James Cameron originally planned to have the film completed for release in 1999. At the time, the special effects he wanted increased the budget to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was shelved for eight years.
The Na'vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Dr. Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that would be easy for actors to pronounce but would not resemble any human language. Frommer created about 1,000 words.
Director James Cameron, known for being tough on set, allegedly kept a nail-gun on set that he would use to nail cell phones, that had the misfortune of ringing, to a wall above the exit sign.
Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal were the studio's first choices to play Jake Sully, but James Cameron decided to cast the less-known Sam Worthington in the lead role.
First movie to ever cross the U.S. $2-billion mark worldwide (and later the U.S. $2.5-billion mark), making it the highest-grossing film in history (not adjusting for inflation).
James Cameron was convinced that CGI effects had progressed enough to make this film when he saw Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).
According to Sam Worthington, he was invited to the casting via a phone call. The person who called told him nothing about the script, nor did they even tell him the director's name and Worthington was disappointed at first, thinking it was "another waste of time."
Sam Worthington, an Australian, said in an interview that it was easier for him to master the Na'vi language than the American accent.
Jake's atrophied legs were prosthetics cast from the legs of a real paraplegic. Sam Worthington's real legs were tucked into the wheelchair and digitally removed in post-production.
James Cameron wanted an unknown actor to play Jake Sully, because it would give the character a "real" quality--the guy you want to have a beer with, who ultimately becomes the leader who transforms a whole world.
To appease 20th Century Fox's fears, and remembering the harrowing experience of Titanic (1997) and its production overruns and costly delays, James Cameron promised to forgo his director's fee if "Avatar" flopped.
Composer James Horner stated that this was his most difficult film and the biggest challenge of his career. He said in an interview that he worked on the music from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm for a year and a half.
According to James Cameron, the Na'vi are blue to create a conceptual parallel with traditional Hindu depictions of God (e.g., Vishnu and his later "avatars" - a Sanskrit word meaning "a manifestation of divinity in bodily form" - such as Rama, Krishna, etc.) but also because Cameron just likes the color blue.
James Cameron's first directorial feature since Titanic (1997), which was the highest-grossing film of all time--until this one.
James Cameron got the idea for "Avatar" after watching Disney's animated film Pocahontas (1995). He initially wanted Q'orianka Kilcher to play Neytiri, after seeing her play Pocahontas in The New World (2005).
To help the actors prepare for their roles, director James Cameron took the cast and crew to Hawaii, where they spent their days trekking through the forests and jungles and living like tribes (building campfires, eating fish, etc), in order to get a better sense of what it would be like to live and move around in the jungle on Pandora, since there would not be any actual jungle sets to aid and guide the actors and crew. Zoe Saldana even dressed up as a warrior during these journeys, complete with an alien tail symbolic of the one her character has in the movie. These hikes were only done during the daytime, however, as the cast and crew spent their nights at a Four Seasons hotel.
The book Grace picks up in the abandoned school is "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss. Like the plot of the film, the book is about a forest full of beautiful trees and mystical creatures that are destroyed by man's lust for ever-growing industry.
Most of the animal noises heard in the movie are recycled dinosaur noises from Jurassic Park (1993), notably the T-Rex and the Raptors'.
The whooping and cackling sounds made by the wolf-like predators on Pandora are actually real spotted hyena calls.
"Unobtainium" is a humorous term used mainly in the aerospace industry. It describes a material that is perfect for an application (but does not exist), is extremely expensive, or violates the laws of physics. Its chemical symbol is Uo. "Unobtainium" is also a general concept term used by sci-fi enthusiasts for any fictional substance that is needed to build a certain device that is crucial to the plot of a sci-fi story. "Unobtainium" is featured in The Core (2003), where the earth-boring vessel called the "Virgil" has a hull made from unobtainium to help it withstand the massive pressures inside the Earth's core. "Unobtainium" is also an anti-gravity element in the online multi-player video game "Skyrates."
Michael Biehn was considered for the role of Col. Quaritch. James Cameron rejected him because he'd already cast Sigourney Weaver, and he didn't want people to think it was Aliens (1986) all over again.
Despite understanding the Na'vi are not placental mammals, James Cameron insisted from the start that Neytiri should have breasts so as to look hot from a human's point of view.
The spiral-shaped, retracting creatures Jake encounters early in the film are giant versions of Christmas Tree Worms, a marine invertebrate commonly kept in reef aquariums.
The word "avatar" is Sanskrit for "incarnation." It is used extensively in Hindu scriptures to refer to human incarnations of God.
In much of the movie, Dr. Augustine's avatar wears a Stanford tank top. Sigourney Weaver attended Stanford in the early 1970s.
James Cameron disclosed on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (2009) that he began working on preliminary drafts of his movie as early as the mid-'90s. Because his visual concepts were so avant-garde, the technology required to consummate his vision was not then available. Not until 2005 was he able to proceed with viable script scenarios.
One of the most expensive movies ever made (as of December 2009), with an estimated budget of $280,000,000 (in U.S. dollars).
The movie is 40% live action and 60% photo-realistic CGI. A lot of motion capture technology was used for the CGI scenes.
Avatars have eyebrows and five digits per hand or foot while the Na'vi only have four and no eyebrows. The Avatars are also broader in the chest and arms, appearing more "muscular."
The actors playing the Na'vi had cameras attached to their heads so that they filmed close-ups of their faces. Dots painted on their faces allowed motion-capture software to record their facial expressions, providing a "framework" from which the CG artists worked.
Sigourney Weaver plays a James Cameron persona for her character in this film. Sigourney stated in an interview, "I teased him because to me I'm playing Jim Cameron in the movie as this kind of brilliant, approach-driven, idealistic perfectionist. But that same somebody has a great heart underneath. So I have to say I was always kind of channeling him."
The first completely digitally shot movie to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
The word "na'vi" in Hebrew means prophet. A na'vi is a visionary or someone who communicates directly with God. Its plural, nevi'im, also refers to the prophetic books of the bible, which include "Daniel," "Micah," and "Isaiah."
The multiple breathing orifices seen on the larger animals of Pandora were inspired by the air intakes on the sides of sports cars.
The first movie to be shot with a 3D camera, released in 3D and in IMAX 3D to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award.
In James Cameron movies, allies to the main characters often have Catholic references. In Aliens (1986), this ally was called "Bishop;" in The Abyss (1989), it was "Monk." In "Avatar," Sigourney Weaver plays a character called Grace Augustine. Saint Augustine was a Catholic monk who brought Christianity to pagan England, and became Archbishop. One manner of address for an Archbishop is "Your Grace."
Col. Quaritch mentions that being on Pandora made him feel "like a shavetail Looie." "Shave tail" was a term originally used in the 19th century among U.S. cavalry regiments. Newly assigned cavalry troopers were given horses with a shaved tail, to let other troopers know that the rider was dangerously inexperienced and should be given extra room to maneuver during training. "Looie" is a nickname for lieutenant, the two lowest ranks--2nd Lieutenant is lowest, with 1st Lieutenant being one step above it--for Marine Corps officers.
The film reached the U.S. $500-million mark in 32 days, beating The Dark Knight (2008)'s previous record of 45 days. James Cameron's previous film, Titanic (1997), took 98 days to reach the mark.
While the movie was often described as "anti-war" by critics and fans, James Cameron repeatedly said in interviews that the film was not inspired by or commenting on any specific conflicts or any specific nation's overall foreign or defense policies. Cameron also said that the film DID have a brutally strong pro-environmentalist message on purpose because, as he put it, "I am a tree-hugger."
Ey'wa, the deity of the Na'vi people, is a mixed-up pronunciation of "Yahweh," the God of the Hebrews.
The cap that Norm Spellman wears during his first trip into the Pandoran jungle has Braille symbols on it that represent "#1969," or "Number 1969," the year when humans first landed on the moon.
There are striking similarities between the movie and the "Destination: Void" universe depicted by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom in the science fiction novels, "The Jesus Incident" and "The Lazarus Effect." In the novels, an alien planet called Pandora is home to a global network of sentient kelp in which the minds of the deceased also continue to exist. The kelp, as well as other native lifeforms on the planet, are linked into a large entity with a shared consciousness, called "Avata."
The RDA (Resources Development Administration)'s private security force members all wear French military rank badge. Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) wears the rank badge of a French colonel. When Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez) breaks Sully and Augustine out of jail and flies them to the avatar link outpost, the woman alerting Quaritch is shown wearing the three ribbons of a French captain.
The first time Sigourney Weaver has appeared in a James Cameron film since Aliens (1986). Cameron said that he didn't want to cast her at first, exactly because "she was [his] safest choice to play the botanist." Jodie Foster and Jamie Lee Curtis were considered for the role of Dr. Grace Augustine.
When Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez) refers to needing to fly VFR, she is referring to the Visual Flight Rules, where a pilot, accurately enough, needs to see where they are going.
The Na'vi were partially inspired by a dream James Cameron's mother had about a tall, blue woman.
James Cameron based the design of Neytiri's costumes on a taparrabo, a loincloth thing worn by Mayan Indians.
The common spirit of Pandora, where every creature is constantly connected to each other, and the planet itself, is based on the concept of Gaia, described in Isaac Asimov's novel "Foundation's Edge" (1982).
Any scene with Zoe Saldana was done 100% physically, facially and vocally all at the same time. It took a year to capture and transfer all of that to Neytiri.
Grace mentions there are ten to the fourth connections between each tree, and ten to the 12th trees on Pandora, and that this is more than the human brain. In scientific notation, "ten to the fourth" is 10,000, and "ten to the 12" is one trillion. This makes for a total of ten to the 16th, or ten quadrillion, connections. The human brain has an average of 100 trillion.
James Cameron wanted Mauro Fiore to photograph this film because he admired Fiore's lush jungle photography in Tears of the Sun (2003). Fiore agreed after a 30-minute meeting with Cameron, followed by a two-hour guided tour of the constructed sets with Jon Landau.
Jake Sully's initials (J.S.) are the same as John Smith, a central figure in the historical and often romanticized story of Pocahontas. This film shares many similarities with the Pocahontas story in plot and theme. Like John Smith, Sully is a member of an invading force who falls in love with a tribal princess, after learning her customs.
Twenty of the world's top creature designers worked with James Cameron on the film, as well as character designs and landscape designs, all for the hardware, amp suits and the helicopters. Eighteen months was spent on design. James Cameron wanted the creatures to be plausible so their form and function were interrelated--e.g., if a creature has four wings, how does it fly, do the wings move together or the opposite way or 90 degrees out of phase like they do in the film with one wing moving and the other acting as a stabilizer, but if they need to climb or make a rapid escape all four wings beat furiously. All the six-legged creatures in the film move like ants, in that their four front legs move together but the rear two move separately.
In an obvious nod to Alien (1979), James Cameron has an early long shot showing the company ship, ISV Venture Star, approaching Pandora. This is identical to the long shot in Alien (1979), when the Nostromo is approaching LV-426, the planetoid where they are receiving the signal from.
According to a CNN report, James Cameron visited the Brazilian rain forest more than once after receiving outcries from tribal leaders inspired by his film. During one visit Cameron was a real-life Jake Sully; with warpaint on his face, and a spear in his hand, he met with 18 indigenous tribal leaders to plan a battle to stop the construction of a proposed dam.
The concept of a network of trees, in which minds of the deceased continue to exist, appears in several novels of the "Ender" series by Orson Scott Card, most prominently in "Speaker for the Dead." Just like in the movie, the trees in the novel are sacred to the native (remotely humanoid) inhabitants, who tolerate the presence of a small human colony on their world until cultural misunderstandings lead to conflict.
English surrealist Roger Dean is not credited in the film, although several locations look very similar to his paintings, most notably "Floating Islands" and "Arches".
In the original draft, Jake's name was Josh, while Neytiri's was Zuleika (a real female name of Arabic origin, meaning "fair", "brilliant" and "lovely"). Grace Augustine was named Shipley in earlier drafts.
Mo'at, the spiritual leader of the Na'vi tribe, is referred to by the title "tsahik". It sounds similar to the Hebrew "tsaddik", meaning an individual of outstanding virtue and piety. The term is often applied to an especially knowledgeable interpreter of Biblical law and scriptures.
The first (and only, as of 2010) science-fiction feature film by James Cameron that does not involve or mention nuclear weapons.
The film was reportedly conceived in the 1990s - an era when "Save the Rainforest" was a popular phrase in society. Americans and other countries were highly vocal in protest over industrial slashing and burning of Amazon rain forests and forced displacement of indigenous tribes. By the time the technology was finally available to make this film, the movement's popularity had faded significantly.
On May 27th, 2017, the long anticipated Pandora: World of Avatar opened at Disney's Animal Kingdom to good reviews and large crowds. The main attraction, Flight of Passage, has been reported to be reaching lines averaging two hours.
The joystick and throttle, used to remote-control the bulldozer, is a set of modified Saitek X52 Pro. Those are designed to control airplanes in flight and combat simulator programs.
According to James Cameron, the design of the mountains in the film is inspired by the mountains around southern China, in particular, Huangshan. One of China's national park mountains has been renamed Avatar Hallelujah Mountain because of this film.
The film is Sigourney Weaver's 7th science fiction film. The film was released 30 years after Sigourney Weaver's breakthrough film Alien (1979). James Cameron directed Sigourney Weaver in the sequel Aliens (1986). This is the 2nd film which Cameron and Weaver have worked together on.
In the UK, the film was shipped in two parts, under the code name "Redbird." Reels 1-5 were delivered first; 6-10 came the following day.
The first film to gross $700 million domestically in the US. James Cameron's previous film, Titanic (1997), was the first film to gross $500 and $600 million domestically.
Weta Digital and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) had previously worked together on Contact (1997), Van Helsing (2004), and Eragon (2006), making "Avatar" their fourth collaboration.
The highest-grossing film in post-communist Russia. It earned $111,411,877 there and a total of 13.3 million tickets was sold (as of March 2010).
The brand of Jake's wheelchair is "Grunt", which is another term for a marine infantryman.
There are two sound effects borrowed from Jurassic Park (1993) creatures. During Jake's run from the panther-like Thanator, it roars at him, using a T-Rex roar. Later, when Jake is learning to ride the horse-creature, Pale, she makes a barking noise, like that of the Velociraptors in the kitchen scene.
James Cameron considers "Avatar" different from anything he's made before. He said making the film was "a complete leap into the unknown. Like a jump off a cliff and madly fabricating a parachute on the way down. It's a lot of fun to be out on the edge and know that you're doing something nobody's ever done before."
On one of the posters for the film, an image of the right side of Neytiri's face is shown. If you look very closely at her eyeball, you can see a reflection of the forest trees of Pandora on it.
The film bears a striking resemblance, in terms of plot, to the Indian movie Vietnam Colony (1992). It should be noted that "Vietnam Colony" was released in 1992, and James Cameron said that the "Avatar" script was ready in 1995 and had many inspirations from India, including the title. A brief comparison between both the movies: (1) "Vietnam Colony": Mohanlal and an innocent guy are appointed by a real estate company to a notorious colony called Vietnam Colony, as this colony has high real estate values. "Avatar": Sam Worthington is appointed by the RDA Corp. to go to Pandora, as the place has a valuable mineral called Unobtainium. (2) "Vietnam Colony": Mohanlal disguises himself as a writer and becomes a member of the colony. "Avatar": Sam transfers his mind to a Navi body and becomes a member of Pandora. (3) "Vietnam Colony": Mohanlal falls in love with the heroine (Kanaka), who is an important resident of Vietnam Colony. "Avatar": Sam falls in love with Neytri (Zoe Saldana), who is an important resident of Pandora. (4) "Vietnam Colony": While Mohanlal was trying to cheat the colony residents and throw them out of the colony, he understands that the company is doing an injustice and tries to help the residents. "Avatar": While Sam was trying to cheat the Pandora residents, he understands that the company is doing an injustice and tries to help the residents. (5) "Vietnam Colony": Mohanlal finally joins hands with the colony residents and fights against his company. "Avatar": Sam joins hands with the Navis and fights against his company. (6) "Vietnam Colony": At the end of the movie, Mohanlal becomes a permanent Vietnam Colony resident. "Avatar": At the end, Sam becomes a permanent Pandora resident.
In the Thai version, Jake Sully is a "Navi" who becomes a "Na'vi." The Thai word for Marine is "Na-vig-ga-yo-tin," but the translator shortened it to make the voice-over sync.
The tree, Eh'wa, also bears a resemblance to the Hindi/Aramic/Urdu word "Hewa," which, in English, means "Eve." "Eve" in Hebrew means "The Giver of Life," an entity from which all life arises. Also, in the Bible, Eve is tempted to eat from the Tree. The word na'vi bears close resemblance to the Arabic/Hindi/Urdu word for Nabi, meaning "prophet." "Avatar" is Hindi for the "incarnated one." Lord Krishna was one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu. Some Hindus believe that Lord Buddha was also an avatar of Vishnu, preceding Krishna.
Calling the sizable pallets of explosives on-board the shuttle "Daisy Cutters" refers to the BLU-82B, a 15,000-lb. bomb and the largest non-nuclear weapon the US Air Force had at its disposal (until 2008, when the MOAB was deployed), designed to flatten landing areas in jungle zones.
James Cameron felt it was remarkable that 25 years into his career, he was making a film and not knowing what to do.
James Cameron said "some of the design choices were about colors affecting us psychologically, which is why the film has such a striking color palette, like the early days of color cinematography where everything had to be bright and vibrant."
The film is considered by some to be a futuristic remake of The Last Samurai (2003). In that film, Tom Cruise stars as a disillusioned American civil war veteran who is hired to help the Emperor of Japan fight against rebellious samurai warriors and winds up fighting on their side instead. after he is captured and lives among them in their village and embraces their culture and their way of life.
In early December 2005, a casting call for the female lead was posted on the website of Mali Finn Casting. It erroneously identified the movie as James Cameron's Alita: Battle Angel (2019).
When Jake reassures Mo'at (the shaman) that he is "empty," it refers to his life being empty. The term "jarhead" is applied to Marines referring to their traditional "high and tight" haircut, and is used by Dr. Augustine when Sully is entering the Avatar link for the first time.
In Korean, "Na'vi" is spelled like "nabi," the Korean word for "butterfly," and a very common name for cats.
At the beginning when Col. Quaritch is briefing the men on the situation on Pandora, there are blinds, as well as a metal panel in the top-left corner of the blinds, that resemble an American flag. Oddly enough, the panel has a "50" engraved in it, as 50 is the number of stars on the American flag.
The film was thrown into an unwanted spotlight when several filmmakers, including Canadian director John Greyson, put out a press release stating that James Cameron had blocked the movie from being released in Israel, in accordance with the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement (which calls for all Israeli activities to be shunned until Israel acceded to all Palestinian demands to end their conflict). Cameron found out about this when his top producing partner called him, and he was furious about it, as he had no intention of boycotting Israel (or any other nation that wanted to show the film) and Greyson and his colleagues admitted that their original press release was "a joke" that amounted to "wishful thinking" on their part.
Zoe Saldana's Star Trek (2009) co-star Chris Pine and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) co-star Chris Pratt auditioned for Jake Sully. Pine has said it was his worst audition ever.
When Grace is first helping Jake into his sleeper, as the lid is closing, Jake, fed up with her, barely audible, tells her "kiss the darkest part of my lily white......". the sound trails off.
James Cameron felt that after working months and months on the Na'vi and the avatars and the creatures, he stopped thinking about all the work that went into them and just enjoyed the life of those scenes with them.
An early idea for Pandora was that the sky would be purple and the plants would be blue, but James Cameron felt the Na'vi being blue was challenge enough and just let the greenery be green.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," edited by Steven Schneider.
The first attack uses a gas called CN20, the same gas the Marines wanted to use in Aliens.
In 2014 an article entitled "The 1960s Avatar TV Show" was posted to the web, claiming that the film was actually a re-imagining of a science-fiction television series from 1963. It supposedly starred William Shatner as Jake Sully (until being replaced by Roger Ewing in season 3) and featured several images from other 1960s sci-fi films and series, with the actors' skin tinted blue. Despite claiming to be authentic, it was entirely a hoax.
In the extended version, when Jake lies in the gutter having been thrown out of the bar, there's an ad flashing by that says "Discover a new world".
This became the highest-grossing film in South Korea (grossing about $105.48 million) and the first Hollywood movie to sell over ten million tickets in South Korea.
This story is about aliens (the term given to humans in this film) using overwhelming strength to invade and annihilate a peaceful group of local inhabitants... similar to "Aliens".
Can be seen as an adult science fiction version of the 1992 Children's animated movie "Fern Gully.,Last of the Rainforests"
Peter Mensah had appeared in two episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) and Sam Worthington had previously starred in Terminator Salvation (2009) as Marcus Wright. Writer and director James Cameron created the "Terminator" franchise.
First narrative film directed by James Cameron to not co-star any of the cast members of The Terminator (1984). However, Sam Worthington co-starred in its sequel, Terminator Salvation (2009), which Cameron had no involvement in.
The relationship between Hal Tara and Zita in Strings (2004) is considered by some to be a possible influence behind the relationship between Jake Scully and Neytiri.
Following the idea of the allegedly derivative plot from other similar movies, two mock trailers were released on the Internet, one with lines from the movie over images from Pocahontas (1995) and the other built the other way round. Both trailers did fit quite neatly.
In the animated post-apocalyptic fantasy film Wizards (1977), the protagonist was called Avatar. The film was released by 20th Century Fox.