Disney and Universal Turn to Films For New Star Attractions
Around the State
With Universal Studios riding high on the successes of their Simpsons and Harry Potter settings, Disney is looking to counter by doubling down on its commitment to attractions based around the "Avatar" films while buzz grows Middle Earth could be finding a home in Central Florida.
Over the weekend and on Monday, Disney fans from around the world converged on Japan for the D23 Expo. At the event, Disney officials unveiled a first look at Avatar Land which will be coming to the Animal Kingdom park. While first announced in 2011, the Avatar Land is expected to open in 2017. Construction will begin next year.
James Cameron, who directed, wrote and produced the 2009 sci-fi smash “Avatar" film, appeared in a video released on Monday by Disney to offer a first glance at the new attractions.
Avatar Land will take the space currently held by Camp Minnie-Mickey in the Animal Kingdom.
Tom Staggs, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts weighed in over the weekend on what was guiding the creation of Avatar Land.
“From the moment 'Avatar' was released, people were captivated by the mythical world of Pandora,” Staggs insisted. “When we announced that we’d be working with James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to bring this world to life in our parks, we felt certain that this partnership and combination of talent and imagination would produce an experience unlike any other ever created.
“Our combined team has taken huge steps forward in ‘imagineering’ Pandora as a real place for our guests to see, hear and touch,” Staggs added. “At the first-ever D23 Expo in Japan, we shared an early glimpse of the plans for Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. ... As these concept renderings show in epic scale, in the world of Avatar, guests will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”
Staggs noted there would be other additions to the Animal Kingdom including an evening show, much like what takes place with fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, the IllumiNations extravaganza at Epcot and the Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios. Staggs also revealed the Kilimanjaro Safaris tours would extend into the evening.
“As part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, we’ll be adding all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River that will delight our guests and truly cap off their day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” Staggs said. “The park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
“As the world of Avatar becomes real at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the energy and passion shared by our Imagineers and the Lightstorm team for this monumental task continues to be remarkable,” Staggs concluded. “I can’t wait to see the reactions of our guests as they step into a world that until now has only existed on the screen.”
While Disney ramps up Avatar Land, Universal plans to open its expansion of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2014 by unveiling Diagon Alley as well as other Harry Potter-themed attractions, including a take on London. Universal launched attractions based on the beloved J.K. Rowling books and the films based off of them in 2010. Unlike the first round of Harry Potter attractions, which are located in the Islands of Adventure park, Diagon Alley and the other new attractions are in the Universal Studios Park.
“We are continuing the journey and adding an entirely new level of adventure,” said Tom Williams, chairman of Universal Parks & Resorts, when the launch of the new attractions was announced earlier this year. “And we are bringing the same drive, commitment, enthusiasm and innovation to this project as we did to the first.”
As Universal and Disney focus on Harry Potter and Avatar, other popular books and movies franchises could be coming to Central Florida theme parks. Buzz is building that Disney could be close to reaching a deal with Warner Brothers about launching attractions based on “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit" films. While first limited to Disney and Lord of the Rings sites, the buzz has grown loud enough to be noticed by the Orlando Business Journal.
It is expected, if Disney reaches an agreement to create attractions based on the beloved books by J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s films, the setting would be Hollywood Studios. Disney is looking to expand Hollywood Studios and there has been talk about bringing attractions based on the “Star Wars” franchise or a version of Cars Land -- attractions based on the “Cars” films. Cars Land has proven very popular at Disneyland in California while Disney bought the “Star Wars” franchise from George Lucas late last year.
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