Disney has some competition down I-4 with the Harry Potter World, and because of this we have seen Universal rise up past Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom over the past year or so. Disney needed a property that can stand the test of time to compete with this. First they announced New Fantasyland, but while an impressive expansion, wasn't enough. A few years later, we get the announcement of Avatarland. The problem with this is that Avatar only has one movie out, and three more scheduled to come out in the next few years, but doesn't have legs that Harry Potter does at this time, and needs to show that it could be relevant in 20 years. We hadn't heard much about this expansion, besides rumors that Cameron and the imagineers haven't been seeing eye to eye.
A few weeks ago I stated that Walt Disney World needed to bring more life to their Tommorrowland area in the Magic Kingdom, but if you noticed, all my suggestions included properties that Disney already owned.
Disney has many properties that they could have pulled out of their hat to use for Animal Kingdom, or even better, they could have just let the imagineers let lose and have fun. We see that this is a good thing when we look over seas and see what has been created. Shanghai Disneyland (set to open in 2015) is going to be a beautiful take on the classic design, Disney Seas is considered one of the best of the Disney Parks, Mystic Manor (which opened this summer) at Disneyland Hong Kong to great reviews, and even Walt Disney Studios in Paris (considered the worst Disney Park) is getting a Ratatouille based ride (may not be exactly mind-blowing, but it is Disney property that they didn't have to pay for it).
|Mystic Manor in Disneyland Hong Kong|
Walt had many original ideas that the imagineers had to work very hard on creating. Walt trusted this group of people with his investments, to take a chance on things. Many new technologies were created in the early years of Disneyland so that Walt's vision could be seen. Today, the imagineers have been put on the back burner when it comes to originality in the US parks. When expanding Fantasyland in WDW, and then creating Carsland in California Adventure, they were given franchises that they were to recreate and bring to life. While there were new technologies to come up with on both lands, there was nothing that was completely the imagineers ideas.
If you remember, when Animal Kingdom was first opened, there was suppose to be a themed area called Beastly Kingdom. This land was to be in the place where Camp Minnie-Mickey use to be and where Avartarland is to be. You can see this in some of the park's features, the logo contains a dragon, a parking lot is called Unicorn, detailed dragon piece on the ticket booths, and a stone dragon in the Camp Minnie-Mickey area. This land was put on hold because of budgets. I, among others, have stated that they would have much rather seen this land come to light, however we are stuck with Avatarland.
The word of Avatarland came during the Japan D23 event. I personally believe that they waited to announce this at this event because they knew the excitement wasn't going to be as big in America as it would be in a foreign market. Tom Staggs told us that we should expect this land to open in 2017, while there were no details on rides, concept art was released showing a new boat ride, and a Soarin' like ride. I do like the idea of a new boat ride, we haven't seen a good one in a few years. With the rides we will also get a beautiful nighttime show with the bioluminescence landscape that come with the world of Pandora (I will state that I am extremely excited about this).
As I stated earlier, Avatar hasn't proven to be a franchise that has legs yet. Harry Potter has been around in book form for 16 years, and movie form for 12 years. Every year this franchise adds people to its following, and has a presence at many of the Comic Conventions. Avatar on the other hand, hasn't really been in the news since its release only 5 years ago. Is this showing a pending doom on this future land? Will anyone care about this land in 4 years when it opens? I guess we will find out when it opens. I will reserve my judgement for the day I can go and see this in person, but I am very hesitant on this land.