Avatar: Flight of Passage for Highly Sensitive Kids: a Ride Review and Rating
Are you planning a trip to Disney World and wondering if your highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious kids will enjoy Avatar: Flight of Passage? Or will they be scared and overwhelmed, resulting in meltdowns instead?
Well, you’re in the right place.
Here you’ll find a thorough overview of one of Disney World’s most popular rides—Avatar: Flight of Passage. There are lots of things that could trigger a meltdown in sensitive kids. It could be sudden noises, how loud something is, being in the dark, bright or flashing lights, how fast something is, or “scary” visuals. Sometimes these seemingly minor things (especially piled up throughout the day) can result in sensory overload meltdowns.
If you don’t like spoilers and it’s your first time going to Disney World, STOP READING NOW!
The reason for creating these ride reviews and ratings in the first place is to make sure there are NO surprises. We want you to feel fully prepared and aware of what you’re getting yourself into. But continue on if you’d like all the details about Avatar: Flight of Passage, and want to find out whether or not it would be a scary ride for your sensitive or anxious kids.
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Avatar: Flight of Passage Ride Info
Avatar: Flight of Passage is a ride from the Pandora section of Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. In Disney abbreviations, it is often referred to as FoP.
It is a 3D flying simulator attraction, which allows guests to feel like they are riding on the back of a mountain banshee. This exhilarating flight gives you a birds-eye view of the breathtaking landscapes of Pandora. The ride itself is about 5 minutes long, but it has pretty extensive pre-shows before you even get into the ride chamber.
You must be at least 44” tall to ride. For reference, my 5 year old is tall enough to ride this (although he chose not to… you can find out more in the review below).
Flight of Passage first opened on May 27, 2017. Since then, it has been one of the most popular rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you ever go to Animal Kingdom for rope drop, you’ll often see people bolting towards Flight of Passage.
Rope Drop:Disney terminology for getting to park before opening so you can get on some of the headliner rides before significant lines form
While it may be a popular ride at Animal Kingdom, or frankly in ALL of Disney World, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Flight of Passage will be enjoyable for highly sensitive or sensory sensitive kids. Let’s break it down and figure out if this ride will be too overwhelming or scary for your kids.
Sudden Noises 3/5
Sudden noises can easily startle highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious kids. And there are really so many Disney rides with sudden noises. We gave Avatar: Flight of Passage a 3 out of 5 rating in this area.
During one of the pre-shows, there is a “decontamination process” where sudden bursts of air are blasted on top of your heads. This sound could be scary and startling for some.
Another part where you experience sudden noises on Avatar: Flight of Passage is when you are actually in the ride chamber and sitting on the ride vehicle. There is air loudly blasted on your face while you are getting “linked” to your avatar. It shoots up directly from the front of your ride vehicle. Again, the sudden noise AND the unexpected feeling of air on your face could trigger a meltdown in kids who do not enjoy these sensations.
While you are “in flight” on your banshee, there are a few instances of sudden noises. As you fly above the water, there are some sounds of splashing. Noises from different creatures of Pandora that pop up also add to your overall auditory stimulation.
So yes, there are some examples of sudden noises throughout Avatar: Flight of Passage. BUT I would say that it isn’t quite as sudden, surprising, or unexpected as some other Disney World rides. I would even say that Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot is worse in the “sudden noise” department when comparing the two.
Noise Level 4/5
Let’s face it, Disney World is loud. It’s not the place to go for a quiet or peaceful vacation, am I right? And most rides and attractions also seem to have their volume level cranked up real high.
Avatar: Flight of Passage is no exception. The sound effects that you hear throughout the ride are quite loud. There is also music in the background throughout that is mostly instrumental. The soundtrack goes along with the experience really well, but it is definitely nonstop auditory input.
While the noise level is high, it is mostly pleasant. The music has a grand and ethereal quality especially closer to the end of the ride. There is one section that is very quiet where it feels like you’ve gone underground, and everything is very still. But other than that, the noise level throughout is a lot. This is why it is given a 4 out of 5 rating.
Fear of darkness is pretty common among kids in general. But I feel like it can be amplified in highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious ones.
Avatar: Flight of Passage is rated quite high in this area at 4 out of 5. No, it’s not Space Mountain-level-pitch-black dark throughout. But it’s dark enough to possibly feel overwhelming for some kids.
First of all, parts of the queue are really dark. There are sections of the queue that are supposed to be like caverns inside the mountain. And the “research center” is somewhat dark as well since its indoors and not brightly lit.
As mentioned earlier, Avatar: Flight of Passage has some pretty extensive pre-shows. One of them involves getting scanned and matched to your Na’vi avatar, and it’s also very dark during that process. When entering the ride chamber and getting on your ride vehicle, it is quite dark as well.
However, once the ride itself actually starts, it’s pretty brightly lit. The high-definition 3D video projected onto a giant screen immerses you into the world of Pandora and is bright enough for you to see and experience all the amazing details of this land.
There is one part of the ride where it does get darker again when it feels like you’ve gone underground. It gets quiet, very dark, with what looks like floating jellyfish (if it’s a different kind of creature, let me know in the comments!), and the scene becomes very still. But this only lasts a short while before things start glowing and more action takes place.
Bright & Flashing Lights 5/5
For those sensitive to visual stimulation, especially the effect of lights, Avatar: Flight of Passage may be a tough one. Once you are seated on the ride vehicle and have your 3D glasses on, you see a series of flashing strobe-like lights in front of you before you are “transported” to Pandora.
The same effect happens at the end of the ride when you “return” from Pandora. I think it’s the transition from being in complete darkness to sudden flashing bright lights that could be bothersome to sensitive eyes.
While this is only a small snippet of the ride, it’s noticeably significant enough to warrant a 5 out of 5 rating for us.
Avatar: Flight of Passage is simulator ride so you’re not ACTUALLY moving fast at all. This isn’t going to be anything like the speed of Rock ’n’ Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios or Test Track at Epcot.
However, the Imagineers who designed this ride used many tricks to give you the sensation of speed. The feeling of wind blowing on your face makes you feel like you are swooping and soaring really fast as you ride your own banshee. The platform where all the ride vehicles sit on also tilts you backwards to simulate the sense of increasing speed or flying higher.
So, while you’re not physically moving fast, your brain definitely thinks that you are.
Some highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, or anxious kids may be sensitive to vestibular input. That’s fancy talk for how our bodies process movement and balance. So if you’ve noticed that car rides, swings, and slides have been a struggle for your little one, they are probably more likely to feel overwhelmed with drops and unexpected movements on rides at Disney World.
During Avatar: Flight of Passage, you experience sudden drops when “flying” downwards quickly. There are two major drops during the ride, and tons of twisting and turning. There are many instances of feeling like you’re dodging various obstacles. As mentioned before, Avatar: Flight of Passage is a simulator ride, so you are not actually physically dropping. The platform with all the ride vehicles is tilted forward instead to simulate falling.
The dropping sensation is obviously not as intense as the 39mph drop on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios or the 52ft drop on Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom. But those with motion sensitivity may still be scared or become nauseous by the simulated drops on this ride.
“Scary” Visuals 2/5
What is scary to one child is not always scary to another, so this is very subjective. I have found that highly sensitive or anxious kids can have a hard time with images of intense conflict, violence, and villains.
When it comes to scary visuals on Avatar: Flight of Passage, it isn’t too bad for the most part. In the queue, you get to see various experiments going on in the lab. The most memorable is a floating Na’vi in a giant tank, which occasionally twitches and moves in an incredibly realistic way. This could come across as scary or creepy to some sensitive kids.
During the ride itself, there are a couple of instances that could be visually frightening to sensitive kids. A whale suddenly jumps out of the ocean at one point, which can be a little startling. Whales are actually scary to my son and he hated the whale scene in Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot. He watched a Youtube video of Avatar: Flight of Passage and immediately decided that he was NOT going to go on it after seeing the whale.
There is another part where it looks like you’re almost getting caught in a big tidal wave. It’s not overtly scary, but could feel that way for sensitive kids. At one point of the ride, the banshee you’re riding is attacked by another banshee. This then results in sudden twists and turns to escape. This could be visually overwhelming and scary for some as well.
As this is a 3D simulator ride, 3D glasses are worn during the ride. Wearing the glasses on the ride makes all the visual aspects pop out at you more. I’ve found that sometimes my kids have preferred to not to wear the 3D glasses provided on rides like this because it makes the experience a little less overstimulating.
Proximity to Others 3/5
Being in crowded areas can be overwhelming for highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, and anxious kids. In some ways, Avatar: Flight of Passage is not the best for those who don’t like to be in close proximity to others. The two pre-shows are in small confined rooms with 16 people standing close to one another.
If you can make it through the pre-shows, the ride vehicle itself is not at all physically close to others. Each ride vehicle is for one individual, and you sit on it as you would on a motorcycle or bicycle. This is great for those who might not like sitting too close to others. However, this can be of concern for some parents who might want to sit close to nervous little ones to reassure and comfort them if needed.
Another thing to note about the ride vehicle is the type of restraint used. It pushes against your lower back so that your chest is firmly pressed into the chest pad. There is also a mechanism that pushes against your calves/legs. This sensation of being “locked in” to your seat could be scary for those who feel claustrophobic easily.
Strong Smells 4/5
Disney is known for making their theme parks more immersive by using ALL senses, including smell! Smells, even seemingly pleasant ones, can be bothersome to highly sensitive or sensory sensitive kids. Avatar: Flight of Passage has lots of smells throughout the ride, but nothing actually stinky. However, I am well aware that there are people who get headaches or feel nauseous with any kind of strong fragrances. Because of this, Avatar: Flight of Passage gets a 4 out of 5 rating.
The sensation of getting unexpectedly wet on rides can definitely cause meltdowns in highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, or anxious kids. While Avatar: Flight of Passage is not like any typical wet ride like Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom or Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom, you do get sprayed a little bit. There is a scene where you fly through a large wave, and THIS is where you will experience a mist of water. You won’t be soaking wet by any means, but it is possible to be a little bit startled by this if you weren’t expecting it.
How do we understand the rating? A lower score means less sensory overload, while a higher score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. This is helpful when deciding which rides might cause sensory overload meltdowns for our highly sensitive kids.
Clearly, there is a LOT of sensory input on Avatar: Flight of Passage. This is part of why so many rave about the immersive nature of the ride. But it can definitely be too much for some sensitive or anxious kids. I’ve heard of this ride being referred to as “Soarin’ on steroids”, and I feel like that’s an accurate description. If your kids have ridden Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot and hated it (that’s my son!), then there is probably a good chance they won’t like this ride either.
The biggest challenges are probably the noise level, being in dark and enclosed areas, the flashing lights, and all the simulated movements. The unique ride vehicle with the special restraints may feel uncomfortable or scary for some kids as well.
But this ride is popular for a reason. Despite the sensory overload, the theming of the entire ride and getting to enjoy the beauty of Pandora is magical. It is thrilling, yet peaceful at the same time, and the details throughout are like none other. The sensation of flying, while scary for some, also feels freeing and so fun for others. It is personally one of my favorite rides in all of Disney World! Even if my kids may disagree with me 😉
What has YOUR experience been on Avatar: Flight of Passage? Do you love it or hate it? If you haven’t been on it yet, will you be including it on your itinerary during your visit to Animal Kingdom?
If you need extra support and community from other parents of sensitive or anxious kids going to Disney, I encourage you to join my private Facebook group!
You can ask all your questions and get feedback from a wonderful group of Disney-loving parents who are also looking to minimize the meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney World vacation.
And follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to get updates on my latest content.
Lastly, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planner tool! Use it so you can easily keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier! It is an editable and fillable PDF file, but there is an option to print a blank copy so you can fill it out by hand.