With Harry Potter turning Universal Studios Florida into a must-visit destination, Disney World just outside Orlando has found itself in a rare position of catching up.
But that could change in May when Disney’s Animal Kingdom park gets its biggest expansion yet with a world dedicated to James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar.
Disney has developed the Avatar area since 2011, and could benefit from a number of sequels Cameron has planned, with the first expected to invade theaters next year.
Bob Iger, the chief executive of Disney, told Variety that future movies will help push interest in Animal Kingdom. But the park addition itself could be more than enough as a draw, too.
“This is a very big land with an extremely unique design and architecture, because it does make you feel that you’re in Pandora, the great world (James Cameron) created.”
The new are will be known as “The World of Avatar,” and include a water-ride called Na’vi River Journey, named for the aliens featured in the film. The park also will offer a motion simulator flight ride called Avatar Flight of Passage, along with restaurants and shops.
Disneyland Parks in California won’t be forgotten, however. The original theme park in the Disney domain will open a ride based on the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, and then open Star Wars Land at its Hollywood Studios before the end of the decade.
Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 to get ownership of properties like Guardians, and acquired Star Wars owner Lucasfilm in 2012.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida remains the world’s most visited theme park, according to The Theme Park Tourist, with 19.3 million visitors in 2014. Animal Kingdom is ranked seventh with 10.4 million visitors.
Universal Studios Florida is ranked 11th with 2013 attendance at 8.3 million.
Avatar grossed $2.8 billion worldwide, surpassing the previous all-time box office champ Titanic, which had been the previous film directed by Cameron.
When adjusted for inflation, Avatar‘s domestic take equals $832.1 million, according to The Numbers, ranking it fifth since 1977 behind only Star Wars: A New Hope.
Avatar 2 will star Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver. It’s expected to finally reach theaters in time for Christmas 2018, nearly a decade after the original film.
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