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Disney World AVATAR Announcement Generates Internet Buzz

When Disney held a press conference on Tuesday, September 20th to announce their partnership with James Cameron to bring the fantasy world of AVATAR to the Disney Parks, the Internet was buzzing!  With the specific mention of Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida specifically targeted to host an entire land based on AVATAR emotions ran high from euphoric to strongly disappointed.

Disney World Fans have a strong loyalty to "their" parks and each has his or her own opinion as to the best way to preserve the elements that "Walt would have wanted" and continue to move forward to keep Disney World as a destination that they want to visit year after year.  This kept fans posting rapidly on Twitter and Facebook sharing the news and their opinions.

The reaction to the AVATAR partnership announcement may have been unprecedented.  The mixed reaction was much different than the one that came after the news of the major Fantasyland Expansion.  That news focused on taking well known Disney Properties and giving them greater exposure utilizing new technologies.  The biggest complaint is that it focused too much on girls, and this was later addressed with modifications that showed the addition of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride to appeal to boys as well.

The AVATAR addition brings a foreign element to the world of Disney.  Immediately people will react to that.  One group will recognize the possibilities of embracing a new world (Pandora) and bringing those elements into a Disney Theme Park.  The fact that the story for AVATAR is still evolving since it was mentioned that there are at least two additional movies to be made in the series.  For the optimistic Disney Fan, who trusts in the powers of the Disney Imagineers, they see this as a wonderful addition to broaden the spectrum of was can be experienced at a Disney World Theme Park.

The other side of the coin are those who either did not see the original AVATAR film or were put off by the violence in the film and do not see the fit with Disney.  The unknown is always a concern, but it was pointed out that Disney signed up with George Lucas and his "Indiana Jones" and "Star Wars" franchises relatively early in their developmental phases before they had their own universal appeal.  The joint venture paid off for Disney and their theme park guest in terms of having some great attractions based on those themes.

AVATAR was a visually stunning film, but the story had a mature theme that is not suitable for families with young children to watch together.  Much of the story of the world of Pandora is yet unknown.  This is a different situation then the well defined world of Harry Potter that Universal Studios incorporates into their theme park.

The largely unknown story of Pandora is what creates both excitement and anxiety.  This leads to interesting Internet conjecture.

Tom Skaggs, Chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, did have some interesting comments posted on the Disney Parks Blog in response to Disney Fan Questions over the announcement:
  • "While we’re still in the very early stages of design and planning, we expect this land to be anchored by multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations, restaurants and other immersive elements. Our AVATAR lands will give guests the chance to see, hear and touch the world of Pandora and we can’t wait to dive in with James Cameron and his team as we create new experiences that will delight and thrill our guests."
  • "At its core, AVATAR is a film that embraces strong, positive themes of family, loyalty, living in harmony with nature and belief in oneself – all values that we share at The Walt Disney Company. You can be sure that these are the same themes that we will explore throughout our AVATAR lands. They will be places where friends and families can spend time together getting lost in a fantasy world, one of the true hallmarks of any Disney theme park experience. And with two sequels in the works, we feel this is a creative property whose potential is limitless."

  • "AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. With its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty, it’s a great fit for the Disney brand and our parks.

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the perfect place for our first AVATAR land because at its core, the park gives guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in whole new ways. With AVATAR, we’ve found the perfect opportunity to let our guests explore one of the most compelling mythical worlds ever conceived. Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR."
Let Optimism Reign Supreme
Disney Fans can choose to be upset and dismissive or treat this announcement with optimism over what the Disney Imagineers can dream up to embrace these new characters and new world.  Personally, I am interested to see what the target age group of these new experiences will be.  Will it be suited for the teens and thrill seeking fans that sometimes feel left out at Disney, or will it be something that families with young children will put at their top of their list to explore this new world?

Disney's Animal Kingdom needs its "Beastly Kingdom" to complete its original vision.  Time will tell if AVATAR provides the setting that exceeds what could be accomplished in the originally thought up land of unicorns and dragons.

Be optimistic and trust in the magic.  Let's all look forward to 2013 as construction begins.

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