James Cameron’s planned four Avatar sequels are beginning to come to life. Special effects house Weta Digital announced it has started work on the movies, which are expected to cost a total of over $1 billion dollars to produce. The first of Cameron’s films is set to be released in 2020.

New Zealand’s Weta Digital was begun by Peter Jackson to realize his Lord of the Rings trilogy and ever since then the outfit has been at the forefront of pushing movie technology. No one loves pushing technology more than James Cameron, whose 2009 film Avatar broke new ground in 3D and performance-capture. The science fiction adventure film set on a distant moon populated by a blue-skinned alien species went on to gross $2.7 billion worldwide and is still the biggest-earning film in history.

Deadline reports that Weta Digital has now begun work on what figures to be its most ambitious project yet, James Cameron’s planned four Avatar sequels. Cameron originally planned to release the first of the sequels in 2018 but pushed his schedule back in order to allow for even more technological advancement. Cameron’s excitement about what he and Weta will be able to accomplish together comes through in his statement about the effects house:

“What Joe Letteri and Weta Digital bring to these stories is impossible to quantify. Since we made Avatar, Weta continued to prove themselves as doing the best CG animation, the most human, the most alive, the most photo-realistic effects in the world. And of course, that now means I can push them to take it even further.”

James Cameron Avatar1 Weta Digital Officially Begins Work on the Avatar Sequels

Weta’s Joe Letteri also sounds excited about his company’s talents being pushed to new heights by the ever-ambitious Cameron:

Avatar is the ideal type of film for us. Jim’s vision for the world of Pandora was always so much bigger than what we created for the first film. Helping him expand the language of cinema through new narratives set in such an expansive universe is the type of opportunity that rarely comes along twice. Projects like this allow everyone involved to push themselves to do their best work and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

The Avatar sequels are expected to expand on the ecological and anti-colonialist themes introduced in the original Avatar, while also surely providing more of the immersive 3D adventure that so thrilled audiences in 2009. Among Cameron’s more outlandish plans for the new films is a process that would allow audiences to enjoy the 3D effect without having to wear glasses. Cameron also plans to take the sequels underwater, introducing even more technical challenges to what already figures to be an incredibly demanding and massive production.

Despite the huge box office numbers for the first film, it’s a bit of a gamble for James Cameron to come back with a highly-ambitious sequel that won’t hit theaters until a full eleven years after the first movie. It’s even more of a gamble for him to expand on the movie’s universe through a total of four sequels that will cost at least $1 billion to make altogether (considering Cameron’s propensity to get wild with spending, we must assume the budget will swell beyond estimates). Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore and CCH Pounder are returning for at least some of the Avatar sequels, with Cliff Curtis and Oona Chaplin reportedly joining the cast.

MORE: Sigourney Weaver Says There’s a Good Reason for 4 Avatar Sequels

Source: Deadline

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