Step inside Disney's Pandora - The World of Avatar

The theme park expansion immerses guests in the alien world, and with Disney's remarkable attention to detail, there's a story to uncover everywhere you look.

Bridget Carey
Bridget Carey is an award-winning reporter who helps you level-up your life -- while having a good time geeking out. Her exclusive CNET videos get you behind the scenes as she covers new trends, experiences and quirky gadgets. Her weekly video show, "One More Thing," explores what's new in the world of Apple and what's to come. She started as a reporter at The Miami Herald with syndicated newspaper columns for product reviews and social media advice. Now she's a mom who also stays on top of toy industry trends and robots. (Kids love robots.)
Bridget Carey
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One of the most impressive scenic views in all of Disney's new Pandora - The World of Avatar fantasy land at the Animal Kingdom theme park near Orlando, Florida. It can be found near the entrance of its immersive thrill ride, Avatar Flight of Passage.

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Your journey to Pandora takes place long after the conflict in James Cameron's blockbuster 2009 movie, but rusted clues to the past remain, like this security-camera tower repurposed into a lantern post.

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A trail map greets visitors at the entrance of Pandora's Valley of Mo'ara. This human-friendly area is maintained with help from the Pandora Conservation Initiative.

But how did you travel so quickly from Earth to a moon 4.4 light-years away in the Alpha Centauri star system? With the help of tour company Alpha Centauri Expeditions, of course. (Funny thing about interstellar travel; the brain can't recall time spent in suspended animation.)

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Plant life on Pandora is very strange, so be careful what you touch. Human interaction with this distressed plant may release spores. (The spores are actually quite refreshing.) Named flaska reclinata, its main benefit is to purify atmospheric toxins, which makes it easier for human visitors to breathe.

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Vein pods also help detoxify the atmosphere. I don't know the name of those blue things, but they're everywhere.

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Puffball trees are important for -- you guessed it -- detoxifying the atmosphere. The salty feather-like leaves are also great for cooking.

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The grinch tree has bluish bioluminescent leaves at night.

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The centerpieces are the 156-foot-tall floating mountains.

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When you're in Pandora, you feel completely inside Pandora. Nothing from the outside world interrupts your view.

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You may find a few creatures native to Florida making their home on the distant moon.

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No better way to honor the native Na'vi than by getting your face painted like one.

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The Na'vi are a musical bunch. Bang on their drums, and you may get a surprise.

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The ground of Pandora glows at night. Tourists better not mess it up with gum, or the locals are going to be mad.

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How does water fall from a floating mountain? Maybe it has something to do with all those vines.

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This totem marks the entrance to the boat ride, Na'vi River Journey. The locals wouldn't make a written sign -- they use symbolic structures instead.

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Even if the Na'vi don't use signs, your ACE tour company still made some to mark which line is for standby and which is for Disney's Fastpass.

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You'll never see the park this empty again after it opens to the public on May 27.

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Joe Rohde, one Disney's top "imagineers," led the the design and creation of Pandora. His team worked in partnership with James Cameron's film production company to bring this land to life. The goal was to make sure guests would enjoy getting immersed in this alien world, even if they didn't watch or remember Cameron's 2009 film.

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Please don't feed the plants. Especially any who answer to the name Audrey.

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Pandoran ducks look an awful lot like Florida ducks.

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The Na'vi totem marking the entrance to the thrill ride Avatar Flight of Passage. Riding a banshee is a rite of passage for the native warriors. Flight of Passage, rite of passage ... now you get it.

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The fusion of real and alien plant life is seamless.

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When walking under floating mountains, be sure to look up.

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As you wait for your flight, you'll have plenty of time to study the ancient cave paintings celebrating the great winged banshees, or Ikran as the Na'vi call them.

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There are lots of little sacred things to look at while waiting in a sacred cave.

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Once you pass through the cave-like structure, you enter a once-abandoned RDA facility and laboratory, which has been restored by the Pandora Conservation Initiative.

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So much science to see.

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Anyone know where I can find manual AMB-91?

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The experiments in here are to help restore the Pandoran environment, after all the damage caused by those pesky money-grubbing humans working for RDA.

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Not clear if these tablets are running iOS or Android.

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This is an avatar, a human-alien hybrid creature engineered to be controlled by the human mind. This animatronic figure is a little spooky as it floats and twitches, asleep in the liquid tank.

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The lab is helping to repopulate the world by making more fan lizards. You may also adopt a few Pandoran animals in the gift shop.

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Dr. Jaclyn Ogden wrote the book on the Ikran. She also happens to look an awful lot like Sigourney Weaver.

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If visitors of Disney's new Pandora - The World of Avatar have no idea what they're in for, this should give them a clue.

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Industrial-looking walkways with colored pipes have a way of making me anxious.

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When directed, stand on your number to listen to the instructional video. No really, you need to stand on your number, or the computer voice will keep nagging you.

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How are they going to get our minds to link with avatars in the field? Oh riiight, quantum process arrays...

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This is where the neural link is made for you to control an avatar to ride a banshee. Hold on tight.

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Finishing touches are still being made on the landscape.

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Look familiar? Disney's experience takes place long after the movies. But a few rusted remnants of the film remain.

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In this high-tech universe, Disney also boosted its food ordering system. Order ahead on Disney's app and use it to tell the kitchen when you arrive for faster pick-up.

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Drinks can be ordered in a souvenir flute cup. The flute comes off the cup. Kids are going to love playing this when they're waiting in three-hour ride lines.

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The spiny whip, one of the coolest-looking plants.

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A world of blue people needs blue desserts. This creamy blueberry cheesecake was the best thing I ever tasted in the park. (Watch out, Dole Whip.)

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There's a cheeseburger inside that bao bun. Well, a cheeseburger-ish beefy mashup. It's soft and savory. To make it more alien looking, enjoy some boba balls on the side.

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Satu'li Canteen is where the good grub can be found. This once was the main mess hall of the Resources Development Administration (RDA) in the movie "Avatar." It's now run by Alpha Centauri Expeditions and redesigned with colorful Na'vi items. (And yes, you can get Coca-Cola in this star system.)

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The Na'vi may not have a need for traditional restrooms, but we humans do.

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Remember when humans were awful here? May that rust let us never forget.

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Clues to the past are all around. Even in manhole covers.

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You'll never see the place this empty. But I did.

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Merchandising! Here's where you can buy blue Na'vi tails and Na'vi ears, and plush versions of all the Pandoran creatures.

You can even make a custom Na'vi action figure that looks like you. No really, they scan your face. For $75 (£58, AU$101), you can pick it up later that same day. It comes with a cute loin cloth, but you can buy other accessories.

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So many fun details to spot.

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I walked by this near the kitchen. Everything is themed. Every. Thing.

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At night, the landscape shows off its bioluminescence.

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A single computer network controls thousands of fluorescent trees, plants and rocks.

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There's lots to see in a glowing rainforest. Some surprises are right at your feet.

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