Yesterday, James Cameron hosted an event in preparation for the 3-disk Blu-ray and DVD release of Avatar Extended Collectors Edition; the event was entitled the Avatar Global Media Day, and has now been dubbed simply “Avatar Day.” Not to be confused with the original “Avatar Day”, where 15 minutes of footage from Avatar was screened in theaters nation-wide, prior to the films theatrical release. An event that was so successful that it has inspired Disney to produce a similar “Tron Night.”
This “Avatar Day” was an event where reporters from across the globe were invited to view excerpts from the features that will be contained on the November 16th release of the Avatar collectors edition Blu-ray and DVD. Reporters were also treated to an in person tour of all the stages in the creation of Avatar. I was lucky enough to be a participant at this event, and will follow up with more in-depth coverage.
We were able to confirm that Cameron intends to shoot Avatar 2 and 3 simultaneously, and that he is considering doing an additional project prior to the start of production on those two films. We wanted to follow up with a few more details on the tireless director’s future plans.
When asked about when we can expect to see a return to Pandora, Cameron told us:
“It’s in process right now, there is a lot of writing, a lot of designing and a lot of tech work that we are going to do. What I can tell you is this: Our plan, right now, is to make two and three together as a single large production, and release them a year apart. In order to do that we need to refine our technical process beyond the end of where we were finishing Avatar 1 a year ago. Because we need to future proof ourselves out five or six years to the end of the third film so we are taking that time now. Mostly because going through the process, even though we refined that process as we went along. There were certain things that we would have had to go full stop to be able to improve and upgrade, and we’re in that process right now.”
[Update: James Cameron's next project will be the back-to-back production of Avatar 2 & 3.]
Having as many technical ducks in a row as possible prior to the beginning of production is likely a desire shared by the entire Avatar team. As art director Robert Stromberg told us, “At times it was like trying to paint, while people were inventing the paintbrush.”
Cameron feels that the technology is going where “they would like it to go, because we have been pushing it in that direction. Which is the closer what we experience in real time, to what the final image will be – the better… so that our real-time interface starts to look more and more like the finished product.” Making what is now a two-part process, of shooting and then finalizing effects one continuous process.
Visual effects supervisors Joe Letteri and Stephen Rosenbaum (WETA) confirmed that they are working on achieving as close to real-time results as possible.
Cameron feels that we are at an “interesting juncture in cinema history, where if you can imagine it, you can do it.” He said when he made that proclamation five years ago he was sort of bluffing, but now, the capabilities for all imagined possibilities are really there. The final frontier was the performance-capture of photo-realistic performances; and as Cameron states, “we’ve done that.”
Producer Jon Landau reiterates that the primary focus is story. He reminds us that “Jim has done two sequels (Terminator 2, Aliens) in the past and both times both stories lived up to what the first one did, and I think that’s really our goal.” To which Cameron responded laughingly, “no pressure.”
There have been rumors of a return of Sigourney Weaver’s character, although we had assumed she was well and fully dead at the conclusion of Avatar. When asked about the seeming inconsistency Cameron quipped: “Who said she died? Nobody dies in a science fiction movie. Whether Grace lives or dies depends more on Sigourney’s agent than anything.”
As reported previously, Cameron will not be involved in the television version of the action-comedy hit True Lies, saying “if it’s great, you heard it here, I have nothing to do with it. If if sucks, I have nothing to do with it.” There has been some speculation about his involvement in a live-action rendition of the anime series Battle Angel, and of course persistent rumors about a re-imagining of Cleopatra.
So the question becomes, what is on the docket for the director?
In a private interview, the director told The New York Times that a 3D release of Titanic is being worked on. They are in a process of quality checking with several vendors and then will split the film amongst the best in order to insure excellence.
In terms of Cleopatra the director confirms that:
“There is a Cleopatra project in work, meaning that it’s been in development at Sony. And it’s a subject that’s always fascinated me. So yeah, I’ve been talking to them about it but no decisions have been made. But it sounds hot, doesn’t it? I mean, Angelina Jolie and Cleopatra? To me, that’s like a slam dunk. Whether I wind up doing it or not, I think it’s going to be a great project.”
In the larger press conference he reiterated that nothing had been finalized yet. Saying:
“I haven’t made any decisions about that, but here’s a decision: I’m not going to work on a film between ['Avatar'] two and three. It’s really a question of whether or not I do one between now and when we start two. We’re evaluating how much of our tech work and how much of our facility work it’s going to take. That’s not decided as of right now. I’d love to just start on ‘Avatar 2′ right now, but I don’t know if that’s possible or if it makes sense to wait.”
We know that he is working with Australian engineers to develop a deep sea vessel that will allow him to travel to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, ostensibly to research and shoot 3D footage for the Avatar sequels. Cameron tells us, however, that “this isn’t about being a filmmaker…I don’t care if there is any footage (laughing) I’m going!”
One of the questions we had about Avatar as we journeyed through the day was the possibility for world-expansion. In other words, additional materials to fill out the world of Pandora. There are a multitude of official and fan-created books, comics, plays and art to compliment both Star Wars and Star Trek. There is even a version of Hamlet that is performed entirely in Klingon.
Pandora seems plum for the fan art pickings.
There is a book available entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora, that provides a window into the world of Pandora with scientific field notes and research data. Botanist Jodie Holt, who acted as a consultant on the film for Sigourney Weaver’s character Grace Augustine, helped to create an entire book that identifies and catalogs plant-life on Pandora.
We also learned that there is a group devoted to mastering and expanding Na’vi language. A group which is dedicated enough that it includes members who speak Na’vi more fluently than Na’vi language creator Professor Paul Frommer. Perhaps we shall see an all Na’vi Midsummer Night Eve at some point.
Cameron is also working on an Avatar novel that should fill out some of the details of the world.
“The novel’s a big project, It’s not a novelization, which I hate, where you take the script and put it into prose form… I asked myself, ‘If this had been based on a book, what would that book have been?’ It ends concurrently with the end of the movie. I’m not going to give you one frame beyond that. But how about the 30 years before Jake came to Pandora? The discovery of the planet? Grace’s arrival there? All the back story and the history of Earth. All the context and then everything lateral to what you see in the movie. Whether it’s things that are happening off-camera or things that are happening inside the characters’ heads.”
Cameron hopes to “create a bible or a foundation from which other writers can write novels that co-exist in the same Avatar universe, and maybe graphic novels and comic books, to treat that as a source work, so that they are not making up things that are dissonant with things that I want to do in the future.”
The 3-disk Blu-ray and DVD release of Avatar Extended Collectors Edition will be released on November, 16th.