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Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement

PodcastEpisode 933 is now available for download and Instant Listening.

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Show Notes

Hosts: Matt Hochberg, Len Testa, Mike Scopa & Mike Newell


  • Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement

  • Today, the panel discusses this week's announcement of the addition of an Avatar based land at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

  • Running Time: 35:55

Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement | 48 comments | Create New Account
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Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: frandog on Thursday, September 22 2011 @ 10:33 PM CDT
Longest episode in a while and a good debate!
Firstly, Scopa says Disney does a horrible job with Sci-Fi: what about Tower of Terror?
In regards to Avatarland itself, plus a couple of other topic brought up, here are a few points:
1)I believe this was a panic move in regards to Harry Potter but for a different reason: Disney was embarassed. Forbidden Journey, for a simulator ride, is absolutely innovative, groundbreaking, and has recieved rave reviews for the most part. Over the last half decade, Disney's one huge ride addition has been Everest in 2006. Midway Mania at DHS is a D-Ticket attraction and Star Tours II, while improved over the original was imo a nice remake-nothing groundbreaking. And going back further what little Universal has added has been better than WDW's additions-Men in Black blows away Midway Mania and Buzz imo and I love Revenge of the Mummy. Of course, this is subjective.
2)Tom Bricker brought this up on his blog and I feel it's a good point: Disney is more concerned about the casual/one time guest than the repeat visitor. They know the diehards, in theory, will keep coming back even if we don't like the concept of the addition.
3) I'm surprised people are complaining about Disney bringing in an outside movie for a concept. Especially now when a frequent complaint about WDW is that they shove their products/movies down our throats too much (i.e. Pirates, Pixar). Whether Avatar was the best choice, though, is a different debate.
4) If there was a time to annouce a Muppetland it would be now with the new movie coming out in two months.
5)IMO, Disney should stop building foreign parks and worry about the Domestic ones. Does Disney really need to build a Disneyland in Shanghai when the American parks-not to mention Hong Kong DL!--need some help in many cases?
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: futureman on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 01:34 AM CDT
I'm glad Avatar is being put in just because that means Disney is spending money on theme parks and adding new attractions, who knows if they would have put in anywhere near the $500 million without Avatar into WDW. Avatar has made 2.6 times more money than the biggest Disney movie ever, Pirates 2, worldwide and 1.8 times more than it domestically. Even if you think Avatar flops it will still make as much as the biggest Disney movie ever. The Matrix directors don't have the track record James Cameron does, Cameron hasn't made a flop.
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: Bigwig30 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 05:21 AM CDT
I guess I just don't see the huge downside that has some "fans" foaming at the mouth.

I am pretty sure no one is saying that AVATAR was a great movie. It was ground breaking, immersive, and yes, very, very pretty - much like STAR WARS (also long on eye-candy, short on originality) - but even the best narrative attractions are based upon paper thin stories so grounded in our psyche that we already know what every character is going to do before they do it. Ride stories just don't have the time to be complex. Cliches are essential when time is of the essence.

Personally I am not a huge AVATAR fan. I enjoyed the movie, but it is not in my top ten, for sure. However, my like or dislike of the film has nothing to do with whether or not the new land at DAK will be a good expansion. Maybe we should just allow for the possibility that one of the richest companies in the world and one of the richest filmmakers in the world might have a bit more of a clue about what does and does not sell than us jaded theme park snobs. I have little doubt that WDI and James Cameron have the ability and the money to bring the world of Pandora to life.

You know, everyone said AVATAR was going to be a flop, too... now there are 2.8 billion reasons why all those naysayers were dead wrong.
Episode 933 - Panic Move? I Don't Think So
Authored by: Bigwig30 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 05:29 AM CDT
I keep hearing that this announcement is a panic move, or something Disney has done to combat Universal's success with Harry potter. Does anyone really believe that Disney is reacting to anything Universal does? Really? I love Universal, but the gap between the two companies is vast, and while I am sure all the praise Harry Potter has earned might give the Disney brass a slight pause, it is as if a bee just stung an elephant. Sure, the elephant feels a twinge of pain, but it passes quickly and is hardly worth the attention. Universal's stunning new achievement aside, Disney will make few (if any) strategic choices based upon anything Universal does or does not do. Five years from now when AVATAR opens, Disney will still be raking in the families and making money hand over fist, while Universal (justifiably or not) will continue to be a secondary destination.
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: dutchdisneyfan on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 06:10 AM CDT
Can someone tell me what attraction in Disneyland Paris they're talking about at 28min 13sec?
Episode 933 - Revisionist History
Authored by: Bigwig30 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 07:01 AM CDT
I think there is a bit of revisionist history occurring in this episode:

The Matrix - $460,279,930
The Matrix Reloaded - $738,576,929
The Matrix Revolutions - $424,259,759
Tron: Legacy - $397,562,763

None of these films are considered "flops".
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: Brian on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 08:41 AM CDT
I was definitely skeptical to disappointed when I heard the news. I thought the movie was one of the most overrated movies ever.

But hearing this episode actually makes me feel better about it, in spite of the objections of Matt, Newell and Scopa, mainly because I found their objections so thin.

I think Len has it exactly right: it all depends on the finished product. If Disney doesn't cut corners and really creates an immersive experience, it can be awesome.

It'll be interesting to replay this episode when the land opens several years from now to see if the reservations turned out to be founded or unfounded.
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: Wedway on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 08:57 AM CDT
I'm honestly confused about the outrage. We've been hearing complaints for years about how 1. DAK is a half day park 2. There aren't any good E-tickets being built 3. All the parks are being homogenized (thank you Jay Rasulo) 4. Where's the big investments in the parks? Then there was: why didn't they make a big WDW announcement at the D23 expo? Is WDW getting neglected because of Shanghai and DCA?

So we just got a great answer to all of these complaints...and we as a fan community throw a fit?

I'm as big a curmudgeon as anybody, and my first knee-jerk reaction was negative, but the more I think about this, the more I really want to see what WDI can pull off here. Tom Staggs should be really commended for taking a risk here and wanting another investment in the parks. Rasulo didn't care about them, but at least Staggs wants to take chances and expand the parks. Sure, its gutsy and iffy and a risk, but wasn't that what Disneyland was when Walt built it?

Jeff (NOT one of the guys from Wedway Radio!)
  • Staggs - Authored by: frandog on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 10:12 AM CDT
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: minniemouse on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 09:53 AM CDT
Since I may possibly be the only person on the planet who had never seen the Avatar movie...I'm going to pull it off the shelf (my husband saw it and purchased the Blu Ray disc set) and watch it this weekend.

Should be interesting to view it cold specifically looking at how it could become a "land" at AK.

Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: braindew on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 10:40 AM CDT
All I have to say is, $500 million? Did anyone see what they paid for keeping Monday night football? $15 billion!! Also, Cameron reportedly spent $1 billion on the movie....which made $2.7 billion worldwide. I know, I know...some things need a starting point to get approved. But, if they are serious about a whole new land to bring in the new folks with a total immersion experience they need to spend $1 billion in my estimation. And for any Imagineers reading this...stop with the Kuka robot arms already! I want real wind flowing through my hair (whats left) and a "real" 3D experience (not RealD...or Disney 3D). Oh...and one more thing, if you are thinking of making a city in the trees please include an escalator....Swiss Family Tree-house should be an example of what not to do ("Hey, we just walked 12 miles through the park...what do you want to do now, climb these stairs?")
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: jk823 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 11:03 AM CDT
Scopa kept saying "this is a big big risk" for the company. But think back to a little "folly" in 1955 that was a HUUUUGE risk for Disney. A little park in Anaheim?

Also, you guys kept saying "I wish they went in house with Marvel or Muppets." Lest we forget before those properties were BOUGHT by Disney they weren't in house. Also Disney can't do any Marvel theme parks attractions in Florida.

Universal's exclusive contract on the kuka robotic arm ends 5 years after WWHP opened. So instead of "Soarin' Over Pandora" maybe we can have a Forbidden Journey type attraction?

DIsney is a company that has LONG taken risks. With big risks come big rewards. I think we can all agree that $400-600 million is a price tag that assures that the land will be amazing and filled with details. The problem is when Disney takes CHEAP risks (i.e. DCA).

And Disney can't do Science Fiction attractions well?! Apparently Scopa needs to ride Star Tours again.

Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: steven512 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 01:26 PM CDT
Len was right, they'll likely do a Sorin' over Pandora because Cameron specifically mentions he likes that idea in this news article:


quote from Cameron:
'I definitely want to do a flight attraction of some kind," the director said, citing the "Soarin' Over California" flying ride at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim as a personal favorite.'

So much for originality.

Disney definitely wanted something for AK, because they could have easily built Star Wars Land I'm sure.
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: brewerfan71 on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 01:57 PM CDT
I have a few points to make. 1) The Muppets kept being brought up as a alternative for an in-house addition. But the Muppets have never had a succesful movie in their history, with the possible exception of the original Muppet Movie. Avatar made 2.7 billion dollars worldwide. 2) I think the focus of adding Avatar is definitely the one-time visitor. Honestly, do you think people will keep going time and time again to Universal to go see Harry Potter? It is an attraction that can be seen in one visit and that cannot be readily expanded at all. There will be tremendous interest is seeing what Disney can do with this property. 3) I think that the reaction has been divided because for so long, WDW has seemed to be neglected in favor of other parks worldwide (DCA reboot, Shanghai Disney). It's kind of like an adrenaline shot to the heart to have something this huge suddenly announced after near nothing has been done to WDW for so long with the exception of the Fantasyland expansion. Give people some time to adjust and I think that reaction will come around to be more positive, especially when we see concept art of attractions. And finally, 4) Concern was brought up over the sequels to Avatar being subpar. James Cameron has a long track record of movies that have been well made. Story may be lacking, but style never has. Disney can pick up the story ball and run with it, with Cameron providing the style points.
What's the story of Avatar...?
Authored by: larsenj on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 03:22 PM CDT
Len asked, "What's the story of Avatar?" That's easy -- the story is Pocahontas:

Doesn't Fit
Authored by: karenM on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 04:12 PM CDT
There are so many folks in the Disney fan community who have criticized Dinoland because it doesn't fit in well with the theme of the park. I just can't see how Avartarland would fit this park any better. To me it just doesn't belong in AK. I think AK needs an expansion but not sure this is the right thing. Avatarland sounds cool....and I bet Disney could do it up right....but maybe should consider putting it somewhere else. Just because something is cool and you can build it doesn't mean you should. (I'm imagining the AK entrace sign with the elephant head in the middle replaced by a blue avatar face! LOL!!)
  • Dinoland - Authored by: frandog on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 04:30 PM CDT
A great opportunity...for FotLK
Authored by: Jul on Friday, September 23 2011 @ 07:44 PM CDT
What excites me more is that this would be a grand opportunity for Festival of the Lion King, if they decide to plunk this place down in Camp Minnie-Mickey (which, let's face it, is nothing more than FotLK and an underused meet-and-greet).

Build out some of the area near Conservation Station and put a "revamped" Festival of the Lion King show out there--it fits well with the conservation themes on that side of the park, plus the age demographic is a good fit. Anyone know if there's space to move it over there?
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: Bigwig30 on Saturday, September 24 2011 @ 04:39 AM CDT
Whether you like the idea of AVATAR expansion or not, Disney certainly has everyone talking about their plans! I am not sure of the last time I saw 40 comments after a single episode!

Genius, pure genius!
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: SortaGrumpy on Saturday, September 24 2011 @ 06:36 AM CDT
My 2 cents on the matter: I'm with Matt and the Mikes. I just don't get the Avitar appeal. What really bothers me is the commitment of capital to this project when there is such a need to fix and refresh what they already have. Does this mean the Yeti never gets fixed and Sounds Dangerous and Stitch are taking up space for the next decade? Don't even get me started with the condition of Splash. I would assume there will be no big renovations at Epcot with all the money going to AK. We can't even get LoW for crying out loud. Will we be stuck with a bad 80's MJ show for the next decade or more? I don't want to be a cynic, but I have to agree with the sentiment that this was a move as much to keep it away from Universal as anything else. I hope I'm wrong. I'm willing to keep an open mind. Time will tell.
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: redmarauder on Sunday, September 25 2011 @ 08:05 AM CDT
I cant tell you how unhappy i am about this decision! Avatar is a VERY political movie with a strong anti-American and anti-Western message. It's a high $$$ slick morality tale about the ‘evils’ of Western imperialism, a futuristic take on the conquest of America and the treatment of native Americans – the list goes on.
Avatar is at its heart a cynical and deeply unpatriotic propaganda piece, aimed squarely against American global power and the projection of US economic and military might across the world.
The depiction of US Marines being cold blooded murderers (when our solders are in a war) is disgusting.

It is a complete waist of money and resources to build a Avatar attraction. Avatar is not good fit for Disney and will ultimately fail / be unpopular.

Walt Disney would not approve!!

Besides.... the movie is idiotic!
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: kevdo on Sunday, September 25 2011 @ 07:56 PM CDT
No surprise that the DAK haters are against this. Glad Len tried to balance things.

Kevin Crossman
Cohost of the That's What She Said Podcast - twsspodcast.com
Episode 933 - Disney's Avatar Announcement
Authored by: psk193 on Wednesday, October 12 2011 @ 10:15 AM CDT
I know I am posting this late, but I am trying to play catch up on the latest episodes.

My concern is that Disney (parks) is a story telling company. I think the upper brass blew this opportunity to announce such a large scale project and gave the public nothing more than a title and a location. Where were the story boards, the concept art and all the tantilizers that would focus the discussion on specifics? The Disney chiefs really used a lot of loyal Disney fan equity by telling their regulars to just take this announcement at face value and 'trust' that everything will be fabulous. By not preparing a more complete presentation, they (Disney) have left themselves open to ridicule and wide ranging speculation for no reason at all. This is not how you put your best foot forward in launching a huge product. This type of flipant administration of a company worries me more than any debate about whether Avatarland will succeed or not. Walt Disney would not be proud of this moment in "HIS" company.