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How to Navigate Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom June 10, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Pandora is Disney’s latest attraction to open at Walt Disney World in Animal Kindom (in the old Camp Mickey Minnie area of the park, originally reserved for Beastly Kingdom which never materialized).

It’s a gorgeous (small) new area that is based on the James Cameron movie theming, and it consists of two rides, a gift shop, and a quick service restaurant. Its all themed beautifully to the movie visuals – floating islands, waterfalls that seem to come from nowhere, and a variety of Pandora-type plants. It all comes to life at night when things light up (they refer a lot to “bioluminescence” throughout this area).

Ride-wise, the big Kahouna is “Flight of Passage” – a soarin’-type movie/motion simulator in which you sit on the back of a banshee and soar over (and under) the landscape of Pandora. You sit on an individual motorcycle-type seat with 42 of your best friends stacked three deep on three levels, wear 3D glasses, and not just get to see the movie but feel the banshee breathing beneath you. Its ingenious and by far the most state-of-the-art entertainment out there in the theme park world right now. That also means every man, woman, grandma, and child in the park wants to ride it – and the average ride time was 170 minutes my entire rain-storm deluged trip all week. The line does not get shorter at any point in the day and it starts at 110 minutes 15 minutes within park opening.

The other ride is Na’vi River Journey – a pirates of the Caribbean type water ride without the pirates, drops, or splashes. It’s all pretty as you sail along make-believe plants and watch cleverly integrated projections and eventually visit a shawoman who looks eerily like something out of your worst nightmare. But then she is gone and your fellow 8 passengers and yourself are on dry land running to your next attraction.

I suppose someone thought that this might be a relaxing and pretty part of the park – but that illusion is shattered the moment you arrive. Its crowded beyond anything you have experienced at WDW, and it calls to mind the first few months that HPATFJ was the headliner at universal. Disney even uses similar techniques to manage traffic control – and if it gets too crowded, they permit only resort guests and Passholders who have fastpasses into the area for awhile.

To make matters worse, Disney has tiered the fast passes for both rides — meaning you can only select ONE of them per day (and you better do so 60 days in advance, much like some dining options and Frozen Ever After). To do them both, you need to return on two separate days. So what’s someone to do that doesn’t want to spend two days in over-crowded PANDORA.?

Here’s your strategy even on the worst crowded days to ensure you can do everything and be out of there within one hour.

DAK is currently open 8 am to 11 pm (with resort guests and pass holders able to stay until 1 am through the end of July). Don’t let it fool you – the extended hours mean 170 minute waits until 1 am. IT NEVER GETS SHORTER.

ARRIVE at the park one hour before opening. They open about 7:15 to allow you to go to the next rope drop right at Pandora’s entrance. PUSH AND CLAW your way to the front of this line — make sure you are in the front 100 visitors at the rope drop. DO NOT DAWDLE — do not stop to pee, do not get coffee, do not pull to the side to look at fake plants go immediately to the rope drop.

Once the rope drops follow the crowd to the right into the line for Flight of Passage. DO NOT DAWDLE, do not take selfies, do not stop for photos. GO INTO LINE. Enjoy the ride.

ONCE DONE do NOT SPEND TIME IN THE GIFTSHOP but go directly to Na’vi River Journey. The uninformed will have finished this ride and you will not have more than a 20 minute wait, while they now have a 110 minute wait at Flight. Enjoy Na’vi.

NOW you can dawdle — backtrack to the gift shop (get a avatar that looks like you action figure, or a banshee shoulder puppet, very cool). There are far nicer options for girls than for guys at the giftshop apparel-wise. They serve breakfast at the canteen so go enjoy something in the nicely themed quickserve restaurant. AND YOU ARE DONE. Take a few photos and then get out of there and go see real animals.

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James Cameron’s “Avatar” has wow-factor to spare (Review) December 19, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Movies.
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James Cameron’s AVATAR is, to put it mildly, the WOW-movie of the year. Or any year. You’ve never seen anything like this. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.

You know you want to see it — so just go see it. It’s everything it has been proclaimed to be. But before I even go any further, make sure you see it in 3D, or better yet IMAX Real 3D. Some theaters are showing it in the standard format 2D as well — DO NOT SEE this 2D version. This is a film that is designed in 3D and is meant to be seen in 3D, and the only way you will truly immerse yourself in the world of AVATAR is to see it in 3D. If you see it in 2D, you are likely to leave the theatre scratching your head as to why the amazing reviews — it’s not the movie itself that is getting raves, it is the WAY you see this movie — fully immersed in the 3D world of CGI film.

There is a star-turn here in Sam Worthington’s Jake Scully. He has personality to spare, and his Australian accent only once makes itself apparent. He made a blip on the American audience radar last summer in Terminator: Salvation. Here he becomes a full-blown star. Also turning in a showy performance is Stephen Lang. Great to see him on the screen again, he has been absent too long. Here he plays a blustery army general in a performance worthy of an oscar nomination — and that’s an amazing feat in a film that is 95% CGI. Sigourney Weaver has a showy role as a biologist and educator, and both Joel David Moore and Michelle Rodriguez turn in fine performances.

Not a month after 2012 set the CGI standard to beat – now comes AVATAR with visuals that you have never seen before…correction…you’ve never seen them this way before…it brings a new standard to 3D film-making as well. There’s no cheap tricks here – and no breaking of the 4th wall. Nothing comes hurling or poking at your eyes (think Walt Disney World 3D movies) — instead, it’s used to enrich the stunning visuals and bring you into the movie. Within a few minutes you are there. You feel like you are IN this movie. And I don’t say that lightly.

Those who suffer migraines, easily become nauseous, or otherwise suffer from visual difficulties will not enjoy watching this movie, and perhaps that is why there is a standard 2D release, other than accommodating those theaters that are not equipped to run 3D films. But if they don’t catch up soon, they’ll find themselves shuttering down, since this is the dawn of a new movie-making age. 3D not only comes into its own here, it blazes the path for what future films can accomplish with the techniques.

Also noteworthy is a return to SciFi which is bright, colorful, and visually appealing. You won’t see any of the Matrix-type inspired scenes here — there are no heroines wearing sunglasses and leather. The first scene on planet Pandora reminds you more of the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the door to Dorothy’s house opens and you see OZ in technicolor. AVATAR has that same magical moment — followed by another shortly afterwards as Pandora comes to magical, glow-in-the-dark colorful life.

There is some clunky dialogue here — your not going to care. There is a standard good-guys-win storyline here as well — again, your not going to care. But more importantly, you never feel the 2 hour 46 minute length of the movie is too long — and it’s not. The richly developed characters have immediate emotional resonance, and it makes the drama in the final scene battle (think Lord of the Rings stuff) dramatic, exciting, and sad.

By the way — it’s not for the kiddies — its rated PG-13 for a reason, and it’s not appropriate for young’uns, even though they will want to see it because of the commercials and McDonald’s happy meal tie-ins — which are misbegotten.

Go see it. It’s awesome filmmaking, and you will find yourself finding time to go see it a second time. I’m going again on Monday. It is that good.