allowed guests to head to Pandora at 6:45am, even though there was not a morning Extra Magic Hour and regular open was 8am. If you are visiting Animal Kingdom in the next couple of days, you may want to be prepared to arrive at the parking lot by 6am. We’ll see how normal this is moving forward.
If there’s one thing this website is probably not known for, it’s rosy predictions. Pandora: World of Avatar had all of the ingredients for what might optimistically be called a “rough start.” You’re not exactly setting yourself up for success when you try to open your new theme park land, with a total of five hours of public soft openings, during one of the busier holiday weekends of the year. Add in Pandora’s lousy overall attraction capacity and the relatively small public areas inside the Valley of Mo’ara and you have what should be a predictable outcome: Pandemonium.
People began arriving at the parking lot before 5am, and Pandora filled to capacity before regular open at 8am, since there was a morning Extra Magic Hour from 7am-8am. From there, waits to enter the land bounced around for most of the day, with the most common wait around an hour. Shortly after 10am, the My Disney Experience app warned guests that the wait to get in could exceed two hours. At that time, the wait for Flight of Passage was over four hours, with Na’vi River Journey pulling up the rear with a wait of “just” 3 hours 20 minutes. Animal Kingdom closed to varying levels of capacity throughout the day, including a Phase 3, when no new guests were admitted.
If you have a FastPass+ for one of the two Pandora attractions, there is a separate line to enter the land that shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. So if you have a FastPass+ for Flight of Passage for 2pm-3pm, you don’t need to take the standby wait to enter into consideration. I’d still be outside the entrance to Pandora no later than 1:45pm.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day:
Prior to officially opening, word was that the standby queue for Flight of Passage could hold about four hours worth of guests. And that looks to be accurate as waits there peaked at 250 minutes and never went higher. If there wasn’t a 2-hour wait to enter the Land, who knows how much higher that number would have gone. The good news is that neither new ride ever went completely down.
Over the course of the day, the average wait at Flight of Passage was 205 minutes, or 3 hours 25 minutes. As expected, Na’vi River Journey didn’t fare much better, sporting a peak wait of 210 minutes and an average of 157 minutes, or 2 hours 37 minutes.
Disney closed the standby lines at both Pandora rides from 9pm-11pm, ostensibly to clear the area for Disney resort guests, who have nightly evening Extra Magic Hours from 11pm-1am through July 4th. The line for evening Extra Magic Hours began in Africa, went through the Festival of the Lion King queue, doubled back through New Harambe, crossed the bridge over to Discovery Island, and finally snaked around outside the entrance to Pandora. You could have gotten in that line at 10pm and still not been inside Pandora until after 11:15pm. Disney cut the line for Flight of Passage at midnight, so those resort guests that opted to ride Na’vi River Journey first may not have gotten to ride Flight of Passage after. With the 90+ degree highs and incredible crowding, that “feels” like it would be frustrating.
The good news is perhaps that even with the elevated attendance and long waits in Pandora, that the other rides weren’t that adversely affected. Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids etc. see pretty reasonable waits for most of the day, considering it’s a Saturday during a holiday weekend.
Better news is that opening day crowds are not indicative of how the rest of the summer will likely go. Pandora will be busy, of course, but it shouldn’t be the complete clustercuss that we experienced today. Around this time last year, when Frozen Ever After opened at Epcot, the opening day line stretched back to the Italy Pavilion. Since then, it’s rarely extended past China. Positive news, indeed.
The website will continue to monitor the situation. If you missed anything leading up to the opening, see this overview. It covers my thoughts on the attractions, food, drinks, atmosphere, etc. and includes links to more detailed reviews that include several hundred pictures.