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  • Disney World

    Avatar Flight of Passage

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Description And Comments

Avatar Flight of Passage is Pandora’s headliner ride, and one of the most technologically advanced rides Disney has ever produced. It’s a flight simulator in which you hop on the back of a winged, dragon-like Pandora banshee, for a spin around the planet’s scenery.

Your journey begins with a long walk from the base of Pandora, up an inclined path, and into abandoned cave dwellings. Wall paintings and markings inside the caves tell the story of the Na’vi who first used them. From there, you walk through jungle and more rocks, until you reach the research laboratory of the humans who’ve settled on Pandora. Inside the lab are various experiments showing how the study of the planet’s wildlife is progressing. Some of the effects are clever little engineering tricks – small, black, amoeba-like creatures scurrying about in the lab are probably made of ferrofluids (bits of metal suspended in a liquid) moved about by specially-shaped magnets. Even if you know how it’s done, it’s a joy to see the idea used.

The star of the pre-show, however, is a Na’vi avatar in suspended animation inside the lab. Encased in a giant, water-filled tube, the sleeping Na’vi floats gently, its rest only briefly touched by the occasional finger twitch or leg movement. The people we toured with said it was either mesmerizing or vaguely unsettling.

Once through the queue, you’re brought to a 16-person chamber room to prepare for your flight. A video plays, explaining the concept of an avatar – a way for you to project your consciousness on to another being, in this case a Na’vi riding astride a banshee – and feel everything it feels. Your preparation includes a parasite decontamination procedure – Pandora is filled with critters, in case you hadn’t noticed. A second part of the video seems to be chosen randomly from a few different scenes, so you’re likely to get a different pre-show experience the first few times you ride.

That done, you’re led into an enclosed room with what looks like 16 stationary bicycles without pedals. You’re handed 3-D googles and told to approach the “bike”, swing one leg over, mount it, and scoot as far forward as you can. The reason for doing this is that padded restraints will be deployed along your calves and lower back, ensuring you don’t fall off during your flight. (The snug restraint system, coupled with the confined space of the room, causes some claustrophobic guests to exit before riding.)

The room goes dark, there’s a flash of light, and suddenly your brain is “linked” to the Na’vi surfing a banshee. You swoop up and down, left and right, on this flying dragon, going over the Pandora plains, through the mountains, and skimming its seas, all through a high-definition video projected onto a giant screen in front of you. As you fly, airbags at your legs inflate and deflate to simulate the banshee’s breathing below you.

The flying effects are very well done – you can turn your head almost 90 degrees either way to survey the Pandora landscape while you’re flying, and about 45 degrees up and down. Riders toward the middle of the room (seats 4 through 8 in one group and 9 through 12 in the other), we think have better range of vision. At any given time, Disney says, there are 3 levels of 16 riders flying with you. We didn’t see anyone other than our immediate neighbors, but people at the far ends said they could see almost all of the riders when they turned their heads.

If you’ve experience Soarin’ at Epcot, it’s similar technology at work here, with the individual “bikes” replacing the grouped seats. The ebb and flow of the flight, too, reminds us of the Soarin’ film pacing, right down to the finale over the Pandoran beach.

The video is clear and synchronized well with the ride vehicles. We heard no reports of motion sickness during our day-long visit, and that’s uncommon for most screen-based motion simulators.

The problem with Flight of Passage, like that of the Na’vi River Journey and the Avatar film, is that we’re not really invested in the story of the banshee or the avatar.

Technically, the ride is brilliant, and the visuals get your heart racing. Disney’s Imagineers squeezed every bit they could out of the one Avatar film completed so far. But it’s got the emotional resonance of a Pac-Man video game.

Touring Tips

We’re told that if the entire queue is full, the wait to ride Avatar Flight of Passage is between 4 and 5 hours. It’s not worth that much time. We think Flight of Passage is a great use for Fastpass+, but it's one of the tougher FPs to obtain. If you can't get one get to Animal Kingdom early--an hour before opening is ideal--and join the crowds of people lining up already.

Attraction Photos

Special Comments

Flight of Passage and Na'vi River Journey are both in a "choose only 1" FastPass+ tier, so for now you will only be able to reserve FastPass+ for one of the attractions in Pandora.

Special Needs

Other Attractions in Pandora - The World of Avatar

Touring Plans with Avatar Flight of Passage

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