* First Avatar land coming to Orlando park
* Five-year construction to start in 2013
* Disney sees taking Avatar lands beyond Orlando
(Adds quotes and further detail from news conference)
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, Sept 20 Moviegoers pining for a
return to the lush moon of Pandora in James Cameron's film
"Avatar" will finally get their chance -- first-hand.
Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) is teaming with the Oscar-winning
director and News Corp (NWSA.O) unit Fox Filmed Entertainment,
to mimic the thriving green landscape depicted in the
highest-grossing movie of all time in a section of its Orlando,
Florida, theme park.
Under their agreement, Disney won exclusive global theme
park rights to the "Avatar" franchise. It will begin building
from 2013 and will eventually take Avatar "lands" beyond
Orlando's Disney World.
"Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical
innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park-goers
the chance to see, hear and touch the world of 'Avatar' with an
unprecedented sense of reality," Cameron said in a statement.
At a news conference, Cameron said that when he began talks
with Disney designers, he "quickly realized their vision for
this thing was far beyond what I imagined, and I've got a
pretty good imagination."
The estimated cost for the Orlando project is about $400
million, a source familiar with the matter said. Construction
should take about five years.
Planning is in the early stages, and executives gave few
details on how Disney would recreate the fantasy world of
"Avatar" and the creatures that inhabit it. The section will be
located within Disney's Animal Kingdom park.
"Avatar," the 2009 film that chronicled the struggle of the
alien Na'vi against marauding resource-ravenous humans, grossed
almost $3 billion worldwide and triggered the current
renaissance in 3D-film making. Cameron is planning sequels to
the blockbuster hit, which surpassed his own "Titanic" as the
highest-grossing movie in history.
The first of the "Avatar" sequels is set for release around
Christmas 2014, Cameron said.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the company planned to
bring "Avatar" to other locations beyond the Florida park. "We
think we can clearly leverage the global interest in this
property," Iger said.
The company is deep into several big theme park projects,
including building a new park in Shanghai and adding a 12-acre
section, set to open next year based on the animated "Cars"
films, to its California resort.
Disney typically works with its own movies when developing
themed sections and rides. It does have some attractions based
on films from other studios, including the "Star Wars" and
"Indiana Jones" franchises.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Edwin Chan; Editing by Gunna
Dickson and Tim Dobbyn)