REVIEW and POV VIDEO - Na'vi River Journey on Pandora - The World of Avatar

May 16, 2017 in "Na'vi River Journey"

Na'vi River Journey overview
Posted: Tuesday May 16, 2017 8:49am EDT by WDWMAGIC Staff

Pandora - The World of Avatar offers two attractions, the thrilling e-ticket experience Flight of Passage, and the gentle family-friendly boat ride, Na'vi River Journey.

The approach to Na'vi River Journey is spectacular. To get to the ride, you pass through the incredible landscape of Pandora. Floating mountains, waterfalls, and exotic Pandora flora surround you.

Near the entrance, a totem, woven by the Na'vi (the indigenous people of Pandora), invites guests into the grottos towards the river, and an eventual encounter with the Shaman of Songs.

Unlike most theme park lands, the attractions of Pandora have no visible buildings, and a very minimal entrance. Both Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage have simple FastPass+ and Standby entrances, set up by the Alpha Centauri Expeditions eco-tour company hosts who make trips to Pandora possible. 

The vast majority of the Na'vi River Journey queue is outside with no air conditioning. It is covered however, and equipped with overhead fans.

Despite being mostly switchback queue space, the area is full with what looks like local Na'vi decor - most of it being overhead. 

Passing through the exterior queue, the line moves into a small cave-like grotto, which is also the location of the FastPass merge point. Here guests are divided into groups and directed to the loading dock gates.

Each boat holds eight guests, with two rows of four seating. The loading process works much like any other water attraction, such as Splash Mountain or Frozen Ever After.  Numbered gates automatically open to allow boarding.

The boats themselves are nicely detailed. Designed to look like they are made of reeds, there are no restraints, or any storage areas for personal items. The story goes that Alpha Centauri Expeditions built the rafts using Na'vi techniques.

After a short safety message, the boat leaves the dock and enters the rich environment of a bioluminescent rainforest. 

Passing waterfalls, your boat is greeted by a Na'vi warrior who grants passage to the human voyagers.

The boat ride is extremely smooth, with the free-floating boats rarely bumping the guide-rails, and very little stacking of boats together.

As you travel further along the river, more animals appear, each traveling in the direction of the river. Along with the sounds of animals, music begins to be heard.

Although not audio-animatronics, the projected animal figures are impressive, especially in their setting of a bioluminescent environment. Their appearance integrates well with the glowing look of the rainforest.

The journey builds to an encounter with the remarkable Shaman of Songs. Like most Na'vi, she is nearly 10 feet tall.

Music is central in Na'vi culture. Guests observe the shaman in the midst of a musical ceremony, playing an instrument and singing. Through her music, the shaman sends positive energy into the rainforest, telling of the sacred bond with nature that Na’vi and humans share.

Designed and built by Walt Disney Imagineering, the Shaman of Songs figure is the most advanced and complex animatronic ever seen in a theme-park.

The number of movements on the figure is impressive, with facial expressions being particularly life-like. Cheeks and even eye-lids are all in constant motion. This is one of the first animatronics to be able to convey real emotion. 

Sadly, the encounter with the Shaman doesn’t last long, and marks the finale of the river journey. Rounding a corner, the boats return to the unload area.

A short walk through a cave returns you to the valley outside.

Na'vi River Journey can be compared to the recently opened Frozen Ever After at Epcot. Both boat rides feature break-through animatronics, although the Shaman surpasses Elsa in our opinion. River Journey is the gentler of the two, featuring no drops or any thrill component. Unlike the park's other water ride, Kali Rapids, you do not get wet - something that will please those who enjoy boat rides without being soaked at the end.

Bioluminescence is one of the take-home points of the Avatar movie, and River Journey gives guests the opportunity to experience that day or night. This is especially useful for families with young children visiting during the summer, when darkness and bioluminescence in the valley outside will not be visible until late in the evening.

There is no question that Na'vi River Journey is a must do in Pandora, especially on a first visit. It is relaxing, subtle, and a nice change of pace from a hectic theme park day. The Shaman of Songs is spectacular, and has to be seen to be believed. But her presence leaves us wanting more. Imagine a version of Na'vi River Journey full of Na'vi figures built to the same level as the Shaman of Songs. A 2017 version of Pirates of the Caribbean - Na’vi style. 

Ultimately, River Journey will be one of those attractions that divides guest opinion. Some will say it has no story and lacks purpose. Others will appreciate its understated beauty and simplicity. 

What most will agree on though, is the real star of Pandora is Flight of Passage, which we’ll be reviewing next.

You can take a full ride-through of Na'vi River Journey, which officially opens May 27 2017, in the video below.

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cookiee_munsterFeb 13, 2021

one of my issues ive had with this ride, and from watching POV's of the attraction is how less of a river journey it feels. I know it's done for safety and evac reasons and ultimately i don't know how they could get around it, but when the shore of the land is so perfectly flat and proportional to a walkway it spoils it a bit. i don't know whether some kind of fake reeds/grass could be put in place and just quickly pulled aside incase of an emergency. I dunno, it's just something i remember spotting the first time i watched one of the on ride videos and now i can't unsee it :p

Cesar R MOct 29, 2018

a) they are classics b) Until Avatar's, there were only a few rides that made you felt like flying magically. The other was Soarin'.

MaximumEdOct 29, 2018

Just got back from a week at WDW, and I must say this ride has grown on me. Yeah, it’s too short, but it’s very well done.

tomastOct 09, 2018

I dont understand how people still go to PeterPan with the lines it has. I see no diference with IDK, lets say Small World, and the line is 10 or 20 times longer

clarabellejOct 02, 2018

I liked the ride a lot more than I thought I would. I liked it even more at night, with no line and on repeat. That helped make it feel longer, which I wish it was. My most enjoyable memory of the ride, was watching younger kids experience it. We had some little ones in our boat. They were at first apprehensive and somewhat fearful of the unknown and what to expect. Thankfully they had a soft voiced, kind parent explaining that there was no need to be afraid. It was just fun to see their excitement! They eventually relaxed and just enjoyed seeing what was around them. It is actually a pretty cool ride, albeit a short one. FOP is too rough to be enjoyed. For me anyway. It was jerky and made me on the verge of nausea, which is a novelty for me. So I am glad that Na’vi is there. Hoping they can add some other attractions to Pandora. I highly recommend visiting this new land both day and night. If you do, you’ll see why!

clarabellejOct 02, 2018

I think the line being short is key here. This ride makes me think of Peter Pan’s Flight. I know, totally different, but what I mean is what a let down Peter Pan is if you wait in line for it for over an hour. It is over in the blink of an eye! You can hear people say “is that it??” Na’vi is similar in that sense. We never waited in a long standby line for it. We rode on the first day of our last trip. So excited to see Pandora. We had a FP for Na’vi and later in the week multiple FPs for FOP. That first Na’vi ride felt quick and like we were unable to really take it in. We later rode multiple times in a row, late in the evening with almost no line whatsoever. Na’vi River Journey on repeat is the way to go. I swear!!! The music grows on you. It sticks! Maybe not quite like Small World (thank goodness!!!). The animatronic is awesome. I mean really, have we become so desensitized that we can’t appreciate that technology??! When we rode a few times in a row, we were able to take it all in and really enjoy it. It made it feel like a longer ride, lol. Na’vi on repeat. Try it if y’all get a chance. Anything is much more enjoyable when you do not wait in a long line 😊

clarabellejOct 02, 2018

It was so different from Soarin’ Made me on the verge of nausea. Soarin’ never did that. And speaking of Soarin’, just have to add, I really miss the old version.

NickMaioSep 28, 2018

- But they took a movie no one really cared about - I'm sorry - this is still the top grossing film of all TIME. Nothing has been able to beat it. It's popularity may have faded over the years, but I would not call this franchise something that people never cared about. I remember going multiple times to see it because it was so groundbreaking in effects and feel. The first TRUE 3D movie. Even today 3D films can not hold a candle to Avatar's theatrical 3D quality.

OSXSep 26, 2018

Have they gotten rid of the chlorine smell? Last time i went it was like i stepped into a ymca minus the sketchy man by the restroom.

Magicart87Sep 15, 2018

Follow up PSA: NRJ has had full ride shutdowns and evacs since it's inception and will continue to do so. NRJ is an incomplete ride and complete waste of time but it is air-conditioned. Persons prone to presume Disney attractions should have a purpose, plot or storyline need not enter this ride. NRJ is a slow-paced boat ride. You will NOT get wet though you may get bored during it's surprisingly short ride duration.

GlacierGlacierSep 14, 2018

PSA: NRJ has had issues with full ride shutdowns and evacs over the past few weeks.

gamblepsuAug 05, 2018

Until you drove out of the 10 mile radius your plan was good for :D I still think of that when I pass the McDonald’s right where the coverage ended.

tomastAug 03, 2018

I like it, i found really cool the light soul seeds or wathever they are, but I think its too short and the lack on animatronics is kind of disapointing. the screens are meh, the loop is way too quick, and sitting in the boat you see the loop go throught 5 times and that breaks the inmersivity. I think they should put that great AAnimatronic at the begining of the ride and then add a few simpler ones at least

geekzaJun 15, 2018

Probably people who have never been on it and don't watch online videos or frequent Disney boards. Also people who know that Pandora is the new land and are either turned off by the FoP line and see that NRJ has a shorter wait or who loved FoP and believe that NRJ will be just as good.