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Disney World gives sneak peeks on Avatar, Star Tours update

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Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts revealed a peek behind the curtain with construction updates on Pandora-The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom and Star Tours-The Adventure Continues at Hollywood Studios.

The tease by WDW Chairman Bob Chapek came just days after SeaWorld announced major additions to three of its theme parks and two weeks after Universal Orlando unveiled plans for a new water park. The announcements were made Saturday at a fan event called D23: Destination D.

The attraction race is on at Orlando’s theme park mecca.

Both of Disney’s new lands are banking on the success of their movies. “Avatar,” is the top-grossing film in history, with worldwide receipts of almost $2.8 billion and the 11 Star Wars movies have pulled in $21 billion.

Disney’s update included a look at Pandora’s entry bridge, which will lead visitors to the base camp of Alpha Centauri Expeditions, the eco-tour group for future explorers. The new attraction will include the Na’vi River Journey, a ride down a river in a bioluminescent rainforest and the Avatar Flight of Passage excursion on a banshee over the world of Pandora.

The attraction is slated to open next year.

Chapek also shared a new adventure to the Star Tours – the Adventures Continue attraction. He said teams from Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm are working together to add a new mission to the attraction based on elements from “Star Wars Episode VIII.”

Without releasing details, Chapek hinted that Imagineers will transform EPCOT to become “more Disney, timeless, relevant and family-friendly,” while staying faithful to Walt Disney’s original vision of an edutainment park. Fans who attended the conference also received the next generation of the MagicBand, which will be released at the end of the year.

The two-day D23 event, open to members of the Disney Fan Club, at Disney’s Contemporary Resort ends today (Sunday).

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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