Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I talk to strangers.  Lots of times, strangers talk to me.  It’s kind of a joke in our family and after all these years, is rather expected.  I think conversations strike up easily in queues and shops and on Disney transportation because I look happy all the time when I’m at Disney World.  (In real life I’m pretty sure my usual RBF is a bit off-putting.)  No matter the reason for all the chitchat, on our last visit I asked a bunch of people what their thoughts were about Pandora and the two attractions there.  Let’s talk about Disney’s newest boat ride!

Disney’s Pandora – Thoughts on Na’vi River Journey

Pandora’s boat ride encompasses most of what you’d expect – dark, cool, bunch of clever details, animatronic figure, interesting sounds/background noises.  What it lacks is a story.  The ride is a tour of Pandora at night.  And that’s pretty much it.

When Megan and I took our one and only Na’vi River Journey, I kept pointing to all the things I recognized from Avatar (the movie).  Used to my tendencies, Meg did not complain, but politely indulged in my need to redirect her attention by back-handing her in the arm and whispering “look!” every few seconds about something I found super interesting.  She’d smile and nod.  She loves her mom a lot, I can tell.

Anyway, after the ride was over, I had the opportunity later to ask a few people here and there if they’d ridden Na’vi River Journey and what they thought about it.  I asked people in line for Festival of the Lion King, in the loooooong queue for Flight of Passage, and anyplace else I could start a friendly conversation without seeming creepy. The results of my casual poll were this:  Those who’d seen Avatar tended to like the new boat ride well enough.  Those who’d never seen Avatar mostly thought the River Journey was meh.  Here’s where the lack of a story hurts this attraction, I think.

All that being said…if you want to maximize your enjoyment of Pandora, and Na’vi River Journey in particular, try to catch Avatar before you go.  Even if you don’t care for the movie, you’ll at least be able to recognize and hopefully appreciate all the work the Imagineers put in to recreating Pandora.

Have you been to Pandora?  Did you see Avatar before you went?  Did you think being familiar with Pandora helped you enjoy it more?

Disney World’s Future – My Two Cents

RM-Disney's-Hollywood-Studios-EntranceI want to ride on a Slinky Dog roller coaster.  I absolutely do!  That’s one of my most favorite of the many recent announcements about what we can expect next at Walt Disney World.  I’ve spoken about change before, and the importance of being open to new technology, themes, characters, and experiences.  As much as we think we’d like our favorite vacation destination to remain the same every time we visit, like ourselves and our children, it has to grow up too, so to speak.

Disney World’s Future – My Two Cents

Closures make us sad.  Think about this:  If we had happy childhoods, with glowing, happy memories, we instinctively want to recreate those experiences again and again.  That’s human nature.  When a component of our fondly remembered past no longer exists, we tend to believe the future (of that particular circumstance) will not be as good.  The value is diminished.  This is not necessarily true!  We can create new, happy memories with a new set of circumstances.  We just have to be open to the opportunity. (Insert “Let it go” sequence here while viewing Maelstrom photos.)Malestrom / Norway Pavilion / World Showcase

We’re naturally apprehensive of the unknown.  I will not argue with the naysayers who cannot understand how the heck Avatar belongs in Animal Kingdom.  It hasn’t opened yet – nobody’s experienced any of the attractions or the environment Pandora will have to offer.  It might not matter how you feel about the movie, the immersive experience might just be incredible on its own.  Similarly, Star Wars, I’m sad to say, is not universally appealing to everyone.  I grew up with Star Wars – it’s part of my own happy childhood memories and I’m over-the-moon-excited for the new Star Wars Land.  Not so for everyone, I get that.  Celebrate a Dream Come Trup ParadeI’ll also add that, if I ruled the Disney World, the Toy Story Land slated for the Studios would have been a broader Pixar-based area.  Not because I don’t love Toy Story, but because a more inclusive focus would have offered more potential.  What’s important is that we’ll have new, expanded Disney-imagineered environments and experiences to enjoy.  Or not.  Let’s keep an open mind and give it all a try before we categorically dismiss something as no good.

I can’t think of a single deal-breaker.  I realize I’m more accepting of change than the average person, but there are no rides or attractions that could change or close that would keep me from choosing to vacation at Walt Disney World.  Disney fan message boards are full of folks who constantly bemoan any and all changes as something that will make them vacation elsewhere.  They will not allow Disney to have one more cent of their vacation dollars.  To those folks I say, fine!  By all means, move along and find somewhere else to spend your money.  Disney World is (and will be) crowded enough without you.RM-Animal-Kingdom-Construction-Walls-Tree-of-Life

I listen to analysis, but not too closely.  I love hearing Disney fans discuss their opinions on Disney World’s future.  There are some mighty deep, in-depth theories on Disney’s expenditures versus returns, crowd figures (and traffic patterns), the perceived value of certain attraction/land additions, and the effect on future park ticket prices.  I find most of it interesting and some of it completely ridiculous.  I take it all with a grain of salt!  If the Disney Company feels pressure from Universal Orlando (Comcast) to create clever, entertaining, more immersive guest experiences – we can only benefit from competition!

I welcome all the changes – until I’ve seen, heard, and experienced all the new rides, attractions, restaurants and themed areas coming to Walt Disney World over the next several years.  I welcome more, better, and different opportunities to expand my love for Disney in all its forms.  Bring it on.  I’ll be anxiously waiting.

How about you?  What upcoming changes are you most excited about?

Interested in hearing various opinions on upcoming Disney World changes?  Try these podcast episodes: