If you saw this enormous mechanical beast clanking toward you, a human being caged at its center, your first thought probably wouldn’t be that this nice creature was going to tell you about the strange plants that grow on Pandora. You might even turn and run.
The last time you saw something like it, it was probably a combat suit designed for missions of destruction in the movie “Avatar” and something of an inspiration for this steampunk contraption at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
But this new battle-scarred beast, which weighs more than four tons, is in fact benevolent.
It is a Pandora Utility Suit and the man or woman at its heart is its pilot, not its captive. The suit was designed to collect plant samples, study flora and survive Pandora’s wild terrain. The pilot, who sits 10 feet high, controls its movements, including its articulated hands.
If you encounter the suit at Animal Kingdom, the operator will tell you about the landscape of Pandora: The World of Avatar and highlight the importance of preserving nature. The educational encounter will be the closest activity Pandora has to a traditional Disney character meet-and-greet.
The suit will debut on Sunday , which is Earth Day and the 20th anniversary of Animal Kingdom, Disney World’s youngest park.
Disney has planned other activities to mark the park’s anniversary, including a two-week long Party for the Planet; a new show, “UP! A Great Bird Adventure” featuring Russell and Dug from the animated film “Up”; backstage experiences with animal experts; a dinosaur-themed party celebrating Donald Duck’s discovery that his bird ancestors were actually dinosaurs; and other events.