Avatar Meets Disney

Florida’s two theme park empires are constantly duking it out for supremacy. Universal Studios Orlando landed a solid blow with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Ever since people have watched for Disney World’s counter-punch.

Now Disney has announced its Animal Kingdom park will add a section based on the story and imagery of Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Construction will begin in 2013 and the project will cost about $400m, according to the BBC.

Petréa Mitchell, who keeps an eye on these things, says “Theme park fandom has not generally reacted well to this news.”

Kevin Yee reviews the plan’s pros and cons in-depth in his Miceage column “Pandora-Land”:

The announcement that an Avatar-themed land would be built at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) [in Florida], with construction starting in 2013, certainly came from out of the blue (pardon the pun). Normally there is chatter before major announcements, if not fleshed-out rumors that have already made the rounds of various message boards. Perhaps because the news was so unexpected, fan reaction has been swift, explosive, and divided.

Let’s sketch the negative reactions first. A number of folks have been dismayed that Disney has gone to an outside mythology for this expansion, rather than building their own. Most attractions in the parks have been based off Disney’s existing film/animation properties, or else designed from scratch by the Imagineers…

On the contrary, the problem isn’t that Avatar is from the “outside” says Mike Thomas in “Avatar a Sad Consolation Prize for Disney”, his opinion piece for the Orlando Sentinel. The problem is that Avatar simply lacks everything a great theme park attraction needs:

Disney built its empire on great characters, great dialogue and great storytelling.

“Avatar” has none of the above.

I saw it once, my daughter saw it twice, and neither of us could name a Na’vi.

We couldn’t even tell you if any of the important ones died in that final battle with the evil white capitalists, even though we both darn near cried when Harry held a fatally wounded Dobby.

Avatar has no memorable heroes, no memorable villains, no memorable lines, no memorable twists, not even a memorable musical riff.

It has nobody that kids yearn to be. No Harry, no Hermione, no Luke Skywalker.

Petréa wasn’t sure I’d think the subject was germane to File 770, but with Orlando bidding for the 2015 Worldcon fans are at least one step closer to visiting the city and having a chance to decide between Hogwarts and Pandora as the place to spend a day.

2 thoughts on “Avatar Meets Disney

  1. Having been in Orlando last week at the Starship Symposium, well–the Potter park isn’t that great, either…

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