Though Avatar: Flight of Passage is the clear headliner of the all-new Pandora – The World of Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and will be sure to have multi-hour waits this summer), there is also a smaller, more family friendly attraction in this new land as well. The Na’vi River Journey is a fairly simple boat-based attraction with no height restriction that serves as an accessible way for guests to experience the wonder of Pandora without climbing on the back of a Banshee.
While this attraction certainly isn’t as thrilling as Avatar – Flight of Passage, it is still absolutely worth checking out while you’re in Pandora. And here’s why:
SPOILER WARNING: Though this attraction isn’t open yet, Disney has already posted a number of sneak peeks inside this new ride, so we’ll be discussing this attraction a little more in depth than we normally would. However, if you want to experience this attraction with absolutely no knowledge of some of the ride elements, turn back now!
1. There’s no real story, but that almost doesn’t matter
As mentioned previously, the Na’vi River Journey is a four-and-a-half minute boat ride that brings guests through the dark jungle of Pandora. After boarding a small raft (which holds two adults and potentially two (very) small children for a maximum of four per row), guests will set off on a slow-moving cruise that will bring them up close with the flora and fauna of Pandora.
Along the way, guests will see a Pandoran hunter (who grants them safe passage into the jungle) as well as dozens of unique insects, plants, and animals, who call this lush environment home. The ride is very quiet, with the “natural” sounds of Pandora emanating all around guests as they take this slow moving journey.
While it’s not a perfect comparison, the Na’vi River Journey is a lot like a fictional version of Living With the Land over at Epcot, just without the narration. There isn’t really a clear story, and the idea behind the ride seems to be to wow guests with the “natural” wonder and beauty of Pandora.
And while guests will spend most of the ride taking in the sights of this scenic attraction, the attraction’s final moments (which Disney has actually posted video of online) see guests coming face to face with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, which is the most technically impressive (and dare we say, lifelike) animatronic ever created for a Disney park.
While this final moment is certainly exciting, the ride as a whole has a very tranquil and relaxing vibe, which is a big contrast from the thrilling Avatar: Flight of Passage. However, while some may see this as a “boring” ride with no recognizable characters or story, it serves as a nice counterpoint to Pandora’s other attraction. And there’s actually another reason you should check out this attraction as well…
2. The new technology used in this ride is very impressive (and no, we’re not just talking about the Shaman of Songs)
We’ve already mentioned the incredible Shaman of Songs audio animatronic at the close of this attraction, and while that is certainly an astounding use of technology inside this attraction, there are some other, more subtle technical elements of this attraction that are also quite impressive as well.
For instance, in order to create the illusion of a massive forest, Disney has combined the use of traditional, practical set pieces with layered, transparent screens that show the various wildlife native to Pandora moving around in both the middle and background, creating a sense that the world is much bigger than the physical space you are in. In addition, the ride uses projection mapping to make creatures come to life in close proximity to the actual ride vehicles in a lifelike way.
While guests who experience this attraction will likely be most captivated by the Shaman of Songs audio animatronic, there’s a lot more technical wizardry happening inside this attraction than just some scenery and a single impressive animatronic, and those who enjoy seeing cutting edge technology put to practical use will find a lot to enjoy in this attraction.
3. Wait times won’t be as bad as Avatar: Flight of Passage, even though capacity isn’t great
Because it is a slow-moving boat ride with only moderate-sized vehicles, the Na’vi River Journey probably won’t have a great capacity, with the ride likely just edging out Avatar – Flight of Passage with 1800-2000 guests moving through per hour (based on our estimates). However, while capacity won’t exactly be on the level of other, similar attractions like It’s a Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean (both of which have larger boats), it will serve more guests than its neighbor, and perhaps more importantly, will not be as popular with the FastPass+ crowd (right now you can only pick one FastPass+ reservation for an attraction inside Pandora – The World of Avatar and from what we’ve seen guests are overwhelmingly choosing the Flight of Passage attraction), which will hopefully ease strain on the FastPass+ queue for this attraction, and make more room for standby guests.
Na’vi River Journey certainly lives up to its reputation as a “C-Ticket” style attraction. While it’s certainly not a headlining attraction, it is a great family ride that should really connect guests with the world of Pandora, even if there isn’t a specific story being told or characters to see. With tons of new technology and a relaxing aesthetic, this is definitely a fun ride that shouldn’t be missed if you are planning on visiting Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Will you be checking this new ride out?
-Originally published in Theme Park Tourist, May 17,2017 By Amanda Kondolojy
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