Disney Avatarland Hit or Miss
On September 17, 2011 Disney announced that a deal had been reached with James Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox to bring an Avatar themed land to Walt Disney World. The immediate reaction from fans was mixed at best. Few loved the idea. Many hated it. Some adopted a wait and see attitude. What do you think? Will Avatarland be a hit or miss?
Why Change the Animal Kingdom At All?
While Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a lot of loyal fans it also has a lot of critics.
Fans praise the the design of the park. Of all the parks this one is probably the most immersive. The layout of the park and the architecture really draw guests into the illusion that they have left central Florida for Africa or Asia. The E-ticket attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest and Dinosaur are great. The shows are brilliant.
Critics say there are too few E-ticket attractions. In fact critics say there are too few attractions in general. To these critics the Animal Kingdom is a half-day park.
And fans would not disagree with that criticisms. Everyone agreed Animal Kingdom needed something more to keep people entertained all day.
The Magic Of Harry Potter
On May 31st 2007 Universal Orlando officially announced that a Harry Potter themed area would be coming to their Islands of Adventure Theme Park. Harry Potter fans, and there are millions of them, were giddy with excitement.
On September 12th, 2009 Disney announced the New Fantasyland project. While people were excited it was no where near the excitement generated by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. In fact, when details of the New Fantasyland came out there was an outcry over the fact that everything seemed to be aimed at young girls. Disney rushed to make some changes to the plans.
On December 6th, 2011 Universal again made Potterheads the world over rejoice. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was so popular (and had boosted attendance numbers so successfully) that Universal was going to bring Harry to its other Orlando theme park, Universal Studios Florida.
On September 17, 2011 Disney announced that the Animal Kingdom would get an expansion centered around Avatar.
While Disney might not admit that both New Fantasyland and Avatarland are responses to Universals success with the Harry Potter franchise, it sure does look suspicious. I am convinced Disney was reacting to the huge increase in ticket and merchandise sales at Universal while the Disney parks were only getting modest gains.
What Fans Expected From An Expansion
Disney lovers had been speculating for years about an expansion at the Animal Kingdom. Most of the talk on discussion boards centered around a few concepts. Those concepts were Beastly Kingdom, Australia or South America.
Beastly Kingdom was originally part of the plans for the Animal Kingdom. The original concept for Disney’s fourth Orlando theme park centered around exotic animals, extinct animals and mythical animals. The real animals would be represented by Africa and Asia, the extinct animals by Dinoland. The mythical creatures would be found in the Beastly Kingdom.
After the opening of the park, however, the plans for the Beastly Kingdom were scrapped due to costs. The area that had been set aside for it eventually became Camp Minnie-Mickey.
A lot of fans were hoping that the Beastly Kingdom would finally be built.
Many fans thought Australia or South America would make great expansions because they seemed to fit so well with the Animal Kingdom concept. The Animal Kingdom already had Africa and Asia. Adding another continent just made sense and Camp Minnie-Mickey, the original planned location for the Beastly Kingdom, seemed ripe for a complete make-over.
All the speculation came to an end with the Avatar announcement.
Reaction To Avatarland
Fan reaction to Avatarland was probably not what Disney had hoped for. When Universal announced that Harry was coming to Orland i a big way Potter fans went crazy with excitement. When Disney announced Avatar was coming to Orlando people went crazy with complaints.
Not everyone hated Avatar from the start. For a lot of Disney fans Avatar would not have been their first choice for an expansion but they remained optimistic. They would not trash Avatarland till they at least got to see what it was.
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Other optimist took the stand that Avatar might not be the best choice but something is better than nothing. After all this is Disney and whatever they do will be good. Right?
On a more negative note there were many who were disappointed. After years of speculation about what an Animal Kingdom expansion would look like they were let down. A lot of great ideas had been floated around and this was not one of them.
The most negative fans were absolutely disgusted that Avatar was going to be added to the Animal Kingdom. The reasons varied but the most common one was they did not like the movie.
Of course that is just a sample of reactions. I am certain somebody out there thinks Avatarland is a great idea. I just hope that James Cameron isn’t the only one.
And What Does Grumpy Think?
I call Avatarland a clear miss but I must be honest. I have not seen the entire movie. What I did see I did not like. In fact the word hate comes to mind. Instead of seeing a brilliant use of modern technology I see a cartoon. I was not impressed. It reminds me of the rotoscoping technology Ralph Bakshi used to make the Lord of the Rings. And I like the way Mary Poppins integrated live action with animation better than Avatar. If I have not made myself clear, I hated the movie (at least what I saw.)
So when Disney made the announcement I was beyond disappointed. I was more in the disgusted category. I can think of a bunch of different ways to use $500 (the reported budget for this expansion) to make the Animal Kingdom better. Most of them would probably have gone over better than Avatarland. I went to bed hoping all the negative comments on a million forums would convince someone at Disney to back out of the deal. They did not and apparently will not.
Still it is Disney and Camp Minnie Mickey was a super huge character meet and greet with one show, the Festival of the Lion King. Disney needed to do something. So while I may not enjoy the theme I am sure the new attractions will be impressive.
What are your thoughts?
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