(Disclaimer: I am a terrible writer. I don’t normally use this blog for this sort of thing but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share my thoughts on what will end up being the biggest Disney theme park news this decade. That’s whats so awesome about news like this, even the most insignificant Disney blog like mine will have something to say on this subject.)
I’ll start off by saying I don’t like Avatar but I also don’t like Harry Potter. But that didn’t stop me from thinking that the Harry Potter ride at Islands of Adventure is one of the greatest theme park rides on the planet (right up there with Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean). A lot of people don’t like Avatar, just like a lot of Disney fans hate Cars. But Cars Land looks like it will be one of the most highly detailed theme park attractions on the planet and it is this reason why I am looking forward to see what Disney will do with the Avatar franchise. Yes, I would rather see new rides/lands that are NOT based off of existing franchises but this is 2011 and it is as good as we are going to get. The bottom line is that Disney fans need to realize that Beastly Kingdom is never going to be built, and Thunder Mesa will never be added to any Disney theme park.
The rumor is that Disney is developing a new ride system for the attraction that will end up being the headliner for a Avatar-based land. Let’s think about some of the new ride systems Disney has developed in the last 20 years. EMV for Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinosaur, the trackless “LPS” system for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, and the Tower of Terror elevators. These are only a few of the examples of new ride systems that WDI can create when they have the right budget. Which brings me to my next point.
James Cameron will have the same creative pull over this that John Lasseter has over Cars Land and J.K.Rowling has over The Wizerding World of Harry Potter. Why does this matter? At the D23 Expo this year John Lasseter told a story about how an accountant was going over the plans for Cars Land with him. The accountant was going over all the items that he deemed unnecessary and just basically strangling the project creatively like so many bean counters have done in the theme park industry and will continue to do until the end of time. John Lasseter then told this unnamed employee (I am paraphrasing here) “If this is the best you can do then I am willing to accept that. But, if we do cut all these items then you need to stand at the entrance of Cars Land and explain to each and every guest why they made all those cuts. Every day from park opening to closing, to every single guest. Do we have a deal?” This is exactly what the theme park division of Disney needs to avoid things being done “on the cheap” such as Disney’s California Adventure, Dino-ramma in DAK, and the 1998 re-do of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. James Cameron will be the person to push for budget that is required to make Avater land the spectacle that Animal Kingdom (and whatever other Disney park that ends up getting it) needs.
Imagineering is on a creative hot streak right now. Look at Cars Land in DCA, the Fantasyland Expansion at MK, and Shanghai Disneyland. Even going back to 2006 with the opening of Expedition Everest, they are still able to make amazing and immersive attractions. Disney also has the once in a lifetime chance to open a land based off of a mega-franchise right in the middle of when the movies are still being released. The current date be mentioned by Disney is 2015 which would put it right between the releases of the second sequel (2014) and the third (December 2015). This will be a huge boost financially for the Disney company and especially Walt Disney World which currently has three parks in need of new attractions (DHS and Epcot).
My final point is that some fans where up in arms when Disney first announced that Star Wars (and then later Indiana Jones) themed attractions were coming to Disney theme parks. Now, as over 20 years has passed since these attractions where built they have become ingrained in the history of the parks (especially Disneyland). 20 years after the Avatar attractions finally come to life the same thing will happen to it, like it or not.