While director James Cameron gets together three Avatar sequels, it’s a good time to take a look back at the origins of the world of Pandora, and the inspiration for its native people, the Na’vi. Considering that the highest grossing movie of all-time is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mythology of Pandora, Cameron better have a vivid imagination to mine four movies from a single idea. Apparently, Cameron first had this idea back in 1976, when he was working as a poster painter for a low budget movie studio.
According to Movies.com, Cameron worked various industry jobs while learning his trade. While he was creating the artwork for an unknown, freaky-looking science fiction film, the sexy blue woman on the poster led him to create the world of Avatar. During his episode of Oprah Winfrey Network show Visionaries—Inside James Cameron’s Creative Mind, the 59-year-old director showed the painting and recalled his initial idea. Cameron explained:
This [painting] is going back to 1976 I think, and this was for a film project that never went anywhere. The thing that’s interesting about it is that I’ve already got a tall, hot blue girl in that movie. Her name wasn’t Neytiri and it was in a completely different context, but I was already thinking about it then.
While the mysterious painting looks nothing like Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) or any of the Na’vi, it’s interesting to see where it all started, 33 years before Avatar finally hit movie screens. Cameron also recalled dreams he had as a young man, vivid with images of a glowing forest, which is where he found the inspiration for the landscape of Pandora. He continued:
One of them [the dreams] was a glowing forest with a river of light running through it and trees that sort of looked like fiber optics…Well, guess what. Cut to 30 years later and I’m making a movie where we’re spending millions of dollars to create that imagery, but that image came to me in a dream when I was 18 years old.
Currently, Cameron has four screenwriters to help him with the scripts for the trio of upcoming Avatar sequels. Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and Shane Salerno (Salinger) are hard at work writing on various installments of the ever growing franchise.
All three sequels will film concurrently at Peter Jackson’s Weta Studios in New Zealand. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are set to reprise their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri, respectively. According to Saldana, production should begin in early 2014. Cameron will spend the next five years of his life working within this franchise, but it will be worth it to bring audiences back to Pandora. Twentieth Century Fox announced that the next Avatar movie will be released during the holidays in 2016.