Finally, for our first time ever, we got a look at James Cameron’s upcoming top secret science fiction epic, Avatar.

But no, it wasn’t just a look, it was 25 minutes of 3-D beauty at its finest.

Tom Rothman, Chairman of Fox Film Entertainment was first on stage to give a strong and well-deserved introduction to the man behind this project, then we were treated to Cameron’s presence on stage to present his work to us in attendance.

Rothman described Cameron as a master at creating “emotional action epics” and he certainly brought that in force today with the movie that’s been “14 years in the dreaming, 4 years in the making.”

Cameron wasted no time in getting to the footage and he presented it as a way to address all the online concerns that fans and blogs have raised over the lack of marketing for the film long in the making.

Cameron: “how many of you have ever wanted to go to another planet?”

Hall H: A giant universal and cheerful “yes” followed by applause.

Cameron: “Second question, Are you ready to go to Pandora?”

Hall H: A giant universal and cheerful “yes” followed by applause.

And then it came, the moment I’ve been waiting for not just since waiting in line eight hours before, but since we first heard of the project in development.

Without going into too much detail at the risk of my words not doing the video justice, it was awesome.

In the scenes we were treated to, we found out the details of what the Avatars are, what they look like, how they are utilized. We go to see the beautiful and lush planet of Pandora, its indigenous life from plants to creatures and its main intelligent inhabitants, the Navi.

It certainly was a visual spectacle in every detail to the blades of grass and textures everywhere.

The tone and feel of the footage we saw was very similar to Jurassic Park, except with unearthly large beasts instead of giant dinosaurs and different species of plantation.

While everything we saw was developed from the careful research, planning and creativity of Cameron and crew, it all felt so real. They did an astounding job of creating a new world, a new culture. From geology, history and atmosphere to ecology and language, they did everything to create a completely realistic and believable aesthetic that works for the story and characters embedded in it.

They’ve involved the best artists, creators, science majors, academics and even highly educated linguist to be precise in all aspects of this piece of art and they made the cast work harder than you can imagine to prep for the role.

After the Avatar footage was unveiled, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang joined the panel to first explain their roles in the movie (which Lang did in-character as the bad-ass Navi-hating grunt Col. Quaritch). They then fielded some questions from Rothman and from some fans.

Saldana’s responses touched on how much work went into the role and how masterful Cameron is at helping work with his cast to achieve what they need to to make it possible. Prior to even starting produciton, Saldana took part in 7-days-a-week training that involved dialect voice training, archery, horseback riding and weight-lifting and more.

Unfortunately, star Sam Worthington could not be in attendance due to his film schedule, but he did record a nice video message for us from the set of Clash of the Titans where he spoke very well and praised Cameron’s work.

The professionalism displayed by everyone on the panel and how well they presented themselves, how they spoke, their work, and the footage was a step-up on everything we had seen up to that point and it really shows how many levels separate Cameron’s work from what we saw in Summit Entertainment’s New Moon panel.

Despite the visual spectacle and trying to take everything in, the best part was the strong focus on character development that Cameron never fails to deliver. It is what separates his sci-fi works from others and it stood out here from the clips we saw.

Don’t fret for those who were not amongst the 6000+ in the infamous Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center as at the end of the panel, Cameron made a major Comic-Con exclusive announcement:

August 21st will now be known as “Avatar Day” as they will try to get every imax theater worldwide to show 15 minutes of footage… for FREE. This is the ultimate ground-breaking way to market the film that can only be described fairly be seeing snippets of footage and it’s exciting to see them take this route.

This is something to look out for and if a theater near you ends up playing the 15 minute preview, I’d say it’s must-see for all moviegoers.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes for live updates as I forgo the necessities of life to bring you latest from San Diego Comic-Con!

Avatar hits theaters December 18, 2009 and I’ll be there.