Everything You Need to Know about Na’Vi River Journey
The day that it opened, Pandora – The World of Avatar immediately became the most impressive themed land in the world. Disney’s Animal Kingdom received such a boost from Pandora that its attendance increased by 25 percent.
Realistically, the two attractions at The World of Avatar are responsible for much of the buzz. We previously talked about Avatar Flight of Passage. So, let’s cover the other one today. Here are a few fun facts about Na’Vi River Journey.
The Latest, Greatest Boat Ride
Over the years, The Walt Disney Company has mastered the art of the boat ride. Starting with Jungle Cruise in 1955, Imagineers have always pushed the boundaries for what’s possible on a water attraction.
I think that most of us would agree that Pirates of the Caribbean claims the title of greatest boat ride ever due to its history and reputation. It’s a Small World and Jungle Cruise have their supporters, too, and I’m passionate about Living with the Land. So, Disney faced an uphill battle in constructing a new boat ride worthy of the company’s lofty history.
Fortunately, the idea for the attraction was right in front of everyone’s face. Pandora, as a themed land, mimics the alien world from James Cameron’s Avatar, the second-most popular movie ever. A boat ride set on Pandora doesn’t need to do anything extreme. Instead, it only needs to demonstrate what a trip through Pandora would feel like.
This dark ride is perhaps the darkest yet, in that the setting is nighttime on a planet with bioluminescence everywhere. The sights on the ride appear like blue on black, contrasted with sparkling bright lights stemming from unlikely sources. It’s a hypnotic journey downstream.
A Story Told Through Images
Before Na’Vi River Journey opened, a few lucky Disney insiders got to experience the attraction early. They reported that the ride lacks a story. It’s an understandable mistake that park officials quickly corrected.
In reality, this attraction relays an essential story about conservation and respectful observation of other cultures. It does so by placing guests on a quest. When you board your boat, you’re going in search of a mystical creature that the Na’Vi people know well. Humans have never seen her, though.
You’re looking for the Shaman of Songs, and your journey takes you through the forest where she lives. Everything that you notice along the way plays a part in the mystical nature of the Shaman. She interacts with many of the creatures of Pandora and has learned to respect and revere them over the years.
To you, some of these creatures are terrifying since they view you as a potential food source. You’ll never feel more interested in becoming vegan than when you’re the cow.
Disney wanted to do something different in presenting the world of Pandora. The primary reason why Avatar did so well at the box office was its dazzling visuals. Na’Vi River Journey pays homage to the beauty of Avatar with its visuals.
Imagineers couldn’t just paint some walls here. They had to introduce an entire world of animals to the attraction. Many of the creatures that you’ll notice during your boat ride come from the film or, at least, Cameron’s notes. They’re nocturnal predators who scour the rivers of the Valley of Mo’ara in search of prey.
To perfect the look of each species, cast members turned to a different storytelling method. Projection screens display all manner of terrifying beasts, and audio heightens their ferocity. Screams and cries suggest that something is winning while something is losing badly in the illuminated jungle.
The creatures come to life thanks to a gigantic digital display. Imagineers have hidden it in plain sight throughout the boat ride. However, should you ever see the building’s interior with the lights on, you couldn’t miss it. The monitor stretches almost 100 feet high and 70 feet wide. I want to watch football games on it.
The Glowing Darkness
The central selling point of Na’Vi River Journey doubles as one of the most persuasive reasons to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar. Most people know by now that the place comes alive at night, as Disney has introduced bioluminescent elements to the entire themed land.
Bioluminescence is an SAT word that I can explain with one word: fireflies. You know how fireflies provide their own light? Anything bioluminescent is a living creature capable of emitting light. And most of these creatures are absolutely breathtaking.
Na’Vi River Journey leans into this idea with an entire bioluminescent rainforest. The residents of the Valley of Mo’ara can light up the night, and you’ll want to watch each one of them as you journey down the river.
You’ll encounter gorgeous creatures like the fan lizards, panopyra, and wood sprits on the boat ride. You’ll ever notice a couple of dangerous-looking hexapedes and viperwolves, although you should keep your distance from them. The recurring theme through the ride experience is that Pandora’s forests hold danger, mystery, and great beauty.
The Most Complex Audio-Animatronic Ever
Imagineers are the best in the world at Audio-Animatronics, and they should be. After all, Disney invented this technology while planning for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
The State of Illinois pavilion’s premiere attraction wowed observers. A robotic Abraham Lincoln entertained guests with his life-like movements in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a presentation that eventually moved to Disneyland. It has anchored Main Street, U.S.A. for nearly 65 years now.
Since then, every Audio-Animatronic (AA) must surpass the quality of Lincoln. Imagineers have constructed several over the years, including a room full of birds at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. And there’s another phenomenal bird with a telescope at Typhoon Lagoon’s Misadventure Falls. Finally, the Jack Sparrow AA on Pirates of the Caribbean seems so life-like that you’d swear it’s Johnny Depp.
Somehow, Na’Vi River Journey outdoes all of these AAs with its satisfying resolution. At the end of the ride, you complete your quest when you encounter the Shaman of Songs.
This eight-foot-tall animatronic possesses remarkable fluidity and flexibility. The Shaman is capable of playing the bongo drums in front of her or waving her hands in rhythm with the music. Perhaps the most impressive Imagineering achievement is a subtle one. Watch the Shaman’s tail flip around her. It’s mesmerizing.
Na’Vi River Journey doesn’t have the greatest reputation among Disney enthusiasts, which I find annoying. I think it’s in the conversation for the best Disney boat ride since Splash Mountain.
I would happily go on this attraction over and over again if only the lines were shorter. That’s the discrepancy about the attraction. Many people say they’re nonplussed by it, yet the wait is usually at least an hour long. People are lying about not loving it, right?