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Brand new Disney attraction you don't want to miss

The world first traveled to the mystical alien world of Pandora back in 2009 when director James Cameron’s epic sci-fi film “Avatar” landed in theaters and became one of the biggest hits in film history. While “Avatar” fans are waiting for the promised sequels to start arriving in 2018, Disney has been very busy turning Pandora into a real place you can visit in 2017.

Disney’s World of Avatar is part of the theme-park giant’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. A video posted in late December gives fans a sneak peek behind the scenes at the new attraction, which is scheduled to open this summer.

Revisiting “Avatar”

In case you haven’t set eyes on “Avatar” since you and millions of other people around the world saw it in theaters, here’s a quick refresher: “Avatar” is set in the 22nd century on a moon called Pandora. Pandora is a paradise of exotic forests inhabited by the Na’vi, a group of huge, blue, nature-loving humanoid aliens with long tails. The film centers around the expansion of a human mining colony that threatens the Na’vi and their harmonious way of life.

The storyline centers around former Marine Jake Sully, a paraplegic who navigates the alien realm by projecting his mind into an “avatar,” a genetically engineered Na’vi-human hybrid body. What follows is a combination of a love story and the fight to save the Na’vi’s beautiful world from the devastation of human mining activities.

Pandora comes to life

Pandora offers a world full of mysticism, otherworldly plant life, and landscapes that were created on film using the magic of computer-generated graphics. “I was very skeptical that [it] was even physically possible to build the world of Pandora,” said Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde in the behind-the-scenes video. “This was a crazy thing to try to do.”

This daunting challenge didn’t stop Disney from creating a lush forest of glowing plants, ethereal floating mountains, and a full-size animatronic Na’vi shaman. Keep in mind that the Na’vi are about 10 feet tall and would tower over even a professional basketball player.

A video demonstration of the shaman left viewers questioning whether it was truly an animatronic or if it was a computer-generated creation. For the record, Disney confirms it is an animatronic robot, but its startlingly life-like nature will leave fans questioning their reality.

Visitors will enter Pandora over a bridge that connects it to the rest of the park and be greeted at the Alpha Centauri Expeditions base camp, giving the whole journey the feel of an eco-tour on an alien world. This setting takes place a long time after the events of the movie at a time when nature is taking over the structures once built by human invaders.

Naturally, there will be a themed restaurant, which is called the Satu’li Canteen. It will continue the Na’vi cultural theme. The whole park area is designed to be immersive and make it feel like you’re far away from Earth.

Riding with the Na’vi

The World of Avatar will feature two main rides. The Flight of Passage is a flying simulator that soars through a verdant world with a mountain banshee, a large, fictional bird-like creature native to Pandora. The Na’vi use them like aerial horses for hunting and travel. In the movie, they have a dinosaur-like look to them.

Expect this ride to be a heart-pumping adventure with a focus on eye-candy visuals. Disney teased a look at this ride showing a brief glimpse at a plunging flight path with exotic animals moving below.

According to Disney, The Na’Vi River Journey floats guests down “a sacred river hidden within a bioluminescent rainforest.” The Na’vi shaman we’ve already seen on video will greet riders at the end. Disney describes the river ride as family-friendly, so it should be suitable for even young kids who might find the flying simulator a little too intense.

What to expect

There is still a lot of mystery swirling around Disney’s World of Avatar, but those questions will be answered when the attraction finally opens. It’s been an epic journey originating in director and writer James Cameron’s mind. He wrote the original treatment for the film back in 1994, no doubt never imagining the universe would one day appear in real life at a Disney theme park.

Cameron’s plans for the movie’s sequels are even more ambitious than the Disney attraction. He is simultaneously working on four films in the series. The first of those is due in late 2018 with filming expected to start this year. It may seem like a long ways away, but fans will at least be able to take a vacation on the vibrant moon of Pandora while they wait for the next adventure.

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