You can feel the breathe of your banshee beneath you, hear the sounds of a herd of animals stampeding below you, and smell the beautiful landscape surrounding you. It’s amazing to remember that this is still just a theme park ride, and an awesome one at that. Avatar Flight of Passage is an absolute triumph of a ride that reinvents what a Disney attraction can be. As much as I love some of my favorite rides at WDW I’ve been wowed so much by Flight of Passage in a short time that I’m willing to put it at number one.
After taking in the breathtaking sites of the floating mountains of Pandora and it’s other wonders (which deserve their own article) you step into the queue of Avatar Flight of Passage. And you’ll be in this queue for a long time as this ride consistently has weight times of 90+ minutes, even on slow days. I’ve seen it as high as 300 minutes over the summer. Luckily Walt Disney Imagineering has put together and extremely immersive queue with its own amazing sights and sounds for you to discover along the way. It starts with you working your way up the mountain, this gives you a great view of the rest of the land that you can’t get from anywhere else in the park. The line continues with you working your way into a cave system where you see some ancient cave paintings that were drawn by the Navi many years ago. Think of the cave paintings found in Lascaux, France created by our ancestors thousands of years ago. The queue moves past the caves 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 as opposed to a typical facade. If you listen carefully you can year 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 our own world.
The second to last queue room which is the one that does the most to tie the attraction into Animal Kingdom’s overall theme of conservation. You enter a laboratory that has been studying human effects on the environment of Pandora. You see some information graphics comparing the decline of the banshee to the decline of other Keystone species here on Earth. The lab also has displays of experiments that scientistd 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 (see below).
The attention to detail in this room is really quite astounding. The lab is full of small details like textbooks on Pandora, labnotes, etc. that give the impression this lab is used for actual scientific research. The final room before you before you reconnect with the fast pass line is a large open room with a massive screen showing the flight trajectories of other banshees flown by other Avatars and led by other Navi guides, the screen also displays small details about things such as the Avatar vital signs, wind conditions, etc. Just more small details that bring this ride all together. Then we rejoin with fastpass and go into the part of the line where we will be assigned to a ride chamber. As a little Easter egg if you’re on the far left side of this final tunnel you will see various markings and signatures on the wall. One of these is very clearly an illuminati symbol. See the image below.
Once we are finally assigned a ride station we are given a number from 1 to 16 and told to go stand on said number in the first pre-show room which is the link chamber. This is where Dr. Stevens at the Pandora Conservation Initiative will match us with our Avatar body. Guests are told to move around (this usually results in people dabbing or generally making themselves look stupid) so that there DNA can be matched with an Avatar body that physically could be hundreds of kilometers away. They don’t really explain how the science behind this process works but we’ll just believe the science fiction here. We 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 your basic theme park safety lingo or Dr. Ogden telling us how amazing the experience will be. Overall it does it’s job by pleasing the lawyers and making it unnecessary to watch the movie to understand what’s going. 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 has a hilarious and quotable pre-show video. But that really doesn’t bring down what follows next, the ride itself.
Let’s just start off by saying that no words I have to write will truly do this experience justice. I’m not going to recap the entire ride for you and spoil everything since it won’t be good enough. I will give you some of my thoughts on it however. 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 (the best one at WDW), Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and such classics as Journey into Imagination with Figment! (I’m kidding on the last one). This ride simply takes it to the next level. Flight of Passage takes you 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 really 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 as well. You feel the spray of water, the smells of various plant life, everything to make you feel like you’re really there. Flight of Passage will show you some amazingly breathtaking scenes, ones that you’ll want to truly savor. These beautiful scenes are in between some exciting and thrilling ones where you’ll encounter some less than friendly creatures, feel some major adrenaline rushes, and much more. All of them are perfectly executed. 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 and by how long you’ll be waiting in line without a fastpass. This is now the E-ticket attraction at the Walt Disney World resort and if you have the opportunity I can not stress how much you need to come to check out this experience enough. Flight of Passage takes bringing a film to life beyond where any other ride has gone before. I give it a 9.5/10 with the only negative being the lackluster pre show. It receives top notch marks everywhere else. So what are you waiting for?! Next time your at Animal Kingdom “Sivako!” or face the challenge!