I love Disney. I’ve been fortunate to go a handful of times over the years and the magic still hasn’t worn off. More specifically, I’ve been twice since the Avatar-themed Pandora opened in Animal Kingdom. I saw the wait for the Flight of Passage and automatically said “nope” to that. There were already several articles about how amazing the ride is, but I was not swayed.
Y’all. I was wrong. It was completely worth the hype.
First off, let me tell you about how we got there. I knew from previous Disney experience that Animal Kingdom usually opens earlier than the other parks. I also knew that wait times are generally shorter right when the park opens. That’s how I was able to ride the Expedition Everest ride on the other side of the park five times in one day. But that’s another story.
Getting to the park
Since there were no Fast Passes for the ride available by the time we planned the trip, I knew that we’d either have to get there or wait for the two+ hours that the ride generally maintains for a wait time. (For an example, at time of writing this at 11:37 a.m. on a Wednesday, the ride’s wait is 210 minutes)
We get to the park at around 7:35, but it looks like rope drop (the name for the official opening of a park for the day) had already happened because there was no line and everyone was scanning to go in. I, of course, didn’t question this stroke of good luck.
By the time we make the what felt like several mile hike to Pandora with several hundred other people, the line was already pretty impressively long. The Disney Experience app was giving a 90 minute wait time. All of this before the park was officially opened. But by another stroke a luck, one of the cast members told us that the ride was already opened, so I had a bit of faith that the line would go quickly.
I was right. Overall, from getting to the park to leaving the ride, it was just under an hour.
I had already ridden the other ride within Pandora last year, the Na’vi River Journey, so I had some level of expectation with the level of detail Disney went to create this experience. Flight of Passage was no different. There were five different themes within the line.
You start out in the Valley of Mo’ara, which is basically the outside portion of the line. You get to see the detail of the plants and waterfall as you snake your way inside.
Next is a maze of caves. We didn’t spend much time here as the line had started to pick up, but it was still impressive.
Then it’s into what looks like an old bunker that’s been taken over by wildlife. There’s a blending of medal facades and plants. It was kind of pretty.
After that you go into the lab where there’s a “life-size” avatar of the Na’vi, which according to the ride pre-show is what we’d be “linking to” to ride the ride. The detail in here is rich on another level. The lab stations have photos of people and pets, text books, and papers strown in places. The set design makes it look like the scientists were just there and are on lunch.
Right before you get corralled into the lines to board the ride, it looks like you’re in a hangar of some kind, but we didn’t stay long here either.
The ride pre-show begins with a backstory of the what Na’vi are, what banshee are, why humans are in Pandora in the first place since this is taking place a few years after where Avatar left off.
Then, it’s finally time to go into the rooms for the ride.
The only thing I knew about this ride going into it was that I wouldn’t be in a seat like most Disney rides have and that a screen was involved. And that turned out to be pretty true.
When we got into our ride pods, we were met with what essentially look like bikes. You get handed a pair of glasses and you mount the seat like you would any bike. Then, as you wait for the other passengers, your bike is “linking” you with an Avatar. Basically, you get to stare at a really flattering angle of your face from below.
But y’all. When the ride started, I was blown away.
Flight of Passage
If you’ve ever ridden Soarin’ (in Disney’s Epcot) or rides similar to that, you’re familiar with the experience of moving to match a display on a screen, with the addition of wind and scents.
This took it beyond that.
The seat moves under you, like you’re actually on the back of a banshee. The screen takes up your field of vision. The wind makes you feel like you’re in the air and the smells are so vivid – from the green of a forest to the spray of the ocean and even the smell of the earth.
It’s an experience I’ve never had on a ride before – that I was able to forget I was on a ride at all.
It lasted what seemed like a pretty decent amount of time (it’s a five minute ride duration), but I was still a little sad when it was over. We disembarked and everyone in our pod started talking at once.
“Wow. That was intense”
“I can see why people wait for that”
“I’d wait for a few hours for that”
And yeah, I felt the same.
The next time I go to Disney, I need to plan further ahead for a Fast Pass or get to the park super early to get in line.
This has taken over Expedition Everest as my favorite ride at Disney.
The level of detail was unlike anything else Disney has done up to this point.
I would wait several hours to ride this again, if I couldn’t get in early.
I need candles of whatever scents they use for the ocean and cave scenes.