Disney has an opportunity to make a Disneyland Avatar land a truly unique experience

With Disney planning to place an Avatar-themed land in Disneyland, there's a huge opportunity to make this much different than Animal Kingdom's version!
Tuk (Trinity Bliss) in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Tuk (Trinity Bliss) in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved. /

It looks like Bob Iger is serious about having Disneyland contain a version of Avatar. But just what can this be and how should Disney approach it?

When it was announced Disney was going to adapt James Cameron's Avatar to the Animal Kingdom, it raised more than a few eyebrows. Granted, the 2009 movie was the highest-grossing film ever for a time, but it did not have quite the cultural impact of other blockbusters. Putting it in Animal Kingdom also seemed a bit off. 

The doubts were put to rest as the Pandora section made DAK a must-see park, highlighted by the fantastic Flights of Passage ride. It's been exclusive to WDW but in a long talk for the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference this week, Bob Iger confirmed Disney has plans to put an Avatar land in California. 

This can be pretty exciting news, yet it also leads to questions on just what this land can contain, if it's just a copy of DAK, and should it be?

The logistics of a second Avatar Land

The key issue with putting anything into Disneyland is space. Unlike WDW, Disneyland is pretty tight in space issues thanks to so much property surrounding it. Disney is trying to push forward with the new DisneylandForward proposal that would extend development across the street from the main parks. 

That gives Disney space to plan out areas based on Frozen, Zootopia and other IP. It looks like Avatar will be among them, yet it still won't be as vast an area to work with as DAK. This isn't like Galaxy's Edge, which was built in Florida and California at the same time, so they could copy each other as Disney has to work from scratch to develop this area. Which allows them a chance to make some unique changes. 

Why Disneyland's Avatar Land should be different

It's easy to imagine Disney just copying DAK's Pandora section as it's easier and cheaper than working on something more original. Flights of Passage is a must and it's pretty easy for them to create a building for that. 

However, this is also an opportunity for Disney to offer something more unique with a Pandora that's a bit different than DAK's version. One thing most can agree on is that the Na'vi River Journey is rather dull, some impressive AA and decorations but not much else to entice folks. Something more exciting can be more entertaining.

A huge advantage now is that the original Pandora had to be based only on the first movie. Now, Disney can use the Way of Water sequel to expand with new attractions. Imagine a water ride more like Shanghai's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction with amazing screen effects, taking you into the underwater world of Pandora. If the project takes long enough, there's even a chance to integrate stuff from the planned sequels and "sneak peek" more of this world. 

Indeed, the entire land can be shifted from forests to more of the oceans and waterways with large fountains, pools etc. Rather than the floating settlements, it can be the island beaches.

Think of a turn on the Moana section at Epcot, only themed to Pandora with live actors about to enhance the experience. Not only would this make the Disneyland version striking, but even those who have visited DAK will want to check out the differences for comparison. 

One of the better touches of Disneyland is how so many rides are different and often better than in WDW from It's A Small World to the roller coasters. They don't have to be exact replicas but an identity all their own to fit the California motif. Avatar should be the same with Disneyland's version offering something fresh featuring this exotic alien world. 

It comes down to space and budget and, of course, Disney's long history of "blue sky" projects that never come to fruition. But if Disney wants to make any Disneyland Avatar land stand out, they should go from just a carbon copy to something fresh and exciting to help it stand out. It's a prime opportunity to spark up the parks and Disney should embrace the very idea of Avatar to offer guests an experience they've never had before.