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Big summer for Disney parks: Pandora and Guardians of Galaxy

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/17/2017 By BETH J. HARPAZ, AP Travel Editor
This photo provided by Disney shows guests in the "Na'vi River Journey," part of the new land opening at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on May 27, 2017, called "Pandora - The World of Avatar." The land was inspired by the lush world of Pandora depicted in the movie "Avatar." (Disney via AP) © The Associated Press This photo provided by Disney shows guests in the "Na'vi River Journey," part of the new land opening at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on May 27, 2017, called "Pandora - The World of Avatar." The land was inspired by the lush world of Pandora depicted in the movie "Avatar." (Disney via AP)

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."

This photo provided by Disney shows a new land opening at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on May 27, 2017, called "Pandora - The World of Avatar." The land was inspired by the lush world of Pandora depicted in the movie "Avatar." (Kent Phillips/Disney via AP) © The Associated Press This photo provided by Disney shows a new land opening at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on May 27, 2017, called "Pandora - The World of Avatar." The land was inspired by the lush world of Pandora depicted in the movie "Avatar." (Kent Phillips/Disney via AP)

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

This artist concept rendering provided by Disneyland Resort shows characters from a new ride debuting at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., May 27, 2017, called Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! The ride was inspired by the "Guardians of the Galaxy" film. ( via AP) © The Associated Press This artist concept rendering provided by Disneyland Resort shows characters from a new ride debuting at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., May 27, 2017, called Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! The ride was inspired by the "Guardians of the Galaxy" film. ( via AP)

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 insects during the day give way to the sounds of frogs in the evening, and "every single plant glows by night," he 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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