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A behind-the-scenes look at the artistic process involved in bringing to life Walt Disney World Resort’s latest land, Animal Kingdom’s Pandora — The World of Avatar

Frederic Church. Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It may come as a surprise to some that stylistic quotations of each of these masters, among others, are alive and well in Walt Disney World Resort’s latest land, Animal Kingdom’s Pandora — The World of Avatar.

Art history is key when creating a land like Pandora in a theme park that is stylistically realistic and not fantasy — one that focuses on animals, wildlife conservation and the environment.

Although based on James Cameron’s blockbuster sci-fi Avatar, Disney’s fictional eco-centric land is conflict-free, emphasizing the immersive experience of Pandora’s Valley of Mo’ara and its two rides: Avatar Flight of Passage, a 3-D simulated ride on the back of a banshee, and the Na’vi River Journey, a “dark” ride that takes guests through Pandora’s exotic biolumi-nescent rainforest populated by majestic creatures.

“The world of art history becomes the artists’ refer-ence library for approaching key design problems that arise when creating an imaginary land like this,” explains Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “Using these references as a shorthand, I can say to the team, ‘Let’s go this way,’ and then they immediately get it.

”As a result, you can sense these artists at work throughout the land, from concept to reality. The Romantic, Luminist style of Church is immediately recognizable in Pandora’s expansive-yet-detailed landscape elements and the emphasis on sublime lighting. When looking up and through the land’s floating mountains, the layers of space are a nod to Piranesi. The sensation of movement captured by the likes of Baroque sculptor and architect Bernini helps artists make inert materials, such as concrete and steel, come to life. Take the vines hanging off the floating mountains. Not only do they cleverly disguise the steel structures that hold up the mountains, they further enhance the natural environment.