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Big summer for Disney parks: Pandora and Guardians of Galaxy

Associated Press logo Associated Press 17/04/2017 By BETH J. HARPAZ, AP Travel Editor

Disney theme parks have a big summer ahead of them with major new attractions opening May 27 based on two movies, one about the Marvel Comics superheroes from "Guardians of the Galaxy" and the other about the lush alien world of Pandora from the James Cameron film "Avatar."

The Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! attraction opens at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California.

Pandora — The World of Avatar is a 12-acre land opening at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

But the creative designer behind the attractions says you don't need to know anything about either movie to enjoy them.

"This is not a revisitation of a plot line of a film you already saw," said Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde at an event Monday in New York City previewing the attractions. "This is your opportunity to go to an amazing world and have adventures of your own. ... The story is about you."

The premise of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride is that the Guardian superheroes have been captured and riders must participate in an adventure with a character called Rocket Raccoon to free them. "It is a prison breakout story," Rohde said. The ride incorporates multiple scenarios for resolving the story line so that riders have a slightly different experience each time they go through it.

Guardians of the Galaxy is located in a redesigned drop tower structure that once housed the Twilight Zone of Terror.

At Pandora, there are two rides plus retail and dining components. Riders on Avatar Flight of Passage fly through the forest on the backs of creatures called banshees to participate in a tribal coming of age ceremony. Riders on the Na'vi River Journey move through the bioluminescent forest on a boat, guided by a mystical singing figure.

Rohde described Pandora as an "obsessively real" environment that "reacts to the change of day on its own." The sounds of creatures in the forest change from day to night, and the Pandoran plants glow by night, Rohde said. Rohde took his team on field trips to Hawaii, Bali and China for design inspiration from real landscapes and cultural touchstones.

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