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Disney CEO Bob Iger just wrapped up a press conference at the Walt Disney Imagineering offices in Glendale, where it was announced that Disney Parks and Resorts has signed an exclusive licensing deal to open entire lands based on James Cameron's Avatar film. [Official press release below] The first such land will be build in Orlando, at Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

Construction on the Avatar project is scheduled to begin in 2013, with completion sometime in 2016. The second and third Avatar films are slated to be released in 2014 and 2015, giving Imagineers even more to work with as they bring the fictional realm of Pandora to life.

Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs said that the avatar-themed lands will have multiple rides, along with entertainment, shops and food and beverage locations. No budget was revealed, but the cost was compared to the new 12-acre Cars Land, now under construction at Disney California Adventure.

Preliminary design work has just begun on the project, and basically no details were available - size; number and type of attractions; additional locations.

Disney's deal is surely a response to the success of Universal's Harry Potter land. Disney has had single-attraction licenses before, with Star Tours and the Tower of Terror, but the Avatar project will mark the first time Disney has built an entire land based on a licensed property. It makes you wonder what Star Wars land would have looked like, had Disney pursued that license.

Disney will likely milk the Avatar buzz for all they can over the next half decade, so let the speculation and "armchair Imagineeering" begin. What was your first reaction to the news, and are you looking forward to Avatar-land? What rides and shows would you like to see based on this property? Does Avatar have the same draw and longevity as the Harry Potter franchise?

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix


Long-term agreement will bring AVATAR themed lands to Disney parks, with the first at Walt Disney World in Orlando

BURBANK (September 20, 2011) - Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.

“James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible,” said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James’ talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney.”

“AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we'll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said James Cameron. “I'm chomping at the bit to start work with Disney's legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality.”

The agreement announced today gives The Walt Disney Company exclusive global theme park rights to the AVATAR franchise and provides for additional AVATAR themed lands at other Disney parks. The other locations will be determined by Disney and its international theme park partners. James Cameron, Jon Landau and their Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects and will partner with Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and development of the AVATAR themed lands.

“This exciting new venture combines the world of AVATAR with the enormous reach of Disney and the incomparable talent of Jim Cameron,” commented Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman. “While Jim is bringing audiences further into Pandora with the next two chapters in the AVATAR motion picture saga, the theme park attraction will likewise bring a new dimension to the amazing universe he created.”

“AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures, and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney,” said Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We can’t wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of AVATAR in person.”

In addition to setting a global box office record, AVATAR has been hailed as one of the most innovative and visually stunning movies ever produced. With its advanced motion capture and 3-D digital projection technologies developed by James Cameron and his team, moviegoers were able to connect with the world of AVATAR in new and engaging ways.

This new venture complements Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ strategic efforts to continue to invest in its core theme park businesses around the world while simultaneously expanding into other parts of the family vacation business.

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  1. olegc's Avatar
    my first reaction? will there be enough to interest a wide range? Star Tours today is huge, and Harry Potter is huge not only due to the movies (but it's a significant part) but also the books. I myself am a huge fan of Avitar and what wild and unique places and spaces it created. However, is it enough to tell a story and have enough unique characters to attract a large theme-park audience. A lot of this has to be flushed out before real commentary can begin. it can be huge, or it can be "land of dragons" that Disney thought of a long time ago...
  2. dban3's Avatar
    As good a movie, and a technical marvel that Avatar was in film making, the question will be - can it stand the test of time if modeled into a "Land".? Then again, we're saying the same thing about Carsland. An Avatar attraction? good idea. An Avatar land.....not so much.
  3. olegc's Avatar
    dban3 - i agree unless films 2 and 3 give us many more characters, props, locations, etc. Also - I'm curious as to why this did not make it into the D23 expo presentation? i'm sure it was because of contractual things (and maybe Fox did not want to be part of that).. Interesting.
  4. IllusionOfLife's Avatar
    I have mixed emotions on this. On one hand Disney Imagineering typically does great work, and I’m sure that whatever attractions they make will be fun; but on the other hand if Disney was to negotiate on the license to a new property for their parks I’d prefer something a little more timeless rather than cashing in on the newest fad.

    Especially since their investing in a whole new land, not just a single attraction. In ten years when no-one cares about Avatar anymore they’ll have to spend money to retrofit everything into newer properties.
  5. StarTourist's Avatar
    At first I thought it an odd choice. Animal Kingdom? One can only surmise that the A Ticket Pandora-Land attraction would have to be some sort of Pandora-based safari.

    Hogsmeade is a 'more realistic' place to wander about, Muggle or otherwise. Unlike The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Pandora is not quite hospitable to humans in the film.
  6. oregontraveler's Avatar
    I'm not a big fan of Avatar to begin with. For Disney to fork over $400-500 million on a new
    land that they didn't create on their own is a big gamble. What make Cars Land unique for me is not just the characters and recreating Radiator Springs. But is also reprsents the good ol' days of Route 66 and the car culture.

    As far as AK being the park location. I believe they have the most land to play around with, expansion wise. That makes sense to me.
  7. DwarfPlanet's Avatar
    I didn't care for Avatar as my son and I talked after watching it we both agreed it seemed more like a bad Cowboys and Indian western turned into a science fiction show. Also Avatar is almost old news. Its too bad Disney couldn't jump on something that was fresh out of the box.
  8. jedited's Avatar
    First off to olegc, Avatar didn't have enough story (or plot) to fill a whole movie, let alone a major attraction.

    Second, one of Disney's strengths has been the ability to take a property (that they owned) and make money with it across their business units. The Studios made a movie, they promoted it on ABC and the Disney Channel, some times it gets a spin-off show on one of their cable channels, they built a theme park attraction, etc, etc, etc. With Disney licensing ANOTHER studios property that they DON'T own, they lose MAJOR revenue streams. Plus if Cameron gets bored with Avatar and let's the property go to pot, then Disney can't do ANYTHING about it and they are stuck with a $100 Million+ attraction based on a property that NO one cares about anymore.
    From a purely business stand point, I think this is a BAD idea.
  9. red chicken's Avatar
    I am shocked by how negative the reactions are to this announcement. Disney has always been known for being great storytellers and dynamic visual artists. I can think of no other director who fits that description better than James Cameron. Movies don't set box office records because people don't find the story interesting. The chance for Disney to get to use his talent is a once a decade opportunity. I myself will wait with eager anticipation to see how these two forces intermingle and hopefully outshine Universal's new Potter World.

    I have never even seen Cars, but I am constantly amazed by AVP's photo updates of an immersive land. I can't wait to go. Even with all the Larry the Cable guy stuff.

    You shouldn't knee jerk such a negative reaction, change can be good. You just have to BELIEVE..........
  10. red chicken's Avatar
    Sorry, posted thrice. Guess I should try being smarter than my keyboard.
    Updated 09-22-2011 at 01:42 PM by red chicken
  11. red chicken's Avatar
  12. jedited's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by red chicken
    Movies don't set box office records because people don't find the story interesting.
    This is where you and I are going to have to agree to disagree. Box office does NOT always equal good movie. A few examples of HUGE movies that are HORRIBLE are Transformers (#11, 19 & 26 on all time domestic BO) , Twister (#71), Armagedeon, Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks (#88), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (#29), Independence Day (#35), ANY of the Twilight movies (#38 & 39), the remake of War of the Worlds (#78), Home Alone (#48) and I could go on.
    Plus if we expand our list from all time domestic to Weekend records, Jackass 3D holds the record for highest weekend gross for a movie opening in the Fall.
    There are a number of BRILLIANT movies that FAILED at the box office. Movies like Iron Giant, Fantasia and Pinochio (on their 1st release), etc, etc.
    Probably ever since Star Wars a NUMBER of BIG box office movies have been movies that use the latest technological wizardy, but have a VERY thin or non-existant plot and/or bad acting. In fact, in the top 50 all time domestic box office, you only have #16 (Passion of the Christ), #24 (Forrest Gump), #48 (Home Alone) and #50 (Meet the Fockers) which are movies that don't rely on special effects (or animated).