What, exactly, is going on with James Cameron‘s “Avatar” sequels remains something of a mystery. Since the movie broke box office records in late 2009 (and reintroduced 3D in new and vital ways that few filmmakers have carried forward), it was largely assumed that there would be follow-up films and later it was confirmed that Fox would produce and release not one but two sequels, to be shot-back-to-back, tentatively scheduled for December 2014 and December 2015. But this summer Cameron made mention to the New York Times that “I’m making ‘Avatar 2,’ ‘Avatar 3,’ maybe ‘Avatar 4.'” Well, not so fast. “Avatar” producer Jon Landau has gone on record as saying that Cameron’s plan for a fourth movie might have been a little premature.
Landau told the Courier Post (via Coming Soon), prompted by a similar quote that Sigourney Weaver made over the summer about there being three sequels, that “We [are] doing two back-to-back, but not a third.” As to when these movies are shooting (and when they’ll be released), Landau didn’t say. Originally production was supposed to start next month, but that’s clearly not happening with “Avatar 2” not slated to arrive until 2015 at the earliest.
And where does this leave James Cameron’s World of Avatar, the working title for the entire “land” that will be devoted to the film at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Florida? Well, that is even trickier. Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced the “Avatar” expansion around this time last year. Since then we’ve heard very, very little, beyond quiet rumblings that construction would begin in 2013 and be completed between four to five years later, a kind of late-in-the-game answer to Universal Studio’s phenomenally popular “land” at Islands of Adventure, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
By this time we should have seen some kind of conceptual drawings or rough estimates in terms of when certain stages of the land should open. So far we have seen absolutely nothing, beside vague reports (again, from the New York Times) about a flight simulator component to the land and the recent admission from Imagineering Vice President of Project Management Jim Kearns that the “Avatar” project is his next assignment. Supposedly Cameron is not the easiest dude to work with and that, when frustrated by Imagineering and what he considers to be their lack of progress, he simply walks away and, say, stashes himself at the bottom of the ocean. That must make for a fractured and unwieldy work process for the Imagineers on the project – a kind of stop-and-go rhythm that’s harder to wrangle than one of those flying dragons.
In other words: when it comes to movies or theme parks, everything moves slower on Pandora.