A look at how Pandora came to be

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A model for Pandora from the D23 Expo in 2015. Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit on Flickr.

Pandora in Animal Kingdom has been a long time coming. And it’s still not here. But Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek officially announced at the D23 club’s Destination D presentation in November that it’ll be open in summer 2017. Along with that announcement came the reveal of some of the area’s restaurants and shops, like Satu’li Canteen, the area’s main restaurant, and Windtraders, a shop featuring Navi cultural items.

The introduction of Pandora-the World of Avatar to the Disney Parks begs the question of whether or not “Avatar” is owned by Disney now. Star Wars Land in Hollywood Studios was only created because Disney bought the rights to “Star Wars.” But “Avatar” is actually still it’s own entity and owned by a company that, for all intents and purposes, should not be working with Disney.

In 2011, James Cameron announced that he’d reached a deal with the Disney company to give them the licensing rights to “Avatar” to build theme park attractions. He imagined that Imagineering could “run wild” with his story, which was exactly what he wanted. He wanted the world of Avatar to become a fully immersive.

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The construction site of Pandora, including one of the floating mountains. Photo courtesy of Theme Park Tourist on Flickr.

Previously, Cameron had actually been a friend to Disney’s greatest rival in the theme park industry, Universal Studios. Universal has the licensing rights to his “Terminator” series and they were actually in talks to sell Universal the licensing rights to “Avatar” as well, before Disney snatched it up. Considering Disney lost out on the rights to “Harry Potter,” they really needed this win.

But it wasn’t all Cameron’s decision to make the deal because he alone does not have the rights to the film. The film series is financed and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Just two years earlier in 2009, Fox wasn’t too thrilled with Disney. In that year, Disney surprised everyone by buying Marvel and creating a rather confusing web. Sony already had “Spiderman” so Disney couldn’t have that. But Fox had the “X-Men” which meant that Disney also couldn’t have that, even though they sort of included two X-Men characters when they added Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to their Marvel Universe movies, in the same year that Fox added the twins to their X-Men movie series. The problem with one company owning one series of characters and another company owning another series of characters is that anyone who has ever read a Marvel comic book can tell you that there’s a lot of overlap. Even more convoluted is that Marvel has deals with Universal, allowing the X-Men stay in their parks, as well as several characters that are technically owned by Disney, which now includes Spiderman.

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One of the X-Men characters, Wolverine, who can be seen on Marvel Superhero Island in Universal Studios. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Azevedo on Flickr.

The strange thing about big companies like Disney, Sony, or 20th Century Fox is that they all appear to be enemies and then end up signing a lot of deals together. Whether Fox was bitter or not is hard to say, but they did look at Pandora as a major deal for them and one that has formed, so far, a five year relationship of working with the films and the theme park. Disney broke ground in 2013, with the intention of completing Pandora by 2016. Of course, that didn’t happen. Which cause a bit of a commotion as to when the best time would be to release the next films in the “Avatar” series. Initially, the sequels were set for 2014 and 2015, but that causes concern. Would the audience by done with “Avatar” when the series was over and lose interest in the park before it even opened? Instead, the sequel dates were pushed back again and again. The supposed release days are now 2018 and 2020. Ironically enough, Disney might lose out to itself if Fox releases “Avatar 2” in December 2018, as expected, since “Star Wars Episode VIII” is set for release the same month. Disney is counting on there to be a big audience for “Avatar 2” so they’ll have a big audience to go to Pandora. But “Star Wars” is likely to be the biggest hit of that month.

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A Na’vi figure revealed at the D23 Expo in 2015. Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit on Flickr.

“Avatar 3” is also no longer the end of it. Fox announced that the series wouldn’t stop there anymore. We can expect “Avatar 4” and “Avatar 5.”

I don’t know about you but I’m a little “Avatar”-ed out. Disney and Fox may have made a couple of miscalculations by pushing the released dates back further and further and adding more titles. Still, maybe with the release of Pandora coming up, it’ll renew the love for the series and create more fervor for the series.

Are you excited for Pandora or are you just ready for “Avatar” to be over? Let us know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “A look at how Pandora came to be

  1. I am sure Disney will do a great job with Avatar land, but I really don’t get that being part of Animal Kingdom. I always loved the theming there as it was. Animals, Lion King, Nemo, all made sense to me! and we love the safari, not sure how Avatar belongs there.

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    • I definitely agree. I understand them looking at it as a replacement for the Beastly Kingdom that never was, but, as Animal Kingdom is today, I’m not completely convinced that Avatar fits.

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  2. Pingback: A Pandora Update | Reimagining the Imagineers

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