While the latest expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not officially open until later this month, select groups including cast members and annual passholders have already gotten a sneak preview of Pandora- The World of AVATAR. Inspired on the setting of the James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “AVATAR,” the elaborate new land is based around an ecotourism destination run by “Alpha Centauri Expeditions” on the moon of Pandora many years after the events seen in the movie. However, “A.C.E.” is not the first group to set up camp in this corner of Walt Disney World’s wildest theme park. From the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998 until construction began on Pandora in 2014, this area of the park was home to Camp Minnie-Mickey.
Themed to look like an Adirondack retreat for Mickey Mouse and friends, Camp Minnie-Mickey was home to several entertainment offering and meet and greets based around classic Disney characters, most notably the original home of “Festival of the Lion King.” The ultimate closure of this woodland area was inevitable from the beginning as it was designed only as a placeholder for Beastly Kingdom, an area based around celebrating mythical creatures such as dragons. While it turned out to be the dragon-like Banshees that ended up taking over that real estate instead, the end result was the same. Fortunately, some of Camp Minnie-Mickey’s offerings, including the previously mentioned “Festival of the Lion King” and character greeting opportunities with Mickey, Minnie, and some of their friends, were able to be relocated to other locations within the park, but some of its smaller details were not.
Among the most charming decorations in Camp Minnie-Mickey were the various statues of Disney characters partaking in some of the camp’s recreational activities. Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto, for example, could be seen from the bridge leading to “Festival of the Lion King” and the “Character Greeting Trails” enjoying a relaxing day of fishing at the little creek that ran under it. Another statue depicting Donald Duck fishing was visible on the other side of the bridge while Daisy led Huey, Dewey, and Louie on a nature hike closer to the land’s entrance. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the amazing vistas and otherworldly creatures of Pandora- The World of AVATAR are certainly more elaborate than what came before, but many Disney fans who visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom in its early years will no doubt continue to think back fondly on the simple pleasures of Camp Minnie-Mickey.