The Imagineers better get their imaginations cranking overtime.
- Potential of 'Avatar' at Disney World debated online
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- Disney to build multiple-attraction 'Avatar' land in Animal Kingdom theme park
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"Avatar" has none of the above.
I saw it once, my daughter saw it twice, and neither of us could name a Na'vi.
We couldn't even tell you if any of the important ones died in that final battle with the evil white capitalists, even though we both darn near cried when Harry held a fatally wounded Dobby.
Avatar has no memorable heroes, no memorable villains, no memorable lines, no memorable twists, not even a memorable musical riff.
It has nobody that kids yearn to be. No Harry, no Hermione, no Luke Skywalker.
It never penetrated the backyards and sidewalks of suburbia, where kids still battle with Pirates of the Caribbean swords and Star Wars light sabers. I didn't see any Na'vi last Halloween.
"Avatar" was eye-popping special effects that carried a plot best summed up as Kevin Costner falling in love with Pocahontas before joining forces with Sitting Bull to kill Gen. Custer at the Battle of Pandora.
We went. We saw. We went "ooooh."
And aside from those who wanted to stay and live with the blue monkeys, most of us forgot.
Harry Potter gave us a delightfully evil Voldemort cooing: "The boy who lived has come to die.''
"Avatar" gave us a stereotypical Col. Quaritch bellowing: "Shut your pie hole!''
This lack of style and substance could be troublesome given that the Na'vi won't be arriving at Disney for five years. This puts Disney in the uncomfortable position of planning a $500 million investment based largely on the success of the two "Avatar" sequels to come.
Universal's challenge with Harry was not fouling up. To accomplish that, it gave us one great ride at Hogwarts, a nice facade of Hogsmeade, two recycled rides from the Lost Continent, a few small and very crowded stores, and a couple mediocre street shows.
And people flocked from around the world because it was Harry, an unparalleled book and movie franchise.
Disney can't count on that kind of loyalty for "Avatar."
Harry came to Universal with limitless merchandising possibilities: Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, personalized wands, robes, hats, ties, monster books, chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott's jelly beans, brooms, bludgers, fluffy owls, and so on and so forth.
But there are no official foods of Pandora. The Na'vi don't accessorize. Their spears are bulky. My daughter sure isn't wearing one of their outfits. And who wants more than one stuffed blue monkey?
The Imagineers have five years to work this all out. I imagine they could crank out a live show with acrobatic blue monkeys, a parade with blue monkeys on stilts, an eye-popping 3-D movie in which no blue monkeys are killed, and a high-tech ride in which the blue monkeys are saved at the end. Wrap it all inside a beautiful Pandora facade, minus the turkey-leg carts.
That would be easy, although I'm not sure how you fit a Tree of Souls into a theme park that already has the Tree of Life. But to make this attraction great will require that Disney give theme park Avatar the characters and storytelling that movie "Avatar" now lacks.
If anyone can pull it off it's Disney. At worst, Animal Kingdom will be a much more interesting theme park, even if alien monkeys are an odd mix with terrestrial gorillas.
And there is one other bonus in this announcement. It should get Universal clearing out wasted space in the Lost Continent for Diagon Alley, and a great new thrill ride based on the Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
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