Although the Pandora: World of Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened way back in 2017, the popularity of its Avatar ride has not diminished. But is Avatar Flight of Passage scary? Well, we’re going to dissect this ride in today’s article so you can become keenly aware of what this ride is and just how scary or intense it might be.
How Scary is Avatar Flight of Passage?
To get right to it, Avatar Flight of Passage has some scary moments. The main “fear triggers” (or things you will likely be concerned about) in the ride are related to heights and motion. With that said, this ride is intended to be fun, not scary or intense, so don’t harbor any fear that this is an attraction meant to frighten you.
Let’s dive a bit deeper.
Avatar Flight of Passage Height and Motion
Avatar Flight of Passage is a 3-D flight simulator with multi-axis movement. In this ride you will be sitting on the back of a banshee (imagine a small dragon) and flying through the Valley of Mo’ara. Your banshee travels through a variety of physical environments that are found on Pandora, such as rivers, caves, the ocean, and even a trip underground.
If you’ve done either of the Soarin’ rides (Soarin’ Over the World or Soarin’ Over California), envision those but with the addition of Star Tours movements and 3-D glasses. You will feel simulated drops (but no actual drop; you will just be tilted forward), fast accelerations (tilted backwards), and a simulated upside-down loop (the ride itself does NOT go upside down.)
If you have severe motion sickness or an extreme fear of heights, then this ride may not be for you. I would recommend having someone you trust and who knows your specific responses go on the ride before you and let them help you make your final decision.
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There are three different times where you come face-to-face with something scary or startling. Without giving too much away, at one point you trying to escape from a scary creature. Some kids will find it slightly startling, while others may be terrified.
I would base your decision on how the kids usually recover from being scared. If they dwell on something scary for months and end up with nightmares, this ride might be too much.
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Best Age for Avatar Flight of Passage?
To ride Avatar Flight of Passage, guests need to be 44 inches tall (3 feet 8 inches). This would generally be between a very tall four year old, or a smaller seven year old. The kids who seem to struggle the most are between 5 and 7. This is a high-intensity ride, but also a fun ride.
My own children (ages 5 and 6 when they rode it) were scared as they finished the ride. They both said they didn’t want to do it again. 20 minutes later they were begging for another go. They have since rode Avatar Flight of Passage multiple times. They have also acted as pseudo “ride ambassadors” to other kids who were worried about being scared.
It is important to note that a companion will be unable to comfort a child during the ride. I was able to put my hand over my 5 year-old son’s hand to remind him that I was there, but the configuration of the ride does not allow for any additional contact.
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Is Avatar Flight of Passage Scary?
I want to highlight the fact that all of these potentially scary moments make sense within the overall experience. There is nothing gratuitous about the scary parts; they are not there simply for the “boo” factor. They are authentic to the activity in which you are participating. The biggest concern will be regarding motion sickness, and those who may be unable to manage the emotions involved in scary, yet short, experiences.
So to answer the initial question: Is Disney’s Avatar Flight of Passage Scary?
For many Walt Disney World guests, the answer will be yes. Kids especially in the 5-7 range may find it scary, as well as those who are sensitive to sensory input.
But there’s another question that is nearly as important. If it’s going to be scary, is this ride worth it?
The answer to that question is also yes. An emphatic, absolutely-please-don’t-miss-this-experience YES.
Let’s now dive into what this ride is about and what you can expect once you’re on it.
Avatar Flight of Passage Theming and Premise
While this ride is based on the original 2009 movie “Avatar,” having seen the movie is not a prerequisite for fully enjoying the ride. The pre-ride information will give you plenty of back story. To reach Avatar Flight of Passage you will walk through “Pandora: World of Avatar,” the newest Animal Kingdom land that opened in 2017.
Pandora is the name of the planet from the movie. It is a lush, exotic paradise with huge floating islands, phosphorescent foliage, and one-of-a-kind animal life. Due to the phosphorescent plant life, you will need to visit Pandora at least twice: Once during the day to see the details, and again after dark to see the land in a completely new “light.” The evening effects change to black light. The black light illuminates all of the glowing plants in an eerie-yet-gorgeous scene. This site has an excellent collection of pictures.
In the movie “Avatar,” the main character merges his mind with one of the native inhabitants of Pandora, the Nav’i. In Avatar Flight of Passage, the premise is the same. Through the use of some amazing technology, you will be matched to a Nav’i host and experience the world through their eyes.
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Avatar Flight of Passage Queue
If you have not yet seen Pandora at night you will have a brief opportunity while waiting in line. During the queue you will be introduced to the different landscapes of Pandora before entering the lab of a research station. Make sure to check out the ongoing “experiments” in the lab; various alien creatures are housed within the tanks.
Note: There are drinking fountains and restrooms about halfway through the queue, just before you enter the black-light area.
Once you come around the experiment tanks you will see a Nav’i suspended in a holding tank. I honestly don’t remember much of the movie, but I do know that this body does not represent a dead Nav’i! But this could be a point of concern and/or fear for some young riders.
You will then be sorted into your ride groups and introduced to the ride premise via video by one of the lab technicians and the director of the program. They will explain how you will be matched with a Nav’i avatar and walk you through the ride. During this part, you will see video of one of the creatures that may trigger a Scary Encounter response. If seeing the creature on this screen causes extreme fear in a party member, this will be your opportunity to exit. The Disney Cast Member will describe the ride and invite people to leave if they wish.
Note: The queue as described above is only experienced if you wait in the actual line. If you access the ride through any of the alternate waits (Individual Lightning Lane, Disability Access Service, or the Rider Switch Service), you will unfortunately miss all of these details. If time allows, I do recommend waiting in the actual line at least once.
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Avatar Flight of Passage Ride Mechanics
Avatar Flight of Passage uses individual seating for this experience. You will be led into a room with a line of motorcycle-like chairs. Sit on it like a bicycle and restraints will come up behind your calves and your lower back. This part can be startling, as your chest is firmly pressed into the chest pad.
On one of our rides, my daughter found herself uncomfortably squished between the back and chest pads. It may be difficult for a child to recognize the difference between “safely restrained” and “too squished.” They should be able to take a deep breath, but not move their body up or down.
Once the restraints are up, the pre-ride information will continue on the screen below your chin (you will also be treated to some less-than-flattering neck views of yourself!). As the computer “matches” you to your Nav’i avatar, you will feel some vibrating and buzzing across your chest. Once you are connected to your avatar, you will launch into the soaring expanse of the Valley of Mo’ara!
If I had one complaint about this ride, it would be about the 3-D glasses. They somehow managed to have only a small sliver of effective 3-D viewing. Take the first few moments of the ride to orient yourself to the environment of the ride, as well as find the clearest part of your glasses. This will be familiar to those who have worn progressive bifocals. I have found the clearest part to be a half-inch down from the top of the frames.
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Avatar Flight of Passage Speed & Drops
After an initial moment to orient yourself, you are immediately launched into flight. The floor drops away and you tilt forward to simulate your banshee diving down from a high perch. This is my favorite part–after countless rides I still find myself whooping with glee! The engineers of this ride managed to make this a simultaneously thrilling-yet-safe experience.
The speed and drop effects are all managed through the multi-axis movement of your ride chair. The heavy gravity effect when flying up or increasing speed is caused by your chair tilting backwards, and you are tilted down during dives to simulate the feeling of falling.
A note about drops: I absolutely abhor falling. I hate the end of Splash Mountain. And the drop in Pirates of the Caribbean causes me to practice careful breathing and just-get-it-over-with patience. So trust me when I say that the “falling” effect in Avatar Flight of Passage is absolutely okay. The dropping sensation caused by tilting forward does not trigger the stomach-flopping feeling that happens during an actual drop.
For much of this review I have focused on the level of scary from the perspective of smaller children. Avatar Flight of Passage will be scary for many kids under 10. But with careful preparation and explanation, you can prepare the kids to be scared, but then recover and go back – again and again.
But what about adults? Is Avatar Flight of Passage Scary for adults? I am going to measure it using my personal “Scary Scale.” This scale would rate It’s a Small World and the Gran Fiesta Tour in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion as a “1.” No speed, no drops, no scary encounters.
A “10” on this scale would be Tower of Terror. As mentioned above, I hate drops. I will confess that I have never actually ridden Tower of Terror. Nope. Not gonna do it. (On a recent trip my mom thought I was joking. She was quite surprised when I left her at the ride entrance and made her ride it alone!) For rides I have ridden, I would put Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster as a “9.5” I was ready for it to be over as soon as the body restraints came down.
To further calibrate my “Scary Scale,” I will rank Space Mountain as a 7 and Big Thunder Mountain as a 5. I generally don’t ride Space Mountain anymore, and Big Thunder Mountain gives me happy thrills and I will ride it multiple times.
So where does Avatar Flight of Passage rank on my personal “Scary Scale?”
I would rank Avatar Flight of Passage as a “4.” There are multiple thrilling moments, but nothing that gets old, even after dozens of rides (by the way, one of the benefits to visiting Walt Disney World during 2020 and 2021 was the opportunity to ride Avatar Flight of Passage seven times in a row…on multiple days!).
This is the only ride at Walt Disney World that I would happily wait in a two-hour line – and despite the paragraph above, I have waited that long! Many people like to compare Avatar Flight of Passage with Rise of the Resistance. Personally, there is no comparison. I would not wait two hours for Rise of the Resistance. But I am also not a die-hard Star Wars fan, even though I do think that ride is fantastic.
So ultimately, whether or not this ride is scary will come down to the individual preferences of your group. I hope you have been able to make that determination based on this article. If you are on the fence about this ride, I would highly suggest that you just take the plunge. This ride is breathtaking and worth the wait.
10 out of 10, would ride again!
This article was written by Shelley and edited by Michael.
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