How do you make someone feel like they’re on another planet? Is it the color of the sky? The smell of the air? How about the way gravity works? When Imagineers set out to invite guests into the world of James Cameron’s Avatar, they chose to tackle gravity head-on. Every human on Earth knows a few things about gravity: big, heavy mountains don’t float in midair. But in Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, floating mountains are just the first hint that we’ve left Earth behind.

Floating Mountains

So how do you make mountains float? Well, first you try a bunch of things. You look to tradition — trompe l’oeil architecture, stage magic, set design, visual effects. And you look to the future — materials science, computer simulation, advanced engineering. You combine the best of them all with thoughtful design and brave innovation to send 6,000,000 pounds of steel and sculpted concrete soaring high into the air. But these are ancient rocks! They have to feel like they’ve always been here. So you bring the whole thing to life with miles of vines and greenery, and you add energy with cascading waterfalls.

Bioluminescent Pandoran Landscape

Now, an alien world can’t just feel alien during the day. At night, the Pandoran landscape blooms anew. Bioluminescent flora grabs the eye thanks to expert treatment with black-light paint. Lighting and landscape combine to compose an alluring and exotic atmosphere. Sound and special effects suggest that indigenous creatures prowl just beyond view.

The Flight of Passage

Exploring deeper, the Avatar Flight of Passage attraction unveils a broader view of Pandora, beyond the Valley of Mo’ara. Making an experience feel real requires engaging many senses. Sight, sound, scent, touch, movement — each help Imagineers give Pandoran visitors the visceral experience of banshee-mounted flight. In Avatar Flight of Passage, a careful complex choreography of 3D visuals, music and sound design, fragrance, haptic effects and ride programming offers the adventurous a chance to bond with a banshee and soar. Riders feel their banshee breathe against their legs, while seawater sprays their faces as they embark on an exhilarating flight over the world of Pandora.

Bringing the Na’vi Shaman to Life

When designing to inspire, Imagineers seek to craft a sense of place, peace and inclusion. They also think about the rhythm of a day’s passing. In the Valley of Mo’ara, there are times to be bold and there are times to be reflective. The Na’vi River Journey attraction invites contemplation and a sense of awe, where projection media, animation, scenery and foliage create an incredibly immersive rainforest that brims with life. And that life is anchored by the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, a groundbreaking Audio-Animatronics® figure. Dozens of different Imagineering disciplines collaborated to create not just a robot, but a fully emotive and truly capable actor. In her performance, the Shaman travels gracefully through a very human range of emotions, both enchanted and enchanting in her movement.