You can feel the breathe of your banshee beneath you, smell the beautiful landscape surrounding you, and hear a stampeding herd of animals below you. Avatar Flight of Passage isn’t just a theme park ride. It is a triumphant experience that reinvents the standards of what Disney attractions should be. As much as I love some of my favorite rides at WDW, I’ve been wowed by Flight of Passage, and I’m willing to put it at number one.
After taking in the floating mountains and other wonders of Pandora, you begin your journey by stepping into the queue. You’ll be in this queue for a long time, as this ride consistently has wait times of 90+ minutes. I’ve seen it as high as 300 minutes over the summer. Luckily, Walt Disney Imagineering has put together an immersive queue with its own amazing sights and sounds for you to discover. First, you work your way up the mountain, which gives you a great view of the rest of the land that you can’t get from anywhere else. The line continues with you entering a cave system where you see some ancient cave paintings that were drawn by the Navi many years ago.
The queue moves through the caves, and into a dark jungle. This is one of my favorite parts, as it really gives a sense that there is a living, breathing world around you. Listen carefully and you can hear the sounds of many creatures hidden away in the thick forest. These are more than just background noises, since you can actually hear these animals interacting and responding to each others calls. This creates what feels like a natural ecosystem that blurs the line between science fiction and the real world.
The second to last queue room does the most to tie the attraction into Animal Kingdom’s overall theme of conservation. You enter a laboratory that has been studying the human effects on the environment of Pandora. Comparisons of the decline of the banshee to the decline of other species here on Earth can be seen on different information graphics. The lab also displays experiments that scientists in the Pandora Conservation Initiative have been performing to try and repair the damage caused by humans. The highlight of this room is the massive Avatar animatronic that can be seen floating in a sort of water tube.
The attention to detail in this room is really quite astounding. The lab is full of small details like textbooks and lab notes on Pandora. This gives the impression that the lab is used for actual scientific research. The final room is a large open space with a massive screen showing the flight trajectories of other banshees flown by other Avatars. The screen also displays small details about things such as the Avatar vital signs and wind conditions. Then you rejoin with fast pass line and go into the part of the queue where you will be assigned to a ride chamber. If you are on the far left side of this final tunnel, you can see various markings and signatures on the wall. One of these is very clearly an Illuminati symbol. See the image below.
Once you are finally assigned a ride station, you are given a number from 1 to 16. Then you are told to go stand on that number in the first pre-show room, which is the link chamber. This is where the Pandora Conservation Initiative’s Dr. Stevens will match us with our Avatar body. Guests are told to make different motions (which usually results in people dabbing and/or generally making themselves look stupid), so that their DNA can be matched with an Avatar body. They don’t really explain the science behind this process, but we’ll just assume it’s made up science fiction. You then go to the next pre show room where Dr. Jackie Ogden, head of the Pandora Conservation Initiative, explains how the whole experience works and why it’s happening. Most of this is basic theme park safety lingo, as well as Dr. Ogden telling us how amazing the experience will be. Overall, it does it’s job by pleasing lawyers and making it so that you don’t have to see the actual Avatar movie to know what is going on. To be honest, the 2 pre show videos are really the only disappointment in this attraction for me. Neither of them are very humorous or have witty writing, which is a real shame given that it’s in the same park as DINOSAUR (which is known for its hilarious and quotable pre-show video). That said, it really doesn’t bring down what follows next, which is the ride itself.
Let me start off by saying that nothing I write can truly do this experience justice. I’m not going to recap the entire ride for you, because this ride doesn’t deserve to be spoiled. However, I will share my overall thoughts. Flight of Passage is the greatest ride that I have ever experienced in my life. This includes Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (my previous favorite at WDW), Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and even classics as Journey into Imagination with Figment!…okay, I’m kidding on that last one. Flight of Passage takes you on a next level through Pandora and immerses you into the movie better than any IMAX theater can. The ride film and motion effects of your seats are so well done that when the big drops come, you can actually feel them in your stomach. Not only does the ride video project the visuals in stunning 4K, it also takes 4D effects to new heights. You can feel the spray of water and smell various plant life, and it all makes you feel like you’re really there, flying on top of a Banshee. Flight of Passage will also show you breathtaking scenes that you will truly want to savor. These beautiful pauses are placed in between exciting and thrilling ones, providing a great pacing for the ride. In these action sequences, you’ll encounter some less than friendly creatures, and feel some major adrenaline rushes. All of them are perfectly executed. In my opinion, Avatar Flight of Passage has officially become the gold standard for immersive thrill rides.
Long story short, Avatar Flight of Passage has lived up to hype, and was worth the wait in terms of how many years it took to complete. It has become the new “E-ticket attraction” at the Walt Disney World resort, and I can not stress enough how much everyone needs to come to check it out. Flight of Passage takes bringing a film to life beyond the norm of other simulator rides. I give it a 9.5/10, with the only negative being the lackluster pre shows. It receives top notch marks everywhere else. Next time your at Animal Kingdom, be sure to “Sivako!”, or rise to the challenge of Flight of Passage!
Final Score: 9.5/10
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