Giving form to fantasy takes more than fairy dust and magic. It requires skill, creativity, innovation and a whole lot of hard work. When Disney designers began working on Disney World’s new Pandora – World of Avatar attraction, they enlisted the services of amaZulu, Inc. to source specific materials. Once Disney saw the results that amaZulu, Inc. could produce, they didn’t hesitate to ask for more. In fact, visitors to the Pandora – World of Avatar in Orlando, Florida, will see the Clermont company’s work scattered throughout the attraction.
A Task That’s Out of This World
In the movie “Avatar,” the Na’vi are aliens who are noticeably larger and stronger than humans, so crafting items that fit the scale of their world was a really tall order. “Disney was looking for incredibly intricate woven totems, pieces that no machine could make,” explains Claire Evans, amaZulu, Inc.’s founder and president. “Whether it was a woven basket or a ceremonial totem measuring 20 feet by 16 feet, each piece needed to tell a story. Some pieces had to appear as if it had been created by a Na’vi artisan with large hands.”
While amaZulu, Inc. is a building materials supplier that regularly imports natural and synthetic materials from around the globe, Disney was asking for something completely new. It’s the kind of challenge that the team at amaZulu, Inc. thrives on. After receiving the desired designs and color palette from Disney, the company immediately located skilled artisans in a factory overseas and arranged for them to complete the weaving. The result was hundreds of brand new one –off, unique products. “Initially, we were asked just to weave the totems. Then it branched into pieces around the park, in the ride, scattered through the trees, along the bridges, in the restaurant and throughout the merchandise store. These artisan pieces are truly artwork,” says Evans.
In addition to the woven products created for Pandora – World of Avatar, amaZulu, Inc. also delivered thatched roofing materials for some outdoor structures throughout the attraction. While the company often provides this type of product, this particular order called for thatch that would bunch up when heat was applied to create a striking texture while still appearing entirely natural. amaZulu, Inc. also provided synthetic bamboo poles that were laced into the thatch to add to the natural look.
Overcoming Obstacles as a Team
As with anything new, there were hurdles that had to be overcome. For starters, there was a 12-hour time difference between the offices of amaZulu, Inc. and the factory manufacturing the materials. Fortunately, flexible employees and the constant use of Skype, emails and other communication apps, everyone was able to keep in touch with the countless details involved in a project of this complexity and scope doable.
Another issue involved the materials. While the exterior products could be woven in synthetics, anything destined for an interior space needed to be crafted from materials that complied with Disney’s fire codes. Managing this trick met switching to natural materials and treating them with a fire retardant, so the factory tracked down a farmer who was eager to rid his canals of water hyacinth. The dried hyacinth was treated, dyed to the desired colors and used to create the products for the interior packages.
The switch from synthetic to natural materials created yet another concern. While synthetics can spend six to eight weeks crossing the ocean without trouble, natural materials absorb moisture, setting the stage for the growth of mold. To solve this problem, amaZulu, Inc. used refrigerated containers to control humidity and prevent mold during shipping. The most delicate pieces were meticulously packed in wooden crates and air-freighted directly to the work site.
amaZulu, Inc. considers their work on the attraction a resounding success. Why? “The customer is delighted! That’s the result that matters,” says Evans. “Everyone who worked on the project from Villager to Imagineer had a great can-do attitude. It was a pleasure working so closely with them.”
While the Na’vi are known for their distinctive blue hue, amaZulu, Inc.’s contribution to this project was decidedly green. The company routinely sources a wide range of USDA-approved, rapidly renewable and eco-friendly products, and everything that it provided for the Pandora – World of Avatar attraction is recyclable, making their contributions to this amusement park construction project innovative, practical and environmentally friendly. “All the materials can be recycled whenever Disney chooses. Nothing has to go to a landfill, but hopefully, we will see them a long time to come,” says Evans.
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The amaZulu, Inc. team delights in helping to transform dreams into reality by providing products and materials that are sustainable, resource responsible and sourced directly from vendors and artisans in countries from all corners of the globe. We are honored to be listed as one of the top global theme park material suppliers.
amaZulu often works with architects, general contractors, engineers and designers to find the ideal materials for use in everything from theme parks and zoos to resorts, restaurants and hotels to residential developments and luxury homes.
Call us today at 877-243-5309 and speak to one of our design consultants. Let us help you create your vision.Tags: building materials supplier, Pandora - World of Avatar, theme park attractions
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