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AVATAR announcement - Tom Staggs responds to Disney Parks Blog reader questions

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Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has just posted an interesting Q&A on the official Disney Parks Blog answering some questions posted by readers of the blog regarding today's announcment about AVATAR joining Disney's Animal Kingdom.  We've posted them below, and you can read the full article on the official site here.


Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

I’d like to thank all of the Disney Parks Blog followers who left comments or sent in questions regarding our AVATAR announcement today. We got a lot of great questions and while I won’t be able to answer all of them, I’ll do my best to get to as many as possible.

1) TIMING

We got quite a few questions about the timing of our first AVATAR experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including this one from Adam, “Any idea when the experience will be open to guests?”

We’ve just begun the design phase on our Animal Kingdom project and we expect to begin construction in 2013. From start to finish, a project of this size and scope takes about 5 years to design and build. We can’t give you an exact date but we know that when it’s complete, it’s going to be a truly unforgettable experience.

2) IS THIS A PARK EXPANSION OR WILL “LAND” REPLACE SOMETHING?

Several of you asked a similar question, including Doug from Utah – “Will it replace any existing attractions in Animal Kingdom, or will it be built in a new parcel of land within the park’s boundaries?”

Well, Doug, we’re just beginning the Blue Sky process so I don’t have much to share about how we are going to execute our vision for our first AVATAR land but we’re focused on this being an important addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I look forward to sharing more details as our plans progress.

3) SPECIFIC ATTRACTIONS

Jenna from Winnetka, Ill., asks, “What types of attractions will be in AVATAR land?”

This was hands-down one of the most popular questions we got and understandably so. While we’re still in the very early stages of design and planning, we expect this land to be anchored by multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations, restaurants and other immersive elements. Our AVATAR lands will give guests the chance to see, hear and touch the world of Pandora and we can’t wait to dive in with James Cameron and his team as we create new experiences that will delight and thrill our guests.

4) FILM IS PG-13, HOW DOES THIS MATCH W/FAMILY-FRIENDLY PARK?

Some of you, including Logan in Carnesville, Ga., asked about whether AVATAR was a good fit for a family-friendly brand like Disney.

Thanks, Logan, I appreciate your candor in asking this question. At its core, AVATAR is a film that embraces strong, positive themes of family, loyalty, living in harmony with nature and belief in oneself – all values that we share at The Walt Disney Company. You can be sure that these are the same themes that we will explore throughout our AVATAR lands. They will be places where friends and families can spend time together getting lost in a fantasy world, one of the true hallmarks of any Disney theme park experience. And with two sequels in the works, we feel this is a creative property whose potential is limitless.

5) AVATAR AT OTHER DISNEY PARKS?

We got several questions about whether there will be AVATAR experiences in parks/sites other than Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Kyle from Ontario asks, “Are there plans to add Avatar attractions at any other Disney parks?”

Well, Kyle, the only land we are announcing today is at Walt Disney World Resort but AVATAR is a possibility at any of our other locations. The first film AVATAR is a franchise with massive global appeal and its success at the box office both inside and outside of the U.S. – I should also note that as we determine our future locations, we look forward to working with our international theme park partners as our plans evolve.

6) ATTRACTION THEMING

Many of you, including Justin from Orlando, want to know, “How does AVATAR fit in with the Disney theme?” and more specifically, how does it fit in with the Animal Kingdom?

As I mentioned in a previous answer, AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. With its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty, it’s a great fit for the Disney brand and our parks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the perfect place for our first AVATAR land because at its core, the park gives guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in whole new ways. With AVATAR, we’ve found the perfect opportunity to let our guests explore one of the most compelling mythical worlds ever conceived. Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.

7) WHY BUY SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA INSTEAD OF LETTING WDI COME UP WITH SOMETHING?

Some of you asked why we would choose to collaborate with an outside partner rather than use our own Disney characters and stories to expand the parks. We are as committed as ever to creating attractions and entertainment around favorite Disney characters and stories – with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park and our expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park being two great examples. At the same time, we like to look beyond our own walls at non-Disney properties, like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, creating some of our most popular attractions. At the end of the day, we are focused on creating a great experience for our guests and I truly believe that this unique partnership with James Cameron and AVATAR gives us an entire world of imaginative creatures, fascinating locations and intriguing characters with which to do that.
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