How Walt Disney Imagineering brought Pandora to life

May 25, 2017 in "Pandora - The World of Avatar"

The Landscape of Pandora - The World of Avatar
Posted: Thursday May 25, 2017 8:04am EDT by WDWMAGIC Staff

Disney has put together a great list of some of the facts, figures and details that make Pandora - The World of Avatar such a unique theme park experience.


When Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests journey to the far-away world of Pandora as probable eco-tourists, they encounter floating mountains, a glowing, bioluminescent rainforest and other wonders of an alien world. The Valley of Mo’ara on Pandora is undergoing a rebirth long after a destructive mining operation known as the Resources Development Administration (RDA) ceased operation. Eco-tourists, for the first time, can travel to this exoplanet located in the Alpha Centauri star system 4.4 light years from Earth.

Where Mountains Float

  • The iconic floating mountains in the Valley of Mo’ara – there are 22 – peak at about 130 feet above the valley floor. .
  • Sharp-eyed adventurers will see Pandoran Stingbats nesting in the mountains. Despite their lethal tail spines, these animals can be summoned by the Na’vi with clicking sounds made between the tongue and teeth.
  • A team of more than 60 artisans from the U.S., Peru, France, Portugal, Japan and Ireland contributed to creating the art-scape of the floating mountains.

And the Landscape Glows and Hums

  • It wouldn’t be an alien planet without bizarre plant life. On Pandora, a diverse ecosystem is rebalancing as a variety of colorful plant life flourishes.
  • Plants have names like Puffball Tree, Dapophet, Vein Pod, Scorpion Thistle, Episoth and Flaska Reclinata.
  • Humans rapping on the Flaska Reclinata cause this large alien plant to pollinate by releasing spores within the environment. With its wide base tapering to a narrow top, the Flaska Reclinata is found just past the old RDA bridge.
  • Many plants are bioluminescent, with internal lighting or material that makes them glow. Plants are interactive. Guests can see and sense the energy of the plants that moves in waves.
  • Pandora plays to a surreal soundtrack. Said Matt Beiler, WDI producer: “For the land to feel like a real jungle from another planet, we don’t have traditional background music in Pandora – we have a soundscape designed to make it feel as though it is an alien jungle. We hear vocalization patterns like mating calls and hunting moments, and this makes it feel real. When those moments happen, the lighting ties into that with waves of energy. It gives us a connectedness to nature.” 

Where Water Flows

  • At the center of Pandora is a riparian area, where waterfalls cascade from the mountaintops into gentle pools and streams.
  • One stream follows a peaceful path along the entry to Pandora. The other flows into the Na’vi River Journey, where guests board reed boats for an excursion to see the revered Shaman of Songs.
  • The looming mountains are arid, and guests will hear different animal vocalizations from those areas.

And Earth Elements Integrate

  • The Walt Disney Imagineering landscape architecture team worked side by side with the land’s design and engineering teams to ensure that thousands of Pandoran plants, including epiphytes and barnacles, fit into the overall landscape plan.
  • For example, the Dapophet plant features a sort of starburst bloom that resembles the live agave planted next to it. The Puffball Tree looks like the family of plants we know as cycads with its fern-like, palm-like characteristics.
  • More than 250 varieties of live trees, shrubs and epiphytes mingle with the Pandoran The Disney horticulture team planted more than 500 trees and nearly 10,000 shrubs across the Pandoran landscape.

Where Even the Walkways Glow

  • Many of the walkways and paths, like the alien plant life that surrounds them, are also bioluminescent. A treatment added to some of the
  • Pandoran walkways gives them that glowing quality. Charged by sunlight and reinforced by black light, the glowing pathways come to life.

And Creature Life Surrounds You

  • No matter where guests go in Pandora, they will feel the presence of many animal species. Pandora teems with them.
  • The pack hunter, the Viperwolf (with six legs and opposable thumbs) communicates with unusual coyote-like yelps. The Direhorse (a six-legged domesticated riding animal) exhibits a gentle demeanor.
  • Mountain Banshees, with wingspans averaging approximately 45 feet, inhabit the mountainous regions of Pandora. The most fearsome land predator is the omnivorous, powerful Thanator. And the Great Leonopteryx, larger and more solitary than the Mountain Banshee, is the most formidable winged creature.

Where You Can Fly on a Banshee

  • At Avatar Flight of Passage, 48 guests at a time can enter a state-of-the-art theater and board mountain banshees as avatars for the ride of their lives across Pandora.
  • Immersion in the world of Pandora is complete thanks to a projection screen 69 feet wide and more than 97 feet high.
  • Flight time during the six-minute experience is about four minutes.

And Meet a Na’vi Shaman

  • During the 4½-minute Na’vi River Journey, guests will meet an Audio-Animatronics Na’vi Shaman of Songs. At nearly 10 feet tall, the shaman is typical height for a Na’vi.
  • New technology programs fluid energy into her every movement and gesture.
Discuss on the Forums

Follow WDWMAGIC on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more Walt Disney World news and updates

View all comments →

Ghost93Aug 13, 2022

Maybe they will extend the hours when Avatar: The Way of Water comes out if they feel Pandora at Night could be a better selling point for Animal Kingdom.

Stevie AmsterdamAug 13, 2022

Lucky you haha! I'm sure I will be impressed :D My last visit was in 2014 so there's so much new stuff to explore. And I'm bringing my best friend as an anniversary gift - it's her first time!

bhg469Aug 13, 2022

It's beautiful, you'll definitely be impressed.. Even though I live here I have yet to see it in the dark however.

Stevie AmsterdamAug 13, 2022

That's a great idea, thank you!

Stevie AmsterdamAug 13, 2022

What a disappointment. Pandora is one of the main reasons why I am going. However I still have hopes that they extend the September hours, as August closing hours are 8pm (but were initially 7pm when I looked in June).

MisterPenguinAug 13, 2022

Get on line for FoP at 7p. By the time you're out, it will be dark. Park closure isn't necessarily pushing everyone out right away. They just don't let anymore get on the lines for attractions. Plus, for some odd reasons, the stores stay open past closure...

bhg469Aug 13, 2022

It will not be dark enough by then unfortunately.

Stevie AmsterdamAug 13, 2022

I am visiting WDW in September and I noticed that Animal Kingdom closes at 7pm. I checked what time the sun would set around my dates and it would be around 7.25pm. Will I be able to see Pandora at night? Or will the area still be lit by sunlight? 🥺

Stevie AmsterdamJul 18, 2022

I’m not sure if another boat ride in that land is the best way forward to be honest. I read somewhere about an exhibition through to explore the fauna of Pandora, with a massive AA toruk at the end. That would be awesome and a great way to balance the already existing boat ride and FoP.

Skipper2Jul 17, 2022

I think another E ticket in Pandora using Shanghai POTC technology/ride system for the new movie would be awesome.

JoeCamelJun 03, 2022

All they have to do is change the screens on river journey

GoofGoofMay 18, 2022

How about half dark ride half log flume with a hill drop that brings you “underwater” moving through some show scenes that’s then followed by a bigger hill finale. No clue if there is room for something like that but if they use bigger boats vs the smaller splash logs it could actually be a pretty high capacity ride. I know there’s already a boat ride in Pandora but this would be faster paced with some sort of story and a little more thrill to it.

doctornickMay 17, 2022

So with the new movie being based heavily on the underwater world of Pandora, how about adding another ride that would be similar to the Tokyo subs in TDS where you see some underwater creatures and environments?

Professortango1May 05, 2022

Quite the opposite. Loved walking through Harambe and was excited to see a staged version of Lion King that matched the land. I had heard nothing but good things beforehand. Theatre was bare bones but that worked for me. I loved the costumes and energy of the live performers in the pre-show. Then, we get that opening directly from the soundtrack and my heart sank. Then when the 20 year old floats from Disneyland rolled out I knew we were in trouble. Maybe its a LA/Florida thing. I heard from a friend at WDW that the talent levels of performers they have access to is far more hit or miss than the LA adjacent Disneyland. My friend and I also experienced the shock of walking into the Hyperion at DHS to see Frozen. So very different than the Hyperion Frozen we had seen at DCA.