The Na’vi River Journey is a slow-moving dark boat ride through Pandora’s bioluminescent rainforest. You’ll float past Pandora’s exotic animals and glowing plants on your way to the Shaman of Songs. Read on to learn more, or if you’d rather bypass the trip and float on down to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.
1. You follow the queue to where the River flows.
The queue for Na’vi River Journey consists of two parts: an exterior portion of the queue, and an interior portion. The exterior portion takes you on a winding path through the exotic and alien landscape of Pandora.
The interior portion is covered, but not enclosed, and looks as if it had been built by the Na’vi. You’ll see their handiwork everywhere, including totems. From the light fixtures to the poles along the switchback, you’ll think it was fashioned completely from natural materials. While not as detailed as the other Pandora attraction, Flight of Passage, this has the characteristic attention to detail that Disney’s Imagineers are renowned for.
2. You’ll board the boat and start to float.
The ride itself is a 5-minute slow-moving journey through the wildly colorful and beautifully illuminated jungle of Pandora. A gentle ride, there are no sudden drops or unexpected jerky movements. You’re floating, and your attention should be focused on the amazing scenery as you head toward the ride’s conclusion. To be honest, there’s not much of a plot. The good news is that the scenery is so stunning that there doesn’t need to be one. It’s worth mentioning the ride vehicles here. They appear to be two small, hand-hewn rafts joined together. This is another nod to authenticity and is in keeping with the technology familiar to the Na’vi.
3. The effects are super-cool and super-clever.
You’ll head into the nighttime jungle, past glowing plants and exotic animals. To create these, Disney has used traditional 3-D sets for the flora, coupled with video screens that show the movement of the fauna. But here’s what makes an impressive difference: the video screens are semi-transparent. Behind them are more screens with background scenes that are also moving. This creates a remarkable effect: allowing you to see the action in the foreground and background simultaneously, all surrounded by densely packed landscaping.
Also along the way, the Imagineers have employed video projection mapping like that used in the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime show Happily Ever After. Here it’s used to project three-dimensional bugs crawling on tree trunks in one of the ride’s middle scenes to remarkable effect. The ride’s music becomes louder and more distinct as you continue, all of which leads up to when…
4. You’ll see – and hear – the Shaman of Songs.
Floating along -to the ride’s end, you encounter a Na’vi tribe with their direhorses walking to a great ceremonial site. Here you’ll see one of the most remarkable audio-animatronics Disney’s Imagineers have ever created: the Shaman of Songs. This is where the lack of storytelling in the rest of the ride might be considered a problem by some. You go in not knowing anything about the character, and not enough story unfolds during the ride to get you excited about meeting the Shaman.
The Shaman is almost 10 feet tall – although she’s sitting, so it’s hard to tell. It’s thought that Disney spent nearly $23 million to construct this figure – which shows! The Shaman’s gestures are totally realistic; her arms move with astonishing grace. As she sings (a little off-key, to be honest, which only adds to the realism) and plays the various instruments around her, her eye contact and fluid motions are among the best the Imagineers have ever constructed. Disney says that the Shaman “demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora—and sends positive energy out into the forest through the power of her music.” Her song is entitled, The Shaman’s Song (Na’vi: Way Tiretuä), and the lyrics were provided by Paul Frommer, who created the Na’vi language for the Avatar films.
5. The Nuts and Bolts.
Na’vi River Journey is located in Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Since a portion of the queue is outdoors and the main queue is only covered and not indoors, the weather can be a problem. But Na’vi River Journey itself is indoors and out of the elements, so weather doesn’t affect the operation of this attraction.
As mentioned above, the Na’vi River Journey ride vehicles are boats that look as if they’ve been handcrafted out of reeds or grasses. The benches themselves are hard plastic. Each has two rows and can comfortably seat about two to three adults per row.
There is a moderate step over the boat wall and then a moderate step into the boat. Guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV in order to board. Because this is such a gentle ride experience, there are no health or safety advisories for Na’vi River Journey. And there are no height restrictions. Handheld Captioning and Audio Description are available, making this a ride everyone can enjoy.
Na’vi River Journey is open for Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. It’s a popular attraction and first thing in the morning or right before closing are when wait times are the shortest. We don’t think that it’s worth waiting longer than 30 minutes (the queue only has enough shade to cover maybe 30 minutes’ worth of guests). Alternatively, you can secure a Lightning Lane via Genie+.
The Bottom Line.
If you’re a fan of the Avatar movies, you’ll find Na’vi River Journey an enjoyable, if not remarkable, 5-minute trip. If you’re not a fan of the franchise, the storyline may not resonate with you enough for this attraction to make your “must-do” list but the scenery is stunning enough that you won’t be sorry you rode it once. Either way, it’s an amazing exhibition of the ability of the Imagineers to bring a fantastic fictional place into existence.
Have you been on Na’vi River Journey? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.