Avatar Way of Water Additions at Disney World & Flight of Passage Update Rumor

In celebration of Avatar: The Way of Water making its theatrical debut on December 16, Walt Disney World is getting new entertainment, food, and merchandise. Those aren’t the only additions that might be on the horizon for the Avatar sequels, as James Cameron wants to see updates to Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. This post covers the (official) news as well as Cameron’s pitch to Bob Iger about the future of Pandora (which I guess is best filed under “rumor”).

First, there’s going to be a bunch of Avatar: The Way of Water merchandise making its way to Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, and shopDisney. Everything from books to LEGOs to Spirit Jerseys will be sold in the parks & resorts…and, judging by some of the items, will be available at the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet in early 2023!

Second, there are a few new food items inspired by “Avatar: The Way of Water” making their way to Satu’li Canteen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom on December 16, 2022. The Metkayina Mousse is a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, decorated with raspberry gelee, mango coulis, boba pearls and finished off with a milk and white chocolate garnish.

Continuing with other new Satu’li Canteen cuisine, there’s the colorful Ocean Moon Bowl is made with tuna, blue noodles, watermelon radish, pickled daikon, rainbow carrots, avocado, cucumbers and red cabbage with a miso and sweet soy drizzle.

Wash it all down with the new Ilu Splash Margarita which is a mix of kiwi Monin syrup with lime juice, sour mix, Corazon Tequila Blanco, and a floating slice of Kiwi.

Saving the best for last, there’s going to be a Tree of Life Awakening with an all-new experience inspired by Pandora – The World of Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water. Produced by Lightstorm Entertainment in collaboration with Disney Live Entertainment, this new story sequence illuminates the park’s iconic Tree of Life with the magic of nature.

If you have enjoyed walking through the Valley of Mo’ara and other experiences at Pandora – The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, you’ll want to check this new Tree of Life Awakening out once the sun sets. This Avatar: The Way of Water inspired offering runs for a limited time beginning December 12, 2022.

Above is a sneak peek of this Tree of Life Awakening inspired by Avatar: The Way of Water.

No word on what happens with the Tree of Life Winter Awakenings once this starts. Our guess is that this joins the rotation–rather than replacing those Christmas-time additions–with all running simultaneously. Of course, that’s just a guess, and we could be wrong.

As a general matter, it’s nice to see Walt Disney World getting some of that sweet, sweet studio marketing budget. This is common at Disneyland, and has been happening a lot in Avengers Campus, recently. For a variety of reasons, Walt Disney World management often declines “free” (to them) promotional pushes, but they probably didn’t have much of a choice here since Animal Kingdom is the “Avatar park.”

Beyond that, I’m really excited to see Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters. It seems like we’re the only 2 Americans who didn’t see the original in theaters, and it definitely didn’t hit quite the same way on our television at home. Sarah isn’t looking forward to it as much as I am, but I’ve learned better than second-guessing James Cameron and am thus giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming this is going to be an awesome cinematic experience.

Finally, in an interview with Variety while doing the usual press tour to promote Avatar: The Way of Water, the magazine asked director James Cameron about Pandora – World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Specifically, they asked whether the land might get a water ride to tie-in with the sequel.

The director didn’t answer that directly, probably because no future physical expansion of Pandora is contemplated at this time. However, Cameron did proactively state that “When Bob Iger came back a couple weeks ago, I did send him an email and say, ‘You know, we can do Avatar 2 and 3 motifs and put them into the physical hardware of Avatar Flight of Passage.”

Cameron indicated that Bob Iger “liked that idea” but also that nothing has been decided. “We would like to carry that along and update [Avatar Flight of Passage] from time to time with things that flow back out of the new movies. Because I think there’s a good synergy between the physical base where you can go and just kind of meditate and be on Pandora and how the movies progress the story and bring in new imagery,” explained Cameron.

For those of you who are newer to the Walt Disney World fandom (or for anyone who might’ve forgotten), here’s a quick refresher about the “saga” of Pandora – World of Avatar being built at Animal Kingdom. Way back in September 2011, there was a surprise press conference at Walt Disney Imagineering and accompanying announcement by Bob Iger of a long-term creative partnership with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment to bring the fantasy world of AVATAR to life in the Disney Parks (plural), beginning at Animal Kingdom.

This announcement was almost certainly made prematurely due to rumors and reports hitting the mainstream media that such a relationship was being formed. For two years after that, there were persistent rumors that the so-called AVATAR Land would never actually be built, had been scaled back, or would be a single attraction. Much of this was predicated upon James Cameron’s “perfectionism” and difficulty between the parties in agreeing on the scope and scale of the land and its attractions.

From the beginning, we were on board with Avatar coming to Animal Kingdom–despite it being absolutely vilified as off-theme among the park’s purists. Our rationale for this was simple: James Cameron is a perfectionist, and if the rumors were to be believed, he would hold Disney to its own high standards and ensure that Imagineering had the budget to do the land justice.

Keep in mind, these rumors pre-date the opening of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Cars Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and so much more. At the time, it had been a ‘dark decade’ for expansion at Walt Disney World. Very different circumstances as compared to today. (I was also excited because I felt Avatar provided a beautiful ‘universe’ to explore, offering a great canvas for Imagineering to build an incredible land, even if the movie itself was forgettable.)

All of this is mentioned because if there’s anyone who could muscle through an update to a relatively new attraction that’s still incredibly popular–and thus would not receive changes otherwise–it’s James Cameron. There were rumors at the time that he had a lot of creative control and power over Pandora–and that’s more or less been confirmed since. Pretty much nothing happens involving Avatar at Animal Kingdom without the approval or involvement of Lightstorm. This extends right down to marketing material, merchandising, and food & beverage.

While I don’t think there’s any possibility of Pandora expansion right now, I do think that Avatar Flight of Passage updates are a different story. I’d still put the chances at under 50%, but they’d be around 0% in the absence of James Cameron.

With that said, I absolutely do not think this should happen. For one thing, budgets are finite. An update to Avatar Flight of Passage is well beyond the scope of normal studio marketing budgets for a new movie–even a blockbuster one like Avatar: The Way of Water. (That explains the new Tree of Life Awakening and everything else coming to Animal Kingdom, but not a new attraction video.)

Animal Kingdom is further removed from its last expansion phase than any other park, and it’s now becoming clear that the park needs more help. If you don’t like the Moana and Zootopia concepts that were floated at D23 Expo, fine. But it needs something–that’s both a practical and business reality. Allocating budget to an Avatar Flight of Passage update is a waste of money–the ride is still recent and popular, and doesn’t seem dated. Outside of diehard fans, a new ride video will not move the needle on vacation bookings or time spent in the park.

Beyond that, I would be concerned about any attempts to ‘enhance’ or otherwise change Pandora – World of Avatar, and that includes Flight of Passage. Part of the land’s “surprising” success stems from the collaborative efforts of Cameron’s team with Joe Rohde’s team. The latter is now gone, and I’m highly skeptical that anyone at Imagineering can thread the needle in quite the same way, making Avatar such a seamless fit in Animal Kingdom.

Beyond that, Avatar Flight of Passage is one of those attractions that captures lightning in a bottle. On paper, the ride concept is only okay–essentially Soarin’ on steroids. A crowd-pleasing attraction type, to be sure, but not one that is this good or well-received. A huge part of its success goes beyond the visuals, and comes down to the pacing of Flight of Passage. This might sound ridiculous, but the cadence of the ride is pitch-perfect, mixing mild thrills with breathtaking scenery and moments of quiet reflection. It’s a majestic flight, and resonates so well with guests because of that.

With all of that said, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s never bet against James Cameron. Time and time again, he has proven the critics wrong, and has done the seeming impossible. That’s true when it comes to the Pandora land at Animal Kingdom, and could be with both a Flight of Passage ‘sequel’ and with Avatar: The Way of Water. To that latter point, I’ll leave you with the following words of wisdom:

Yes, that’s a real quote. As we’ve said time and time again, never bet against James Cameron. If anyone can make you defecate your pants in a movie theater (while your mouth is open, for some reason), it is him. Consider yourself warned.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Are you excited to see Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters this Christmas? Will you wait until it’s released on Disney+ or do you not care at all about all things Avatar? Happy to see promotional tie-ins in Animal Kingdom with the new movie? What about the possibility that Avatar Flight of Passage will be updated with tie-ins to this and other upcoming Avatar sequels? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

27 Responses to “Avatar Way of Water Additions at Disney World & Flight of Passage Update Rumor”
  1. Mike from Alabama December 18, 2022
  2. Suzie December 13, 2022
  3. Al December 13, 2022
  4. Jobie December 12, 2022
  5. Kevin December 12, 2022
  6. Geek December 12, 2022
  7. BuffaloJim December 12, 2022
  8. Heather December 12, 2022
    • Aurora December 12, 2022
  9. Pete December 12, 2022
    • Julie December 12, 2022
  10. Cori Norwood December 12, 2022
    • Eric December 12, 2022
  11. Heather December 12, 2022
    • Tom Bricker December 12, 2022
    • MomOTwins December 12, 2022
    • Pete December 12, 2022
    • Aurora December 12, 2022
  12. zavandor December 12, 2022
    • Tom Bricker December 12, 2022
  13. KenR December 12, 2022
    • Rebecca December 12, 2022
  14. Michael H. December 11, 2022
  15. Laura December 11, 2022
  16. Drew December 11, 2022
  17. Kevin W December 11, 2022
  18. Kevin December 11, 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *