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OK, a show of hands out there - who saw this coming? Announced today by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs, Disney is entering into a licensing agreement with James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox to bring Cameron's blockbuster film Avatar as a fully conceptualized "land" in Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom park. This announcement stunned the Disney community and now some 12 hours later, discussion forums are still buzzing with most of the die-hard Disney fans finding it hard to explain this move. Of course there are the usual Disney apologists ("please Disney, don't take away my press credentials") backing the company as something big that needed to be done for AK. These would also be the same people that if this were suggested by some forum poster they would turn around crucify him or her for being some kind of lunatic.
No, Disney had to do something big in Florida after getting kicked in the behind all summer by that snot nosed Harry Potter character over at Universal. "Tom, what can we do to beat down that punk Harry Potter?" "How about Avatar, boss? That movie was huge at the box office and they have more of them in the pipeline." "Excellent idea, get that pain in the rear egomaniac Cameron on the phone and let's see what we can do."
Real Disney fans who do not go the apologist route are a bit smarter than the smartest guys in the room give them credit for. Avatar has nothing to do with Disney, it's history or it's legacy. Avatar isn't even an established franchise as Star Wars and Indiana Jones were when Disney brought them aboard. This is a chance at a money grab, to capitalize and market on what they are expecting to be huge opportunities.
The complaint line formed hours ago. Maybe Disney will listen. I can only be happy that this half-baked idea is going down in Florida. I phoned my wife this afternoon and told her that they were building an Avatarland in Animal Kingdom. Her response? "Avatar! The movie? That isn't Disney. How bizarre". That pretty much sums it up.