The long-awaited Avatar expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t officially open until May 27, but Pandora previews will begin for select Cast Members, Annual Passholders, and Disney Vacation Club member starting as early as May 2.
Cast Member Pandora Previews
The very first people to experience the new World of Avatar will be Walt Disney World employees, when Cast Member Pandora previews start on May 2. Cast Members and Operating Participant (third party) employees who work at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can pick up the required tickets at the Cast Self Service Center within Pride Rock beginning April 3 for the first round of Pandora previews on May 2-4.
Full-time Florida and Hilton Head-based Cast Members and third-party employees who work outside Disney’s Animal Kingdom can attend Pandora previews on May 5-6 and May 8-12 by signing up between April 5 and 17.
When sign-ups begin, cast members will be asked to choose their day and a 2-hour time block to experience the Pandora preview. Cast Members can sign up for previews for themselves and the number of eligible guests on their Main Entrance Pass. Temporary/Recurring (casual temporary) cast members may also sign up for a preview, but employees without a Main Entrance Pass will only be able to get themselves into the preview.
Annual Passholder Pandora Previews
On March 24, Walt Disney World emailed invitations to Annual Passholders, allowing them to sign up for Pandora previews, to be held between May 13 and 22. Like the Cast Member previews, Annual Passholders were asked to select a 2-hour time slot to visit Pandora, and were able to register for friends and family members linked to their My Disney Experience account. The Annual Passholder previews is scheduled to include both of the new land’s attractions — Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey — along with shopping and dining opportunities, though some areas may not be open and attractions could close at any time.
Unfortunately, all Annual Passholder Pandora preview slots were swiftly filled within hours of the email invitations being sent, and registrations are not transferable. So if you didn’t sign up in time you’ll have to wait for another opportunity, such as…
Disney Vacation Club Member Pandora Previews
Much like Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members can preview Pandora between May 13 and 22 by registering at this website. Space is still currently available, but it’s not enough to simply be a DVC member; you must be staying onsite at Walt Disney World during the previews, and enter your confirmation number in order to RSVP. Also note that the DVC Pandora preview is part of the “Membership Magic” program, so only those who purchased their points direct from Disney Vacation Club (or on the resale marketplace prior to 4/4/2016) may register for the preview.
D23 Pandora Preview
If you can’t wait to visit Pandora but aren’t eligible for any of the above previews, D23 is offering an exclusive opportunity on May 19 to spend an afternoon exploring the new land with Imagineer Joe Rohde. This behind-the-scenes tour will last 3 hours, and includes lunch with Mr. Rohde at Tiffins Restaurant and a parting gift.
Only D23 Gold and Gold Family members may register for the tour, which costs $250 per person (plus $5 processing fee). Separate admission to the park is required, and you must be at least 21 to attend. Tickets are strictly limited; visit this webpage for more information or to register.
Pandora FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours
When all else fails and you must wait until Pandora’s official opening on May 27 to visit, at least you can now make FastPass+ reservations for the land’s signature attractions. FastPass+ reservations are now available for the Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey rides starting on May 27 for guests with onsite Walt Disney World hotel reservations, and will become available for all other guests 30 days before the opening date.
The catch is that, with the opening of Pandora, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is introducing tiered FastPass+ for the first time. That means that guests making their initial three FastPass+ selections can pick either Avatar Flight of Passage OR Na’vi River Journey, but not both; their other 2 reservations can be selected from any of the park’s other attractions, including the Rivers of Light show. After using their initial 3 FastPasses, guests may make same-day reservations for the other Pandora ride, if any are slots still available (which is unlikely in for the near future).
Finally, Disney has also announced that Animal Kingdom will expand its Extra Magic Hours for onsite hotel guests to enjoy Pandora late at night into the early morning. The Pandora area of Animal Kingdom will stay open for hotel guests from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night from May 27 through July 4. In addition, once the land officially debuts, the park’s regular twice-weekly morning Extra Magic Hours will include admission to Pandora from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
For more about Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, watch these preview videos: