Nearly two years ago, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened its largest expansion to date, Pandora: The World of Avatar, and it has brought lots of excitement and crowds to the park. In this amazingly detailed land lies the Flight of Passage attraction, a breathtaking experience that puts you on the back of a Banshee. I finally got the chance to explore Pandora and ride Flight of Passage last month. This review will be broken into numerous categories: Queue, Ride Experience, and Overall Opinion.
I know that I’m late to post a review on the Flight of Passage ride, but my recent (and first time) experience captivated my attention, so I’d like to share my take on the attraction. To say that Pandora is popular is a gross understatement. I arrived at
My wait in line clocked in at almost three hours, so be prepared to hang out for a while if you do not have a FastPass booked in advance. The wait times all day only got higher so getting there early is your only real chance to get on with a low wait time, unless you go just before
As I mentioned earlier, I was in line for roughly three hours. This gave me the chance to soak in every little detail in the queue, and believe me, there are lots of them. To keep with the naturalistic look of Pandora, the entrance sign isn’t really as pronounced as some other rides (just a metal pole structure with the name engraved into it); this was an interesting approach. The start of the queue is outdoors; the line winds around an amazing water feature. It looks like it keeps going up higher and higher before disappearing into the valley. It is a great spot for photos at ground level as well as at higher points in the line. The vantage point from the top of the queue gives you an overlook of the entire land and the floating mountains, which are situated near the center of Pandora.
The queue keeps getting higher in elevation until you reach the caverns. This section is indoors, but the openings in the rocks let natural light inside. Here, the walls are adorned with paintings from the Na’Vi, including some Banshees. The line snakes through more interior cave sections before arriving at a rusted airlock. The environment quickly changes as we are now in the remains of a ruined human settlement. Faded signs of RDA (Resources Development Administration), the mining company from the film, are all over. This is an abandoned mining area that has since been reclaimed by nature. The area is dark with one exception: the bioluminescence. Just like the movie, all kinds of fauna glow with hues of blue, green, and purple, and it is really a sight to behold. Noises from crickets and other insects fill this area of the queue, giving a sense of a natural environment. For those who don’t stay at Pandora till night time to see the bioluminescence or go on the second attraction (Na’vi River Journey), this is a great way to see the colorful effects. The line then moves into the laboratory.
We have finally arrived at the scientific research outpost. This environment is a stark departure from the previous section of the queue. The laboratory appears fully operational and sleek. There are all kinds of details around the area, such as information posters for Banshees; experiments in the central hub that seem to be moving on their own; the skull of a Banshee; and one of the most impressive props I’ve ever seen, a full-size Avatar in a containment tube. Complete with an umbilical cord and signature ponytail, this nearly 12-foot tall Avatar floats in water, and every so often, kicks its limbs out like a newborn child. It is striking how realistic it appears; this was definitely a highlight of the queue for me.
The queue then opens up into a large room where groups are split up to prepare for the linking process. In the first room, everyone stands on a number, and a technician from the lab does a “body scan.” During this, the screen records your movement, adding yet another cool feature. In the next room, you watch a brief video explaining the ride experience and the backstory of the attraction. The final room is, of course, the moment I waited forever for . . . flying on a Banshee.
Once you enter the boarding room, you can place all of your belongings in a bin on the wall (which was super convenient), and before you are a row of chairs that somewhat resemble motorcycle seats. You sit in the seat corresponding to the number you were on prior to entering the room and slide all the way forward against a chest pad. The restraints come up from behind to lock you in place. For guests of larger dimensions, you might want to check with a cast member to see if the chair is comfortable enough for you. As you wait, you can see your Avatar on a display in front of you, and you can feel tingling sensations occur on your chest as the “linking” process begins.
Once the ride starts, the metal wall in front of you becomes lost in pitch blackness and strobes start flashing as you link to your Avatar. Then, with as much suddenness as a finger snap, the world opens up and you are riding on the back of
The ride allows you to fly around some stunning vistas of the planet, including a beach (where you ride inside the curl of a wave), caves, treetops, valleys, and so much more. The level of detail in the animation was unbelievable to me, and the entire ride felt so realistic. I found myself saying “wow” over and over as I was just blown away by the realism of the ride. The final “drop” over the side of a cliff was outstanding, and the motion of the chairs really create feelings similar to small drops on roller coasters. Two sensations I was not expecting were the smells and the breathing of the Banshee. Every environment has a natural scent, adding another layer of realism to the ride. Also, a pad pushes out along your thighs making it seem like the Banshee you are riding is breathing in and out; this is another stunning effect. The ride ends with a view of a sunset over the ocean just as the row of seats return to idle.
Flight of Passage is, without a doubt, one of the best attractions I have ever been on. While some argue that screen-based rides aren’t as good as some other ride types, I firmly believe more attractions that use screens should model themselves after this. As to be expected with Disney, the theming was top notch and extremely detailed in every aspect. The outdoor queue not only allowed for outstanding photo opportunities, but it also put you right in the heart of the alien planet of Pandora with authentic sounds and peculiar plantlife. Inside the queue, everything from the cave paintings to the old abandoned mining area really helps sell the realism of the world. I did spend much longer in this queue than most other rides, but to me, it was worth it, especially for my first visit. I can’t say enough positive things about this simulator experience. It provided a crazy sensation of flight with a few thrills mixed in, yet is perfect for anyone young and old. If you are visiting
Thanks for reading this ride review. As always, WOU will be on the lookout for new ride openings and provide you with reviews as soon as possible. Stay tuned for the latest in the world of theme parks.