Festival of Pandora

Parkeology has been quiet lately, as we gear up for WDW47, the most challenging, self-serving, borderline stupid theme park encounter ever attempted. Preparations are now more than a month underway, and while we think we have gone further than any run-of-the-mill Wilderness Explorer has ever gone before, there remain several insurmountable obstacles that must be solved before the big day, still a month away.

But as Walt says, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible. Even if it’s silly.

Nevertheless, the show must go on, and I finally made my way over to Animal Kingdom this week, where construction cranes have moved in and mounds of dirt have moved out. The picture I took apparently got munged up, but if one were to view the Africa bridge from the Asia bridge, while playing bridge and listening to a musical bridge and wearing britches, one would see the familiar brown walls of a major undertaking. The whole area behind the Tusker House and Dawa Bar is now hidden from view, and they are clearing out a whole lot of space.

That, my friends, is the first real Avatar activity we have seen since James Cameron paraded through the park with a host of Disney execs over a year ago.

Is it Pandora? Are the Hallelujah Mountains being constructed just beyond that wall?

Actually no. The internet rumor is this is merely the construction of the new theater for Festival of the Lion King. Disney — surmising that an African-inspired musical show fits better in Africa than in a rustic summer camp — is in the process of relocating the show. And thus clearing the way for the Na’vi to move in.

This whole post is really just an excuse for me to indulge my bad Photoshop urges.

This whole post is really just an excuse for me to indulge my bad Photoshop urges.

This strikes me as rather commendable. It’s not often you see them go through such efforts. Shows have been moved around before to temporary locations, or had their theaters enhanced. It’s happened quite a bit at Animal Kingdom. The current Lion King theater has already undergone one major renovation to better enclose it from the elements, as has the Theater in the Wild over in Dinoland. We’ve posted before about the revival tent that housed Flights of Wonder for one season.

Other attractions have been packed up and moved across the country, such as when Carousel of Progress moved from Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom, or when the Mickey Mouse Revue relocated to Tokyo, or when the Iguanadon became a zombified corpse in Paris.

But I can’t think of too many times when Disney has simply built an entirely new facility to relocate a major attraction only a few hundred feet away from its existing spot. The few times they have done it, the rides were rather portable to begin with. Disneyland’s Teacups, being the Wonderland deadbeats that they are, have been evicted to a new home at least once. And Dumbo recently relocated at Magic Kingdom. The Festival of the Lion King requires a much larger footprint than any of those. I’m impressed that they’re going through the effort.

It’s a wise first step, since it makes sense to have Simba in Africa regardless of whether Avatarland actually comes to fruition. If you want to get super technical, it’s actually step #2 for clearing out Camp Minnie-Mickey. A character greeting area is under construction in one of the old Discovery Island shops, to relocate some of the more popular character trails. But Lion King’s switch is the first earth-moving project.

There’s been a lot of speculation that Disney doesn’t need Avatar, since it bought the ultimate Potter-killer last year in the form of major action adventure franchise Red Tails. But at least this proves that they’re serious about making room in Animal Kingdom for something. I wonder if they will find new ways to improve Festival of the Lion King even more. It has to be the most successful live stage show in theme park history, and now that they’re starting from scratch, I wonder if we’ll see a more elaborate set up. One hopes they at least improve the seating. I’m so tired of the theme park torture benches (looking at you, Fantasmic and Beauty and the Beast).


Comments (6)

  1. here’s what I think they should do instead, maybe a South America themed area?

  2. I actually hope Avatarland doesn’t come to fruition for three reasons

    1. I dislike the idea of a movie themed area in Animal Kingdom, let’s try to keep it themed to planet Earth, ok?

    2. while I don’t totally hate Avatar, it’s an entertaining enough movie, I’m also not the biggest fan either and the idea of rides and stuff based on it leaves me pretty ambivalent

    3. it’s not such a good idea for long term prospects I think, Avatar, like almost any other modern movie franchise (such as Transformers) is not gonna have very much staying power in people’s memories 20 or more years from now

    • I agree that the Avatar property as a whole leaves me pretty cold, but the one point I don’t agree with is is the idea that it doesn’t have staying power. In the end, it won’t matter whether people remember the movie. It matters how they execute the attraction. There is hardly a single young person in the U.S. who has seen Song of the South or Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Dinosaur is a forgotten movie. So is Third Man on the Mountain. But the rides inspired by all those films are still extremely popular today.

  3. Festival of the Lion King never made any sense in Camp Minnie Mickey because that entire area never made sense. Rather they were both intended to be temporary filler until more thought out attractions could be realized. As we have seen with Disney many times “temproary” often ends up meaning 10 – 15 years… I guess technically they were temporary though (as is every single thing in the world).

    Festival of the Lion king recycled old floats from a defunct parade… the theater was totally open (more like a roof than an actual theater) and it was just a bunch of college kids and a few small time gymists doing a pretty standard theme park show. Gor whatever reason it struck a chord and from day one was considered “must see” at AK. This was in part to the fact that there was very little to do there and the conept that the park was the attraction never caught on (sadly).

    So FOTLK took off, was very popular… they enclosed the theater and eventually improved upon the show and built a fancier version in Hong King Disneyland. My expectation is that we see a copy of the Hong Kong version coming to AK now. It obviously is in a better location and the HK version of the show uses better staging and more built in effects so the show should be better as well.

    • It’s a measure of FOTLK’s success that I had forgotten that it reused those old floats from Disneyland. I enjoy the show every time I see it, and I do think it’s a notch above the others. Way back when Teevtee and I were terrorizing the AOL message boards, we would mock those fans who referred to it as “Broadway” quality. It is definitely not that. But it is a decent diversion in the heat of the day.

      Now Nemo, on the other hand, is just dreadful. The music is some of the worst original park music I have ever heard. Some of the puppetry is good, but this show really falls flat, IMO. Same for Beauty and the Beast over the at the Studios. I cringe whenever I have to sit through them. The current castle show is awful as well, but nobody cares about that thing.

      The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is okay.

  4. I never understood it’s location in the first place. In fact on our first two trips to WDW we missed it completely, didn’t even know it was there. It’s a great show too and we make sure to see it every time we go.. on our last trip my dd even got to participate.. tons of fun for her. Glad to see it getting an update, although it will probably mean it’s much harder to get in, we have never had to wait once.. granted we do always go off season.

    I’ve never even seen Avatar.. and have no desire to do so. Really hoping they can the idea before it’s too late. It’s a shame How to Train Your Dragon is Dreamworks and not Disney, because that would be a heck of a lot more fun.

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