FastPass+ will become available for the two attractions in Pandora: World of Avatar starting March 24, 2017 (see update below). Walt Disney World fans planning summer trips will lose their minds trying to figure out what to do. The idea of this post is to try to help you not be flat-footed when those FastPass+ are released.
March 23, 2017 Update: Disney released the following info today: For a limited time, May 27-July 4, 2017, Guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can explore Pandora — The World of Avatar beyond regular Park hours.
Nightly Extra Magic Hours will take place from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. only in Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This offering will provide Guests with an additional opportunity to enjoy everything Pandora — The World of Avatar has to offer — including navigating a mystical river, flying on a back of a banshee and walking under floating mountains…
In addition, Guests staying at Walt Disney Resort hotels can reserve Disney FastPass+ selections for attractions, including those in Pandora — The World of Avatar, up to 60 days prior to check-in beginning March 24, 2017. Disney FastPass+ service will be available at the two attractions within Pandora — The World of Avatar during regular Theme Park hours. Guests may select only one of these two attractions in their first set of Disney FastPass+ selections, subject to availability.
The opening of Pandora: World of Avatar is unprecedented. At an estimated billion-plus dollars to build, it’s the biggest-budget addition to Walt Disney World since the opening of Animal Kingdom itself (unless you count MyMagic+…and let’s not do that). It’s also the first addition in the FastPass+ era that presents big questions in terms of strategy.
This is because Animal Kingdom is likely to go to a tiered FastPass+ system for Animal Kingdom once Pandora FastPasses become available, making it impossible to simultaneously hold FastPasses for the Pandora attractions and Rivers of Light. If not, this whole article is kind of pointless and the strategy is easy–get a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light, N’avi River Journey, and Flight of Passage. If FastPass tiers are added (and we sure hope they are for the sake of wait times), here’s what we recommend…
First of all, no one has the definitive answers to these questions–us included–but we are sharing our thoughts and educated guesses here because we figure something, anything is better than nothing. That’s the reason this post is titled “Wild Pandora FastPass+ Strategy Speculation.” Our assumptions are based upon precedent and similar ride systems, and looking at crowd trends at Epcot and Shanghai Disneyland, both of which should be instructive.
What we know about Avatar Flight of Passage is that it’s an attraction allowing guests to ride a Banshee over the world of Pandora. Its ride system is like Soarin’ supercharged, but with more individualized/compartmentalized Banshee seats. It will have four theaters, but due to the nature of the seating, we are guessing it has an hourly capacity that is lower than Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot.
N’avi River Journey purportedly uses a ride system like Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland. I’m inclined to believe N’avi River Journey’s hourly capacity is lower than the Pirates people-eater…but I’m not really sure why. Call it intuition, or perhaps I read something and just don’t remember.
Hourly capacity matters a lot, but so too does guest demand. Both of these attractions look like they are going to wow guests and utilize state of the art technology. However, Avatar Flight of Passage is a 3D simulator thrill ride and N’avi River Journey is a leisurely boat ride. Thrill rides historically are more popular than leisurely rides–even when the thrill ride is inferior (as is so often the case).
One final thing we know is that, right now, Rivers of Light is insanely popular and the standby situation has been nothing short of chaotic. It’s tough to say whether Pandora will draw people away from Rivers of Light at night, or draw more people to the park in general to point that any guests heading towards Pandora instead of Rivers of Light are offset (or more than offset) by the additional crowds. My guess is the latter.
The upside to Rivers of Light is that it offers dining packages, which presumably, Pandora: World of Avatar will not. (Oh no please don’t. In Walt Disney World’s new ‘Season of the Upcharge’ nothing would surprise us.) While we are not normally fans of dining packages, the Rivers of Light one for Tiffins is actually a good value–and at a great restaurant. Even if you opt against the dining package, Rivers of Light remains the better standby option.
The question thus becomes whether N’avi River Journey or Flight of Passage is the better FastPass+ option (again, assuming you cannot do both). Or, perhaps this question has a twist ending, and there will be a new FastPass+ option for the Wildlife Express train to Conservation Station, and that is the best option. (Spoiler: it’s not.)
At this point, my FastPass+ pick would be Flight of Passage if you’re going for efficiency. I suspect capacity will be lower here, and unless the reviews are really poor, demand will be higher. Given that I described this as “Soarin’ Supercharged,” I have a hard time buying that this will garner poor reviews. Guests will likely love it.
This conclusion might seem to conflict with last summer’s experience at Epcot. If you’re trying to find wait time data points among recent Walt Disney World additions, the obvious choices might seem like Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World. I’d advise against choosing these. For one, Frozen Ever After has a ridiculously low hourly capacity. Second, the “new” Soarin’ there added capacity without presenting a totally new experience. Flight of Passage is not simply Soarin’ with a different film.
I feel Shanghai Disneyland presents a better case study for Pandora is because it presented brand new (to its audience) variations on both of these ride systems. It’s still a messy comparison, but in Shanghai, the lines for Soaring Over the Horizon dwarfed Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. We’re talking triple the wait times or more. While I don’t expect that much of a chasm to occur with Pandora, a significant gap is possible.
This assumes a lot of things, most notably that efficiency is of paramount concern. If you’re heading to Pandora anytime in Summer 2017, you’re likely looking at a triple-digit wait time for either of these attractions during the middle of the day.
Obviously, some of this wait can be obviated by rope dropping the attraction or lining up right as the park closes, but you’re still going to be waiting a while for whichever attraction you don’t FastPass. If you hate waiting, this might leave you saying one of the Pandora attractions for a later trip. In that case, you might want to choose the experience you think will be better.
My personal vote there goes to N’avi River Journey. I know ‘reviewing’ an attraction before it has even opened requires a lot of wild speculation, but…that’s sort of what we’re doing above, so why stop with strategy?
If N’avi River Voyage is half as good as Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, it is going to blow minds. Like, literally. They’ll need a paramedic or something on hand. This is going to be an experience that is totally unprecedented for Walt Disney World fans, and something you should do if choosing one or the other. All in my mostly uninformed opinion, of course.
As for our strategy, we plan on going to Animal Kingdom two different days (actually, probably many more since we need to test and formulate a strategy that is more than just wild speculation) and using a FastPass+ for each Pandora attraction on different days. If you’re taking a longer trip or buying Park Hopper tickets, this is the obvious and best strategy.
Do you agree or disagree with our FastPass+ speculation for Pandora: World of Avatar? Do you think Animal Kingdom is likely to switch over to tiered FastPass+ once Pandora FastPasses become available? What’s your strategy? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!