Pandora opened a little over a month ago at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to an overwhelmingly positive response. I personally love the rides, exotic foods, awesome merchandise, and of course the little details. I’m obsessed with the level of detail and theming Disney uses throughout all of their parks, and Pandora is no exception.
In my small handful of visits I’ve been sure to keep my eyes peeled for some of the more interesting tidbits the land has to offer. There are hidden animals, pieces of backstory, and things that tie the immersive new land into the movie franchise. Here are some of my favorite hidden and unique things in Pandora – The World of Avatar.
As you’re walking up the pathway in the Avatar Flight of Passage queue, just before entering the caves, look to your left. Hidden in an opening of the back of the giant floating mountain closest to you are a group of sleeping animals called stingbats. Stingbats are small aerial predators with a highly developed navigational system and four eyes that live on Pandora. They are the banshee’s favorite food and can be seen flying around in the background of the Avatar film. Like bats on Earth, stingbats also sleep upside-down, which is how we see them in the land, if you’re looking for them that is.
Pandora is filled with lots of real waterfalls, but it’s two fake ones that got my attention. They are located near the very top of the very back of the land, on the facade for Avatar Flight of Passage. They’re two rotating wheels that have been made to look like waterfalls. They fall slower than real water of that size to make them appear farther away and bigger, selling the idea of forced perspective. At the base of the fake waterfalls are some mesh and decoration that appear as mist coming from the splashdown, which helps finish the illusion.
The Creators’ Autographs
As you’re exiting Avatar Flight of Passage, in the corridor on the lowest level, you may see three handprints in red paint. These are the handprints and initials of James Cameron, the director of the Avatar film, Jon Landau, producer of Avatar, and Joe Rohde, lead Imagineer for Pandora and all of Animal Kingdom. This was their way of leaving their stamp on the land after working so hard on it for all those years.
Speaking of James Cameron, after you pass through the caves in the beginning of the queue for Avatar Flight of Passage you enter an old RDA area with metal corrugated walls. These rusty walls all have the same words and numbers on them: JC Shoring 08.016.54. The “JC” stands of James Cameron, and the numbers represent his birthday, August 16, 1954! This is written all over the walls right before the bioluminescent jungle part of the queue.
Big Pandoran Bugs
There isn’t too much wildlife to find outside of the two attractions in Pandora. There are plenty of sound effects that make it seem like the land is teeming with life, but only a few actual animals can be spotted. In addition to the stingbats we mentioned earlier, you can also find some squirting aquatic creatures in a lagoon opposite Avatar Flight of Passage. And right behind those squirting creatures, if you look close enough, are some giant bugs. The bugs don’t move, and are hard to see if you’re not looking for them, but you can definitely hear them in this area.
In front of the Na’vi River Journey, just to the right of the main ride entrance, are a collection of large footprints embedded in the ground. These are full grown Na’vi footprints and it’s fun to compare your foot size to theirs. There are also a few smaller prints to the left. I wonder if these are from a human or just child Na’vi?
In the center of the land, in the heart of the Valley of Mo’ara, you’ll find the Sacred Place of Song, or Swotu Wayä in Na’vi. Most people just know it as the drum circle though. Here kids can beat and play on the many different sounding instruments, and around once an hour or so performers will come out and do a show. On one of the built-in bench areas I’ve noticed some pretty serious scratches. There’s no telling what animal may have caused them. Perhaps a viperwolf, as seen on the Na’vi River Journey ride, was the culprit. Whatever it was, these marks are a reminder that Pandora can be a dangerous place, even in a sacred spot.
Books in the Lab
The science lab in the queue for Avatar Flight of Passage is probably everyone’s favorite part of waiting for the ride. It’s filled with cool effects and a full size avatar in a cryo-chamber, but it’s also filled with little Easter eggs and surprises. There’s several books scattered throughout the lab, including a few by famed animal behavior researcher Jane Goodall. There’s a book by Dr. Jaclyn Ogden, the (fictional) scientist we meet during the ride’s preshow. She’s the foremost expert on the ikran, or banshee as we call them, and she’s left a few copies of her book for the chemists that work in this lab. One of the more hidden books is a nod to the original Avatar film. It’s a book about Pandoran botany written by Dr. Grace Augustine, who is played by Sigourney Weaver in the movie. There’s even a line in the film that says, “She literally wrote the book on Pandoran botany.” Well, here it is!
The Original Mess Hall
Inside the fast-casual quick service restaurant Satu’li Canteen in Pandora, there are several framed photographs hanging near the registers. They show some of the plants and animals of Pandora, some explain the backstory for the land, and a few show off what the old mess hall looked like before the RDA left and it was converted into Satu’li. The RDA is the (evil) corporation from the film that was mining in Pandora. RDA stands for “Resources Development Administration.” Now that they’re gone and Alpha Centauri Expeditions has moved in, they’ve redecorated the old mess hall to use as their own food service area. And they’ve decorated the seating area using Na’vi artifacts. It’s interesting to see how the Mess Hall looked before the RDA was run out of town. I like seeing the twin-bladed helicopters in the image as well. And in one picture we can see a mech suit similar to the one in front of Pongu Pongu.
As mentioned above the RDA (Resources Development Administration) was the bad guy corporation from the Avatar film that was mining for unobtanium on Pandora. (Unobtanium is readily available in the gift shop by the way, so not that hard to obtain.) You can find hundreds of traces of this long gone corporation scattered throughout the land and in both queues of the attractions. Many of the buildings that have been re-purposed by ACE expeditions as dining halls, gift shops and food stands were originally built, and left behind, by the RDA. I find the style of structures interesting, as they’re intended to look like modular buildings. Clearly materials were shipped here from Earth and then folded out and linked, making them quick and easy prefab units. Keep in mind that RDA has been mining for resources all over the Universe for decades, so they know a thing or two about setting up shop in a quick and efficient manner.
The manhole covers we see in the courtyard area are themed to look like locking mechanisms for a prefab slab. In reality they’re simply sewer access manholes, but in-story these were used to lock together multiple slaps of concrete to create the coutyard in front of the mess hall and munitions bunker when the RDA was mining on Pandora. Even the Cast Member backstage gate is themed to look like an access road to the unobtanium mining quarry. Other interesting little touches are the signage and airlock keypads throughout the queue for Avatar Flight of Passage as well as countless outlines on the ground and walls from equipment that is no longer present. Wherever you find RDA logos, the items will be aged, rusted, and covered in moss; reclaimed by nature. Wherever you find ACE logos the items will be shiny, new, and ultra modern because ACE is the travel company that has only recently moved in. It’s a unique dichotomy present around the land.
Let me know some of your favorite little touches and hidden gems from Pandora in the comments below. I may do additional articles with even more hidden things in the future, because this land is just jam-packed with so much detail. Thanks for reading. Please share this post if you like it and see the video version for even more hidden details. Check out our full review and photo report from Pandora – The World of Avatar here, and stay tuned for more theme park news and updates coming soon.
If you’re looking to travel across the universe to visit Pandora yourself, (or any of the parks of Walt Disney World,) be sure to request your free vacation quote from Destinations in Florida. These travel planning experts can help you plan your dream vacation with the best deals on theme park tickets and on-site hotels. The best part is, their service is completely FREE when you book through them! They’re an Authorized Disney World travel planner, so they know how to get you set up with everything you need. Request your FREE quote now.
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