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Pandora at Daybreak – Daffy Does Disney

In case you didn’t know, Walt Disney World is in the process of a complex-wide rejuvenation that will see scads of new attractions over the next few years as the biggest tourist destination in the country looks to rebound from years of inaction and make themselves ready for their 50th anniversary on October 1st of 2021. That might seem like a long time off, but in construction time, it’s not that much.

Their big project opening this year, prior to next year’s Toy Story Land and the following year’s Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge, has been a full land in the Animal Kingdom devoted to James Cameron’s huge blockbuster Avatar. Believe it or not, Cameron is in the process of planning four more Avatar movies and Disney parks have bet big on the series and their new land devoted to it, Pandora, keeping visitor interest high. So far, so good, as Pandora has been a huge hit with Walt Disney World’s park guests, seeing big crowds and long lines in the new land since its Memorial Day opening. There are some reports that overall park attendance has not actually been helped by Pandora, just Animal Kingdom, but my guess is that this is looked at as just one step in their overall move to re-invigorate the profile of the parks complex, making it not just the favorite amongst families and nostalgics, but also with more modern audiences.

The still crowded Pandora would be the big target for us on the third day of our Labor Day weekend trip, and if you know me you know that means three words: Rope Drop, Baby. In fact, we took the prudent approach of getting to the park close to an hour prior to opening time. Although you will see us in the middle of a huge crowd anyway, what this will ultimately mean will be boarding the big buzz ride Flights of Passage just twenty minutes after the scheduled park opening. This means we ended up waiting roughly 80 minutes for the attraction, as opposed to people who showed up at the actual opening time who appear to have been facing a full three hour wait. The early nerds clear the berm.

follow us as we take you into the amazing world of Pandora, into the queue for Flights of Passage, for a bite at the Satu’li Canteen, and for a beautiful Navi River Journey.

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Posted on September 27, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It looks very nice, but those crowds are a deal breaker for now. How does Flight compare to Spider-man? It sounds like you were impressed so I am guessing it holds up pretty well. But I am curious to hear if you think Disney has finally matched or exceeded one of the best rides in Orlando. I keep hearing Disney fans compare Flight to Soarin which doesn’t impress me all that much. I have always thought Soarin was vastly overrated. So Soarin 2.0 isn’t something I need to experience. But if Flight can meet or exceed Spidey, that’s something I want to see.

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    • I would definitely say that Flights of Passage shares more DNA with Soarin’ than with the Spider-Man ride in that once the experience starts the entirety of the world you are in is on the screen instead of being integrated with practical effects. But that’s really my only qualm about the attraction as a whole. This is next-level in comparison to Soarin’. It is more impressive in everything you can see. It is more thrilling, and the technology is clearly superior. The Navi River Journey actually shares more with Spider-Man in its very seamless integration of the practical effects with the screens being used, but it is not as thrilling or entertaining overall as the Spider-Man ride as it is a peaceful boat ride through a beautiful environment. I won’t argue that the 3D effects of Spider-Man are better than those on Flights of Passage, but that’s expected due to their opening dates and also because FoP is trying to approximate reality while Spider-Man is not.

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      • That’s more or less in line with my expectations. Doesn’t sound like the game changer some fans make it out to be, but a very nice addition to a park that needed some more attractions. Which leads me to my next question. I know you don’t necessarily consider AK a half day park, but do you think Pandora will put that debate to rest? Or will the “half day park” crowd (of which I am a member) be able to spend a full day at AK with no complaints?

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        • That is going to continue to depend on the guest and what you want to do while you’re there.

          If you insist on skipping both stage shows.
          If you avoid the animal trails.
          If you don’t want to get wet on Kali River Rapids.
          If, like me, you have a spider phobia that makes It’s Tough to be a Bug a no-go.
          If you only eat at counter service places
          If you avoid Chester and Hester like the plague
          If you don’t care about seeing a nighttime spectacular like Rivers of Light

          Well….then yeah, you’ll still probably be done by late afternoon easy. I’m guessing that most AK = 1/2 day park folks do 3 or more of the above things when they visit the park.

          And that’s okay. I’m not here to tell you or anybody else how you have to enjoy your day. My love for the aesthetic of Animal Kingdom makes me more than willing to take my time there under the right circumstances, and that can easily make it a full-day park with no problem at all. The key to me is mostly 3-pronged: 1) see at least one of the stage shows 2) walk the animal trails as if you enjoy them – not as if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere else, and 3) take the time to have a leisurely table service meal

          The addition of Pandora has only changed that equation a little.

          Flights of Passage deserves to get very strong reviews, but I didn’t find it life-changing the way some other people have. The best attraction in all of Walt Disney World? It’s not even the best attraction in Animal Kingdom. I still prefer Expedition Everest and maybe Kilimanjaro Safaris. It’s definitely an E-Ticket attraction, but I think it’s more realistic to rank it somewhere like 8th overall. Of course that’s coming from somebody who didn’t like the movie and who mildly resents screen rides.

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  2. I think that we say “Soarin on steroids” because that’s probably the closest ride AT DISNEY to compare it to…other than maybe Star Tours. But let me say this…I’m bored by Soarin. For a long time, we just didn’t bother with it because we’d rather use a fast pass somewhere else and I certainly wouldn’t have waited more than 20 minutes to ride it stand by. Now, I’ve ridden it since they refurbed it..but again, OK done that…check. I still won’t waste a fastpass on it and it’ll still be a “look the waits only 20 and we have nothing else to do” kind of attraction for me.
    Pandora is not that. In thinking about it further, here’s my take:
    Pandora is like Soarin because you are looking at a huge screen. The screen in pandora is immensely better done than the one at Soarin. On Pandora, you really feel like you are immersed in the ride…you don’t get that on Soarin…in my opinion, you don’t get that on Spiderman at Universal either…mainly because you are sitting in a ride vehicle with other people. On Pandora, you are so immersed in it that you only know other folks are riding it with you if you take your eyes off the screen and look to your left or right. If I had to choose between waiting an hour to ride Pandora and waiting an hour to ride Spiderman at Universal…Pandora would win…hands down, every time. Now, will I wait 3+ hours to ride it….nope. But I won’t wait that long to ride ANYTHING,….not even when the new Star wars land opens. So, for now, it’s fastpass or bust for us for that ride. Would I wait an hour to ride it again…yes. Would I do the rope drop experience we did again (which I guess was close to 80 minutes if you could the waiting outside the park time) – yep. Tomorrow I can book fastpasses for our trip in December…and I’ll be up early to try and get fastpasses for it. If not, we’ll be crossing our fingers and showing up at rope drop. I have several friends who have waited 2+ hours to ride it and they all say they would do that again, no question. I have ridden every ride at Disney (except the Astro Orbiters)…and most at Disneyland and I believe this is the best ride Disney has ever done from a total ride experience. One things for sure, if they did Pandora this well, I can’t WAIT to see Star Wars land.

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    • Well yeah, but I have never waited more than 3 minutes to ride Spider-man. 😉

      Spider-man isn’t an apples to apples comparison for Flight of Passage. I would ask for a comparison to Race Through New York, but I knew Daffy hadn’t experienced that attraction yet. It’s Universal’s “Soarin’ on steroids”. My best guess is that Flight of Passage will win that comparison based on the unique ride vehicles. Of course that’s also why Flight of Passage has such low capacity. Disney actually changed their enforcement of FastPass policies based on the ride’s low throughput. Rumor has it they are restricting the amount of FastPasses available for Flight of Passage as part of a test for paid FastPass. Whether or not that means the end of free FastPass is unknown, but I will be interested to see how that plays out.

      Ultimately, I won’t be able to judge Flight of Passage or Pandora until I experience it myself – assuming I ever do. From what I have seen and heard, it seems like a very nice addition, but not something I would schedule a Disney World vacation to see. I probably won’t return until after Star Wars land opens. (Even then, I might go to Disneyland to experience that.) There are rumors that Disney has cut some costs on Star Wars land, but that is to be expected. One thing Pandora had going for it was James Cameron insisting on quality. George Lucas isn’t around to do that and I’m not sure he would even if he was.

      Since we’re talking Star Wars land, I’ll be the old guy yelling out clouds for a minute. Looking at the concept art, I’m not seeing a lot that screams Star Wars. I’m seeing “generic sci fi planet with the Millennium Falcon parked on it.” Then again, I’m one of those people who can’t understand why people were so enamored of The Force Awakens, so I’m clearly in the minority where Star Wars is concerned. I am cautiously optimistic that Disney won’t drop the ball on such an important project. I’m a little worried that they might raise prices to the point where I will decide it’s just not worth checking it out any more. But we’ll see.

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      • I had similar thoughts about the Galaxy’s Edge model when i saw it. My one “wait and see” has to do with the cast member costumes for the land. There are a few iconic costumes from the Star Wars universe, and it seems to me that including these will do quite a lot to make the land feel like you are living in that universe. Just imagine stormtroopers and droids populating this town and I think my reservations might dissipate on that count.

        What I continue to be pretty sure of is that I will ideally want Star Wars to mostly disappear from other parts of the parks and resorts. I know there will be merchandise in stores, but otherwise I don’t want to see the Imperial march through the Hollywood parts of DHS and I’d prefer if Launch Bay was simply discontinued altogether, but at least relocated (the nighttime show is okay by me). I feel the same way about the Marvel properties. Pandora’s self-contained quality is exactly what I want from these other IPs. Give me a great new land featuring them and then let me enjoy the rest of Disney world as DISNEY.

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        • In general, moving away from just theme parks, I want less Star Wars. Or at least better Star Wars. When we were kids, part of what made Star Wars special was that it was limited. The Star Wars holiday special showed us the worst case scenario for capitalizing on Star Wars. The Force Awakens and Rogue One aren’t bad in and off themselves, but they are merely the tip of the Disney-SW iceburg. I find myself less and less interested in the brand as we get more and more of it. It’s easy for me to imagine a time when I just won’t care about Star Wars any more.

          But yeah, in the parks stormtroopers and droids will help. And I don’t want to see SW outside of the designated SW land.

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