Soon enough, Pandora will be closer than you ever thought possible. James Cameron, Oscar-winning director and visual-effects pioneer, has struck a deal with Fox Filmed Entertainment and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide, to bring versions of Pandora -- the lush, alien environment imagined by Cameron for his 3D epic Avatar -- to Disney theme parks around the world.

According to a release, the first Avatar-themed park exhibit will be set up in Disney’s Orlando-based Animal Kingdom. Construction should begin by 2013.

Avatar created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we’ll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before,” Cameron said in the statement. “With two new Avatar films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore. I’m chomping at the bit to start work with Disney’s legendary Imagineers to bring our Avatar universe to life. 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.”

If another filmmaker made similar statements, I’d roll my eyes. But Cameron’s pretty much the only whiz kid with the clout (and bank account) to back those words up. While Disney and Universal theme parks in Orlando and Los Angeles have had longstanding relationships with major Hollywood properties, the marriage of Avatar and Disney’s park system makes perfect sense. Fans no doubt will flock to the experience, as they did with Universal’s recent Harry Potter park. Yet with Avatar, the exhibit will have the chance to expand in coming years as Cameron develops the original worlds through the announced sequels. I trust Cameron to get this right. It’s too bad it will take so long, however, to see what he comes up with.

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