Animal Kingdom and Flight of Passage

Disney Reflections

Animal Kingdom opened a few years before my Disney Drought. I was never really interested in it. Mainly because I grew up in Miami where we have a world-class zoo. The Metro Zoo, which is within a 10-minute drive from my parent’s house, was a place we visited frequently. I had seen animals from all over the world all my life. A park like Animal Kingdom, which was still a fraction of the size of my local zoo, didn’t have any appeal. Honestly, it still doesn’t have much of one. This is not to say it has no appeal for anyone. There are so many places in this country and the world that don’t have world class zoos. People don’t have a chance to see animals in habitats. I can see the appeal of doing this at a Disney park and it’s a good thing. It just didn’t have that appeal for my family, especially when our biggest interests were the rides and food.

This made this trip the first time I’d ever been into the park and I wanted to get over there first. There were two reasons. One, I’ve never been and this was a research trip. It was critical for me to be able to see how the park is different. Second, there are some new and insanely popular rides around the Avatar movie.

No, Avatar isn’t a Disney property, but who knows… someday it might be! They licensed the movie to be able to build two rides. One is a river cruise type of ride and the other was an immersive, flying ride. The Flight of Passage ride, the immersive one, was impossible to get fast-passes for and the stand-bye queue could get as long as three hours on busy days. I had been told be EVERYONE I knew to make sure I went on this ride. I was torn.

Here’s a secret: I’ve never seen Avatar.

It never piqued my interest. It was getting so much hype, when it came out, that it turned me off. I didn’t care that everyone seemed to love it. There was nothing to draw me to it. I have no frame of reference to enjoy the ride. It didn’t matter, everyone said, it was fun. It’s like Soarin’ they all told me.

Soarin is a ride that everyone loves… except me. I don’t dislike it, I’m indifferent to it. I don’t get the hype. You’re suspended from the ceiling and are “flown” around the world. It’s a 4D experience and Disney takes it to the next level with smells being pipped in. The smells were the part I liked the best. The ride isn’t thrilling or adorably tied to a movie or character. It just is, but it’s also insanely popular. You wait even when you have a fast-pass.

When I walked into Animal Kingdom on my first afternoon, I looked around, walked over to the Pandora stuff, checked the time for Flight of Passage and the other rides, turned around and went to Hollywood Studios (which you should know I keep calling MGM studios… because I’m a jerk and I remember when it was named MGM). The line for Flight of Passage was over two hours long. I wasn’t going to start my trip with a line.

I tried my best to get a fast pass, but on my last morning there I decided to bite the bullet. It seemed that the shortest wait was at the start of the day. I got up and went right over. The line started before the park even opened and by the time I got in it, there was already a 75-minute wait. It’s a good thing I can turn on the extrovert button and chat with the people around me. The bulk of the line was wrapped through the park. Once you get into the formal queue things move much faster. One thing that holds it up it that people stop to take pictures at spots that I assume means something to Avatar. We were encouraged to move past those who stop. Once you get into the ride, the immersive experience begins with videos and things to look at. There are about three rooms to get through before you are put in the small divisions for the actual ride.

Disney is smart in how they design some of their rides. You have three layers to this. The first is the immersive line. Then you are sent into a small room where the whole premise is explained. Last, you are put in some type of holding space until you can get into the ride proper.

Here’s the extent that Flight of Passage and Soarin are the same: they are both immersive rides. Soarin is a slow immersive ride. My sister, who has a problem with many rides and fast movement, can just tolerate it. She wouldn’t be able to be on Flight of Passage. Its premise is that you are getting an avatar of your own to fly on this Banshee animal. You ride on an individual bike and it has fast movement.

Oh and the seats vibrate. That was my favorite part.

I got off the ride and wanted to go again… if the wait hadn’t been two hours at that point. I can see why this ride is so popular and I think Animal Kingdom needed it. I didn’t stay after, choosing to meet my friends back at Magic Kingdom for lunch. I’m glad I did go on it and will try harder to get a fast pass on future trips. Also, my tip is to get there before the park is open… like 30 minutes. Then you do the long waiting before anything else is open.

Is this a park I want to spend time in? Not really. Even when I watch YouTube videos about people’s experiences with other parts of the park, I don’t feel the excitement. My Disney memories don’t have anything to do with this specific park. Maybe that will change for a future visit, but the international Disney parks come first!

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