In case you are not plugged in to all news Disney, there was a big announcement that James Cameron's Avatar will be coming to Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park. The news came out yesterday (September 20, 2011) via a press conference at Walt Disney Imagineering in Burbank, California. Many details are not known yet, but we do know that construction is set to begin sometime in 2013.
The Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs, answered some email questions yesterday on the Disney Parks Blog regarding the upcoming partnership, but there was very little new information learned. He gave a possible time frame of 5 years before opening, and said that their vision includes "multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations
, restaurants, and other immersive elements." He did not answer if this would be replacing specific attractions, or if it would be an entirely new land, which troubles me...
My thoughts on this have gone back and forth since I first read about it...
First, I like the idea that they are planning something big, and trying to increase the profile of Animal Kingdom. Unfairly in some respects, and spot on it others, Animal Kingdom is often described as a "half day park", and I know that we are not alone in skipping days of our vacation at Animal Kingdom to return to other parks. Bringing a new aspect to the park, and one that should be really cool if done right (and I have complete confidence that Disney will), will draw a lot of new people to the park.
Secondly, I feel that the connection between Avatar and the theme of Animal Kingdom is a bit of
a stretch. I understand the concept of all animals past, present, and mythical, but this just seems made up. The long rumored "Beastly Kingdom" was supposed to explain the dragon in the parks logo, but big blue people? I'm just not sure.
Third, I am excited to see what a partnership between Disney and James Cameron could produce. Like him or not James Cameron is an idea guy. They might not always pan out, but he has a lot of them. If he is really involved in the design and implementation of this project, I think it will be an amazing experience! The comparisons to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter will come up, but if that is what they are looking to emulate with Avatar, it has the potential to be amazing! While I wasn't as high on the movie as others, I did think that it was amazing to look at, and technically superior to anything we had seen before. If this new land can be as innovative as the film, we are in for something really special!
Some people are saying that this is in response to the before mentioned Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I'm not sure if something that is at best, 5 years down the road can be seen as a response. Also, Avatar does not, at least at this point, have the dedicated fan base that Harry Potter has. They did say that there were at least two more films in the works, but even with those, the Avatar franchise won't reach as far as Harry Potter. I do think that Disney has seen that the model that Universal followed with Harry Potter has worked, and they want to get their hand into something similar. I also think that they have seen where Universal has fallen short in their venture, and will learn from other's mistakes. Disney has a much larger infrastructure and more experience with these types of projects, and they should be able to plan and implement procedures to avoid some of "growing pains" that Universal suffered.
So after typing out my thoughts, and really thinking this over, I think I like this new Animal Kingdow/Avatar venture, but I'm not over the moon about it. On the surface it seemed odd for them to use an outside entity, but they did it with Star Wars, and Indiana Jones to great success. I have high hopes for this, and look forward to seeing how it progresses. We'll just have to wait and see...