When Avatar hit the box office in 2009, I saw it in 3D and was very impressed. But when Disney announced that they were creating Pandora in Animal Kingdom in 2011, I was honestly a bit confused. Although a great movie (and yes, it was the highest grossing film ever), I felt the hype had already started to die down by then and that by the time the park would open 6 years later it may be completely irrelevant. Clearly I was wrong and Disney always seems to know what they are doing.
Although I already had a trip booked to see Wishes at the end of April, when I received an email that Annual Passholders were being offered the chance to preview Pandora before the general public I immediately signed up. Part of me was still skeptic- I hadn’t seen the movie in 8 years and didn’t know what to expect. The other part of me was excited because I know what Disney was capable of.
My passholder preview was on Saturday May 20th. By this point, there had already been a full week of previews and I did not shy away from the millions of pictures all over Instagram. However, when I entered I realized that pictures did not do it justice!
The aesthetics within Pandora are more unique than anything I’ve ever seen, but somehow I feel the land fits perfectly within Animal Kingdom. The floating mountains are grand, the Pandora flora is vibrant, and the waterfall in the center is relaxing and beautiful. Since my preview was in the afternoon, I did not get to experience the bioluminescence that Pandora is known for, but I’m sure when I return at night I will fall in love with the landscape even more.
As expected, the first thing I did when I entered Pandora was to seek out the food. Satu’li Canteen may very well be my new favorite quick service, although it is beyond any other quick service I’ve experienced. They serve the food on real plates with real utensils!
But the real treat here is the actual food itself. The restaurant has two basic meals to choose from with a few options for each- Grilled Bowls or Steamed Pods. I went with the bowl with Slow-Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef, with a base of quinoa and vegetable salad and topped with creamy herb dressing. The beef was cooked to perfection and the whole meal tasted amazing. I really hope that the quality continues once everything is open to the public and the foot traffic increases exponentially.
Next was dessert, which I had seen pictures of and was very excited for. I ordered the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse with Passion Fruit Curd and it tasted just as good as it looks. I was nervous by the looks of it that I may not like the texture of the shell of the cheesecake, but I have absolutely zero complaints.
Later on, I stopped at Pongu Pongu (which means ‘Party Party’ in Na’vi) to try the famous Night Blossom drink. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but that drink was in no way a party for me and I ended up throwing it out halfway through. It was an odd combination of sweet and tart and flavors that I just couldn’t get on board with. I’ve heard great things about the green Hawkes’ Grog Ale, and I think I will try that next time.
As far as rides, the first thing I rode was Flight of Passage. I was a bit nervous since I tend to get claustrophic and motion sick at times, but I am always willing to try something once or twice. After a few loading issues (it was a preview after all), we went into the loading room where you sit on a motorcycle-like vehicle which then locks you in with back and leg restraints. This made me a little uneasy for about 5 seconds and then I was fine.
The premise of the ride is that you sync up with an Avatar in order to ride on a banshee and explore the Rookeries in which they live. Although unique, if I had to compare it to anything I would say it is a solid mix of Soarin with the intensity of Star Tours. But I suggest you ride it yourself in order to experience the sights, the sounds, and the sensations (you know, when you sync up with the Avatar- trust me, they make it feel legit!).
The second ride in the land is the Na’vi River Journey. Unlike most of my friends, I actually have mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals were absolutely stunning- but I felt that it was very short and that 75% of the ride felt like the same thing. I don’t need a story line or anything crazy, but a little more action would have satisfied me. What I DID enjoy was the Shaman of Songs animatronic at the end. It is one of the most life-like, amazing things I have seen and I was mesmerized. I would have enjoyed sitting there staring at her and taking in her positive energy and music for the length of the ride.
With Pandora, Disney has also given all of us an opportunity to do some more than likely unnecessary shopping. But in case you wanted an Avatar themed outfit, I’m here to steer you in the right direction. I was really excited about my preview day outfit, although very simple this time, for two reasons. One is that I got to wear a dress from the new brand my company recently launched (Loralette). Two, I finally got to wear these beautiful floral ears from Starshine Supply Co. She made them centered on the Pandora theme and added lights to go along with the bioluminescence at night. (If you want your own, go place and order and use code DREAMALONGWITHLISA for 10% off your pair!) If you aren’t ready to order, make sure to give her a follow on Instagram or Etsy and keep an eye out for one of her gorgeous pairs of ears that speak to you!
*Sunnies from Target
Overall, Disney did an amazing job with Pandora- from the food, to the atmosphere, the rides, and even the gift shop- although I was on the hunt to find and meet Joe Rohde and did not take the time I should have looking at merchandise. Whether you’re a huge Avatar fan, haven’t seen it in a while like me, or have maybe never seen it- you will still enjoy this new land. I think Disney has set themselves up for great success not only at the park, but also for the rumored sequels to Avatar coming in the next few years.
Have you previewed Pandora yet? What did you like best? And if not, what are you most looking forward to about the park?