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.• Fo rewo rd by J ON . LAN D AU
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_Epilogue by JA M E S. CAME RON

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By LI SA FIT Z PATRI C K
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Suspension of Disbelief
r)eter Jackson

'" I lu: suspension of disbelief." That phrase has long been used as a way of describing the necessary planet inhabited by strange, graceful creatures and terrifying 1nonscers. The jungles of Pandora
11'1:irionship b<.:t\vcen filin1naker and the audience. Ir's a quaint, slighcly cynical concept, in \vhich glo,v ,vich biolun1inescenc plane life; it is an environ1nent that is as frightening as it is beautiful,
1,.,, h participants ad,nir that '\ve kno\v this is a lot of nonsense, bur let's forger about that for a and it is ho1ne to the Na'vi, an indigenous alien race \vho cornc into conflict ,virh hurnans fron1
, 1111pl..: of hours and allo\v ourselves to have s01ne fun." The suspension of disbelief is an unspoken Earth \Yielding futuristic weaponry.
, 11111 race char has served rhe needs of 1noviegoers and 1noviernakcrs for over one hundred years. Avatar is a fascinating n1ix of dran1a and science. Everything in the filn1 has been designed
Bur occasionally a n1ovie con1es along that takes us by the scruff of the neck and propels us and built with the ucn1ost care and attention to detail- not just the costu1nes, but even the
l,.·.11llong into an c::xpcrience so strong and profound that such agrc::en1cncs arc rendered instantly buttons on the costumes. Noc just che trees of Pandora, but the Leaves on those trees and rhe
,, ,l1111danr. These arc rhe 1novies char live with us our entire lives and, some \vould argue, shape tiny insects cra\vling on the leaves. This is a world with an entire ecosyscen1, \vhere anin1al and
"' " liv<.:s- filn1s char touch both heart and 111ind and con1pel us to surrender con1pletely to the plant life has established itself in forn1s both fa111iliar and wondrous, ,vhere there are gases in the
I"'" c1of the experience. This has happened co n1e n1aybe ten or r,velve rirnes in 1ny life and arn1osphere and 1ninerals in the ground. Ir is a world chat has evolved over tin1e and that abides by
, I,,,, I,1 less, for each of us, the list of these watershed 1novies is unique and particular co our life its O\vn internal laws of nature and logic. But at its heart, Avatar is a story that speaks to a universal
, , I,.. , it·uc<.:. One of the great strengths of cinen1a is its diversity; there are filins to suit all tastes, truth about our place in the \vorld, and the things we value and the things we choose to destroy.
1.111" rl,.11 connect on n1any different levels, filins chat appeal co different age groups and culcures, It forces us co confront the issue of ,vho we are and what we \Vant, and to acknowledge rhe si111ple
,, "I Id 111, rhat speak very pov.rerfully co specific audiences. Ho\vever, every once in a while \Ve will truth that, as a species, ,ve are bound co a con1mon face, and so the future of humanity is in our
, , ., 1110,·it· that transcends cultural barriers, genre, and rasre-a filin that lives on in the minds hands. The 1nessage of this filn1 is: Character is destiny.
, ii , I,, .111,li<.:11<.:e. years after the face, a film with a story, characters, and dialogue so memorable Most filn11nakers are quickly categorized by critics and con11nentators as being "actor's
d, ,, 11 , " .11<.:s its o,vn rnythology. The in1age of an ocean liner splitting in half, a 1nan falling away directors," or "technical directors;• perhaps in1plying strength in one area and deficiencies in
I, ,,, ,, , I" cuncra and plun11neting into the sea, a box of long-sremn1ed roses flying apart ro reveal another. Jin1 Ca1neron is neither. He is sin1ply a master of his craft, a brilliant visual scoryceller,
, ,,, , , I off' shotgun, a watery tentacle snaking across a roo1n, a playground aton1izing in a nuclear and a visionary and iconoclast. Jim Ca111eron has never seeded for \vhat cinen1a is no,v- for Jin1
I ii , ,, . ., ,vo111an and a n1an standing on rhe bow ofship, faces ro che sun, arms oucscrerched- che point has ahvays been what it can beco1ne and ,vhac ,ve can reach for, how \Ve can push the
1 I,, ... ,re rh<.: i1nages chat stay \vich us long after the lights have come up. These are the stories boundaries and move the art form for\vard.
,1 , , ,·111c111b<.:r and treasure and relive over and over again. Stories that, for n1any of us, becon1e Not long ago, books featuring "The Art of ..." used to be fun to look at because they sho,ved
, I, I1111 ,,,~ 1no1nenrs in our lives. what the film1nakers hoped co put on screen before the reality of technical restrictions kicked in.
I >11 ring rhc t\velve years since Jin1 Carneron 1nade one of the 1nost extraordinary filins of I'm referring to the rubber puppets, badly n1ade n1odels, and rear-screen projection that 1nade
,I I , 1111.-. tl1<.: pheno1nenon that \Vas Titanic, \Ve have seen hi1n working with new technologies us realize just how big the gap was between imagination and che practical limitations of rhe day.
1o, " ' ·'"" 1-I) documentaries, in ,vhich he explores the undersea environ1nencs of so1ne of the Those tin1es have all but gone, and no,v practically anything that can be designed and illustrated
,1 , .. 1. I\ ,1.-cp<.:sc oceans. We had no idea at the ci1ne chat we were, in face, witnessing the nascent can be realized on screen. Jim Ca1neron has patiencly waited for chis day; finally we gee co share
, I, , , I, •p111c11r ofJi1n's next feature film, but in retrospect, chat's exactly what was happening. Jim the images and landscapes that have fueled his creative imagination these past few years ... and it
11 , 1·,.·11.1ri11g for Avatar-building and developing groundbreaking 3-D technology that could is a rare privilege.
, ,, ,1,1, 111111 ro capture, on filn1, in1ages chat had thus far only existed in his i1naginacion; i1nages Jim and the talented artists and designers whose ,vork is featured in The Art ofAvatar are
1 I, 11 11111 d 11<1\v, \,1cre coo co1nplex and coo difficult ro render on film in a 3-D universe. In cern1s not expecting you co suspend your disbelief when you turn the pages of this book. They ask for
, , 1 , ",, , , 1.1 • • ·/1 111tr1r represents a giant leap forward in the world of filmmaking. Jim Cameron has no favors. As the creators of this world they know: Seeing is believing.
, ,, 11, , I ., 111i11d-hoggling, beautiful, dangerous, alternative reality chat has never before been seen And you will, I pro1nise.
,1, , ,. , 11 i\, .11 1 audience, \Ve find ourselves i1nmersed in che 3-D landscape of Pandora, an alien

7
Foreword
Jon Landau

When we chose to e1nbark on this filin in 2.005, I felt like a NASA engineer in 1961 ,vhen it was
announced they ,vere heading for the n1oon-full of inspiration, passion, and all the promise
of a new filin1naking frontier. Our moon in chis case ,vas Pandora and the world of Avatar.
Ji1n Ca1neron had ,vritten Avatar a decade earlier, but at the time the tools did not exist to
cell the story at the level that he envisioned. However, ,vith a technological wave of change upon
us, we sa,v an opportunity to maximize these emerging digital tools and use them-at long last-
to bringJin1 Ca1neron's fantastical tale to life.
Whatever outstanding technical challenges we did not yet have answers to (and there were
1nany), ,ve hoped ,ve could solve along the ,vay. As it turns out, once again this open-mindedness,
this naivete, was perhaps both our greatest strength and biggest ,veakness. We dove headlong
into this production.
We began with various existing technologies, such as Giant Studio's performance capture
system, AutoDesk's MotionBuilder software, and Glenn Derry's hardware, and combined them
to n1ake the1n work together in ,vays they never had before-all to bring to fruition the virtual
production process that Rob Legato (our visual effects supervisor from Titanic) had initially
pi rched ro us.
\'v'e searched out the best of the best and ended up with a pheno1nenal tea1n of technicians
and artists who ,vere con1111itted to realizing the vision of this filin and the process of the
production. So1ne ,vere newer to the business (Nolan Murtha, Dan Neufeldt, and Craig Shoji),
while ochers (including Ryan Church, Wayne Barlo,ve,James Clyne, and Richard Taylor) were
seasoned filin1naking veterans- and responsible for some of the great iconic imagery of our
industry in recent years. But none of chem joined this film simply because Cameron asked chem
to. They came because of the story.
As film1nakers, we have a responsibility to bring provocative messages and relevant images
to the cine1na. At best, 1novies contain themes that transcend their genre; with Avatar it would
be fair to say that Ji1n wrote a script that includes many fa1niliar and relevant the1nes, all set
against the background of an original, even visionary universe on a scale that has not been tackled
since the pre-CG era. But technology alone was not the answer to exposing audiences to this
,vorld; it is the artist behind the technology that n1akes the in1ages of this book, and ultin1ately
the n1ovie, so ren1arkable.
Ji1n's script offered rich, co1npelling, and i1n1nersive visual possibilities and challenges.
Rick Carter, for exa1nple- whose sole collaborators ove r the lasr t,vency years had been
Steven Spielberg and Bob Zemeckis-remarked that he was astounded at the an1ount of artistic
depth he found within the script. Rob Stron1berg, Seth Engstro n1, Yuri Bartoli, Neville Page,
TyRuben Ellingson, Ben Proccer,Jordu Schell, Christopher S,vifi:,Joscph Pepe, Scott Patton,
.,..
John Rosengranc, and many ochers who came on board had very si1nilar feelings about the
script and eagerly lent their extraordinary artistic talents co bring the ,vords on the page co life.
In a business chat can, at times, become very tired and coo commercial, these artists
approached Avatar ,vichouc a sense of ego. The storyline presented a filmmaking opportunity so
engrossing and epic in scope chat, ,vichouc hesitation, many joined out of passion, inspiration,
and what so1ne have described as che opportunity of a lifetime. Foregoing ocher opportunities,
1nany (such as animation director Richie Baneham) stayed on over che course of che several years
required to bring chis larger-than-life production to the big screen. What has been exciting for
me personally was co see chat each of these artists brought a sense of meaning and purpose co
everything they created. Oftentimes what they created was so much more than what had been
handed co che1n on che page. They dug deeper. Weta is a terrific example of chis.
When first looking for a visual effects partner, we sought out a team chat would embrace
the movie with the same enthusiasm ,ve possessed. We wanted a company with the vision and
the ability co realize this film on a photographic level chat would enable the audience co engage
with the characters in a whole new way. Our goal, ultimately, ,vas co change the moviegoing
experience. When people leave the cheater, we don't want chen1 to say, "I saw a movie"; we wane
chem co say, "I experienced a movie." Peter Jackson,Joe Lecceri, Eileen Moran, Andy Jones, Steve
Rosenbaum, Eric Saindon, Guy Williams, and che teams at Weta Digital and Weta Workshop
understood chis ambition and so much more. They brought not just artistry but also a great
commitment to what Academy Award- winner and Weta partner Richard Taylor likened co
"a whole new level ofspectacular encercain1nent."
Ulti1nacely, chis book is about celebrating the artists who can1e cogecher co realize che
imaginative ,vorld of Pandora. I, myself, do not possess che skills co create these i1nages. My
role in chis process was to ace as a sounding board and provide insight based on 1ny previous
experience of having worked with Jim. I would cry co motivate the artists co push their own
creative boundaries. I would encourage chem co keep in n1ind so1nechingJim has an a1nazing
ability co do: Use touchstones familiar co che average viewer co create arc chat, in turn, becomes
1nass encercain1nenc. And finally I would say that his 1novies are about "relatable" hu1nan e1notions
set on big scales; they are stories of the conunon 1nan sec against extraordinary backdrops.
Regardless of che box-office perfonnance of che filin, our hope and expectation is chat it ,viii
transfonn the cinema-going experience into one chat is n1uch n1ore in1mersive and incelleccually
engaging. We hope chat che result of our journey inspires filin1nakers of che future co avoid
creating stories 1nerely to utilize technology, but rather have che1n propel technology co cell stories
chat could not ocher,vise be cold. With chis in 1nind, I believe there arc a hose of tales chat have
been locked up or lin1iced by what technology could not yet do. 1-lopcfully chis filin is a s1nall
crack in che next door.
Introduction

"I chink we made the wheel rounder," recounts lead visual-effects designer and seasoned film
veteran Robert Stromberg about his time on Avatar. To say this endeavor was ambitious would
be a remarkable understatement by any measure-certainly by FOX's standards, causing one
executive to proclaim to Jon Landau, "I don't know who's crazier for letting you cake this on, us
or you!" More than four years in the making, Avatar employed an accon1plished cean1 of artisans
chat at times swelled co more than one hundred and twenty illustrators, designers, sculptors, and
visual effects artists.
At its core, this film is a visual odyssey from the familiar co the fantastic to the phantas1nagorical.
But the truly high art brought forth in Avatar, above all other innovations, is the transportive
experience itself; all efforts at visualization were designed, ultimately, to serve this phocorealiscic,
dramatic film-going experience. While technological advances are the enabling factor, the film's
success is earned by the technology passing unnoticed, as the viewer becomes fully immersed in
the world of Pandora and its epic landscapes. Believability is essential in order for the filmmaker
to achieve chis. The first phase of conception, design, and development of chis credible world
is the subject of chis book, including all the characters, creatures, vehicles, and environn1encs
originally conceived and envisioned by James Cameron himself.
Director, screenwriter, and editor, as well as accomplished illustrator, Can1eron is the
architect of every facet of this film, from the co-creation of the new ca1nera system to the
inunersive shooting techniques and the conception and realization of the cast of characters chat
make up the fantastical world of Pandora. This is a Cameron movie from beginning to end, and he
surrounded himself with an accomplished team of artisans who could assist him in bringing these
ideas to life. When reflecting upon the nearly two-year sketch-paint-and-design phase, Stromberg
re1narked, "Jim said to me, 'Let's cake our time and get chis right.'"
Cameron called this team the "brain bar" and he asked them co take chances, to take risks,
and to be bold in their creative decision-making process. "Jim would then be able to 'filter' their
work because he knew what he wanted, but without the artists stretching themselves we would
never have gotten to where we've gotten;' Landau reflects. Lead vehicle designer TyRuben
Ellingson echoes the widely held senti1nencs of the entire cea1n in saying, "Jim is simple \vhen it
comes to how he collaborates. He wants the very best you have. Period. And he will address it as
such and say 'you can do better, dig deeper.' His string of knowledge and depth of capacity can
be taxing-you have to play your best game every day, but that collaboration felt evolutionary
to me in regards to my own capacity."
Creative opportunity was never sacrificed on the altar of process-quite the opposite.
This filin production thrived on a culture of exploration, innovation, and a tenacious earnestness
to produce the best \vork possible-thus attracting son1e of the 111ore renowned progressive
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• sketch of Neyciri's patterned face, opposite center), sharing with artists everything from drawings
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on cocktail napkins to, in the case of the Venture Star, an eleven-page docu1nenc on how the ship
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architectural plans, and more. He could have reseed well knowing he had achieved a level and
scope of innovation rarely seen in H ollywood: He had invented an entire world for the big screen,
replete with alien character, culture, beauty, tragedy, revelation, conflict, and purpose. Bue he has
offered up a visual dimension even more unique and arresting-a phancasmagorical and largely
hidden network no less essential co the Pandoran life force than our Earth's air: biolu1ninescence.
Over the course of the last twenty years, for the sheer pleasure of exploration (and che chance
co produce a documentary or two), James Cameron has spent a good deal of time navigating
through the depths of our world's oceans; he has traveled through cavernous, lightless environn1encs
spanning hundreds of miles, witnessing firsthand thriving swarms of bioluminescent life fonns
floating, glowing, and pulsating along. "Hearing his tales from the ocean depths was like listening
to a terrestrial astronaut.» recounts Neville Page, creature designer on Avatar. Cameron \vroce
these visions directly into his script: aglo1vingphantasmagoricalfarest, purple moss reacts to pressure,
rings ofgreen light, ripples on the pond expand outwardfrom eachfootfall, exploding rings oflight
zvhere hisfeet touch down. Dreamlike, surreal beauty. Stromberg, concept designer Dylan Cole,
and ochers took on the challenge of interpreting these vivid depictions of chis planet at night,
uncovering the most effective combination of purples, cyans, and hoc pink accents, which formed
the signature color palette for Avatar. These bioluminescent light patterns were woven into all
the living creatures on Pandora, including the planet herself. One goal of chis effort was to inspire
the audience to see these light patterns as a living network, a nervous system of sores, chat connects
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fi everyone and everyth ing to one another.
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Life in the depths of our oceans-we know it exists deep beneath the surface and is natural
to our Earth, but at the same time, to n1any, it may still feel quite foreign. Cameron drew upon
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• i this theme of"ocherness" and "sameness» in the process of realizing the detail of life on Pandora.
f- ·- ( t All the design efforts needed co begin with a grounded, believable look and feel; the illustrators
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\., frequently referenced Earth-based environ1nents and identifiable creatures-the rhino for the
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• Hammerhead, the panther for the Thanator, and the Clydesdale for the Direhorse. Cole offers
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I \ • the follo\ving reflections: "I knew chat we had to walk this very fine line between too alien and

coo Earth-like. The audience needs to be able to identify with the characters' environ1nencs and
thinkers in the film industry roday, including Rob Legato, Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, believe where they are, yet their look still needs co be alien and con1pelling enough for a filin
Ryan Church, Ben Procn:r. Neville Page, and many ochers. Ellingson recounts: "The through line such as chis." It's all in how the concept designers co1nbine these polarities co create a look chat
fo r 1ne of all chat I witnessed on Avatar was chis intermingling of concept, execution, and story not only resonates with viewers as authentically Earth-based but also sufficiently screeches the
dynamic, and che si1nulcaneous practical use of the story beats of the action in the design process. collective imagination co make for engrossing entertainment. There are 1nany considerations chat
le \vas very hybridized.» The resulcs of chis work are indeed in the realm of the fancascic- fro1n che go into che design process, whether it's a creature, a locale, a Na'vi, or an avatar. Succeeding at chat
H anunerhead co the Woodsprites and from the AMP Suit co the Well of Souls. Can1eron hin1self believability is at the root of the full expression of this fil111, and it all begins- and some 111ighc
jun1p-scarced most of the initial designs for the film (see his Na'vi clothing sketch, above, and a argue it also ends-with the loose sketch.
THE VALKYRIE SHU TTL E "I love che face chac I goc co work with a director scratch. "A lot of what I did was dra,v things out. It 1nay take longer, but it's also 1nore satisfying."
that did want to know \vhat kind of bolts were holding these fusion engines on and if it's gonna This vehicle, in particular, took some time to finalize. Conceptually, it was very realistic and well
vector;' recounts senior illustrator Ryan Church of his collaboration withJan1es Carneron. conceived, but there \Vere many specifics the script called for that the Valkyrie shuttle had to
A n1e1nber of an advisory board to NASA, Ca1neron really "knows his birds;' says Church perforn1: First it had co detach from the ISV; then it had to re-enter exo-atn1ospherically, con1ing
(hi1nself a fan of aviation since he was young). He was thrilled to be chosen to spearhead the down to land like our space shuttle. All the various technical require1nents for chis had to be
shuttle's creation, and he designed the entire shuttle-"my signature contribution"-fron1 taken into consideration.

17
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TH E SAMSON "There's enough legitin1acy to the way these vehicles ,vere designed designed to travel at intergalactic light speed. Like the Huey, it \vas conceived of 1nore as a
that people 1nay actually assu1ne they exist;' reports TyRuben Ellingson, lead designer for the transport vehicle- deliberately utilitarian in mood. Many scenes in the filin and a good deal
San1son. Using Vietnam War-era helicopters like the "Huey" for inspiration, Cameron \vanred of dialogue between the 1nain characters take place on the Samson in flight between the 1nore
the Sa1nson- and all the lo\v-flying vehicles-to have a very lo\v-tech look char could be either fa1niliar, hu1nan-based Hell's Gate and the Na'vi territory of the alien forest. Kno,ving char once
conte1nporary or a nor-very-distant "Earth future." The interior consoles and the pilot interface the audience "flies off rhe compound" they will be i1n1nersed in the n1uch n1ore forbidding,
enjoyed a bit n1ore "high touch" futuristic design, but the outside was influenced n1ore by 1960s unfa1niliar, and esoteric environs of floating n1ountains and fantastical plants, Can1eron \van red
war-era n1achines built to withstand the stress of use under tough conditions. The Samson ,vasn't this n1achine to be very grounded and devoid of "excess filigree."
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TH E B IOLA B The avatar amnio ranks ,vere the n1osc significant prop of the Biolab, as
well as the n1ost challenging apparatus designed by Weta Workshop for their live-action sets.
In following the tank's specs provided by vehicle designer Ben Procter (Procter's 3-D 1nodel is
opposite botton1), Weta found a co1npany in the United States chat could produce both the plas-
tic and metal components for these complex units. To produce che container, che plastic needed
to be "rolled" and then shipped over to New Zealand for asse1nbly. In the fil 1n, these oversized,
clear-looking "tubes" are where the avatar bodies develop and 1nature. The script required char
they fit on the JSV, and then be unloaded, transported co, and installed in che research center at
Hell's Gare. Overall, the tea111 had to build five tanks.
Unlike the very low-tech, Vietna1n W.'lr-era look of the vehicles and the military strongholds
in Hell's Gate, the design directive for the research centers called for a more sleek and modular-
but realistic-appearance. The physical sets were built fro1n the ground up using co1nputer
models, custom wood kits, alun1inum, and reinforced glass. Procter was also involved with these
sets, and ,vhen he first showed his designs co Ca1neron, he was re111inded that his vehicle maps
and plans would be closely scrutinized. "'I believe chat that is what drives Jim co be a critic of our
work; Rick Career would tell us again and again;' recounts Procter, "because unless che created
world made sense to hin1, it was irrelevant that anything we designed n1ay appear 'cool."'

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BOTTOM GEU LAYER (l" THICK)
OPAOUE PRINTEO ARTWORK

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- HE LI N K Two ghostly netluorks oflight merging is how the script describes the con1puter cue, open precisely, and have an internal glow. This glow also needed to trans1nit through a
model showing what Jake's electro-magnetic field looks like when linking with his avatar. Delib- gelatinous n1aterial that had been transported to the set fro1n Los Angeles. Illustrator Ja1nes Clyne

aacely coffin-like in their design, che link units may look surprisingly si1nple, but they proved to was largely responsible for the concepts that fill up the various screens in the link roo1n \Vith data;
be immensely difficult to produce for the live-action set in New Zealand. ll1ere \vas a vast array of he said he produced thousands of displays that he sourced fron1 studies of EKG syste1ns and
daails that needed to be catered to for the 1nany close-ups ofJake entering and exiting. Not only 1nedical graphics. Seth Engstrom produced 1nany of the early concept drawings for rhe link-
did the units have to appear to function in general, they had to slide at different speeds, stop on sin1ilar to the lower lefi: image above by Yuri Bartoli.

33
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FLOAT I N G MO lJ NT A I N S The Pando ran landscape is meant co communicate
a vibrant, pristine, untouched, and fantastical world, one chat contains the newly prized un-
obtaniun1 that humans have come co mine. The Earth vie\vS, in stark contrast, depict a \vorld
in a state of ruination. Its resources depleted, che air unbreathable, its look is gritty, oppressive,
1nonochro1natic, and dark.
R.ob Stromberg's panora1nic painting on che next page \vas one of the first created for
Can1cron and served for months as a kind of signature look for the cea1n of illustrators that
later joined the 61111. From the perspective of'\vorld building;• the success of this painting lay
largely in the balance bet\veen the fa1niliar and the alien ... ahvays a challenging ambi tion for
6lnunakers, ,vhich, if achieved, enables the environn1ents they create to appear not only plausible,
but-at their best-real. His constant refrain with the artists ,vas that all the fantastical ele1nents
in the Pandoran ,vorld must have a feeling oflegitin1acy and a reason for being-they should
never be just eye candy. TI1is dyna1nic approach resulted in a level of detail and precision not
conunonly found on a Hollywood production.
On one occasion, a request fron1 Can1eron co «sho\v 111e n1ore rocks" led intrepid young
designer Steve Messing to leave the production and fly off to China for t\vO \\'eeks to capture
in1ages, via hot air balloon, of the karst rock formations in the Guilin region. Made of limestone
with craggy, cubic edges, and n1onstrously sized, this 1nountain range (shot in early 1norning,
noon, and evening light) possessed n1any of the qualities called for in the script. The in1age
to the left is a flattened version of a full 3-D stereoscopic n1atte-painting test conducted by
Strornberg, utilizing crops frorn Mcssing's Guilin photos. Within the sofi,vare, this irnage of
floating unobtaniun1 can rotate 360 degrees. His source photography served as reference for all
the floating 1nountain vie,vs, as \veil as the Beanstalk, the Rookery, and the backdrop for the final
battle scenes. TI1e panoran1ic of the Pandoran landscape on pages 2.0-2.1 is a "don1e" irnage, ,vhich
was inserted directly inco the 3-D sofi,vare as a background. Note the con1pressed edges of both
lo,ver corners-these stretch to 611 the spheric three-din1ensional space.

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TH E H A M M ER HEA O This beast features a rapid-flaring threat display, in which
an explosion of color fans out from the solid-bone transverse projections on its cen-fooc-long
head. Early i.-D explorations, at best, only hint at the thundering grandeur called for in the script.
first explored in large paintings, the final, approved color and patterning are represented by the
irnage at right by Yuri Bartoli, who also created the pencil sketch below. Creature des igners often
ernploy a more subdued, camouflage-type color palette; the bright, flamboyant themes found in
all of Avatar's creatures are a unique departure.
"Jim had a very specific goal. He knew he wanted a bony mass up front because this creature
was going co hammer its way through the forest," says Neville Page about the aptly narned
Han1merhead. Cameron also wanted chis Pandoran herbivore to be more bull-like, kicking up
dust and stomping at the dirt. Andrew Jones and Dave Clayton (both animation directors at
Weta Digital) ,vere largely responsible for infusing it with bull-like movements. Clayton suggests
1hat even rh ough such a lurnbering, thick-lirnbed creature would n1ost likely just trot off; the
i11irial scene with Avatar Jake called for the Harnn1erhead to flee, so a gallop was thought to be
111ore effective. Jones describes: "We needed to find ways of showing the story beats with the
, haracters that ,ve had been given, so we experimented with different attitudes of a creature that
111ight, at first glance, have a rnore lirnited range of native expression." Jones and Clayton devel-
oped the language for translating the creatures of the filrn from their i.-D and 3-D 1nodel world
i11to their fully anin1ated phase.

45
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THE VI PE R WOLF As with the rest of the world of Pandora, Ja,nes Cameron was
clear about ,vhat this creature needed to be-down to the final detail. The Viperwolf. channel-
ing the dreadful canine apparitions of t,ventieth-century painter Francis Bacon, is a loathsome
predator. Its hairless, six-limbed, mink-like body has shiny black skin banded with vern1illion and
thin lines of iridescent blue. It can slither through the forest underbrush, run like a dog, cli,nb
like a 1nonkey, and hunt in the trees as ,veil as on the ground. Using this as the artists' launching
point, every line, every proportion, and every color value and skin texture were explored over the
course of n1any 1nonths until finally the precise details of the creature ,vere fully revealed. This
discovery process, like most on the production, could be co1npared with the resurrection of an old
me,nory or a vision of a place once visited. By design, an environn1ent was created ,vhere the tea,n
was allowed the opportunity to explore various design directions in great detail. Rob Stro,nberg
describes the experience: "It was like a bigjigsav,r puzzle, trying to figure out ,vhat co1nbination
works. We spent more than a year and a half assen1bling and disasse1nbling, trying and failing
until we finally arrived ar a place where ,ve resolved ,vhat the puzzle- this ,vorld and its creatures,
including the Viper,volf-looks like." The next phase ,vas 1norion, and rhe Viperwolf ,vas the first
of the hexapedal ani,nals to be put to the test. Recounts creature designer Neville Page, "Honescly
,ve didn't know ,vhat to expect from the n1otion studies, but after seeing the Vipcrwolf in action
we all agreed ,ve could 1nove for,vard. Nor only ,vas it ,vorking. ir ,vas looking really, really cool.''

47
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N A ' V I LOO K Years before film production began, Cameron wrote into the "script-
1nent" for Avatar: Invisible to him, draped on the limb like a leopard, is a striking Na'vi girl She
1vatches, only her eyes are rnoving. She is lithe as a cat, with a long neck, muscular shoulders, and
nubile breasts. And she is devastatingly beautiful-for a girl with a tail Her name is Neytiri. The
n1ost recent of Cameron's signature strong female lead characters, Neytiri is daughter of the clan
leaders and an Amazonian alien huntress, nearly ten feet tall with iridescent, cyan blue skin
and zebra-like purplish stripes. She has feral ears and a snout, and her physique is long, lean, and
angular. Moving soundlessly and swiftly through her forest, she is a mythic embodiment of our
noblest potential selves. Neytiri's shape, color, and look became the touchstone for all the creative
development on the film co follow. Bringing her from Cameron's inner vision into reality was a
1nulciscage process, beginning with the sketchpad-as 3-D designer Ben Procter says, "a pencil
is still the ultimate design tool." Lead sculptor Jordu Schell is credited with translating Neytiri's
look into the approved maquette on page 48, ,vhich largely defined her body shape-and that of
all the Na'vi thereafter. In describing Cameron's efforts to con1municate her look to him, Schell ' '

noted, "This sketch ofJim's (below) is still one of my favorite images for the film. It just captured
son1eching perfect about her. It's very simple-neither the definition of the edges of her head nor !
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che sides of the face are there, just her features, sort of floating on this grayish-brown background !
o n toned paper. It's fantastic. Once I saw chis, I finally got a strong feel for what he was after."
11
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John Rosengranc and the Stan Winston Studio then further developed and finalized the facial
featu res ofNeyciri, as well as for all the Na'vi and avatars. I I
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N A ' VI CLO T H I NG In developing the Na'vi look, Weta Workshop understood the touch. Academy Award-winning costume designer Deborah Scott encountered some challenges:
irnportance of building a culture that had a believable heritage, and they were instru1nental in "I'm learning about working ,vith a costume that is never actually going to be worn by a human
identifying the Na'vi as weavers. They explored the tough questions of ho\v rhesc people lived day being .. . it still has three dimensions, however, so I've come to appreciate that every item needs
to day, and resolved, for example, that the Na'vi dress \Vas primarily for con1forr and practicality. to be realized all the way around. For me it's a new \vay of working-a real leap of faith." Bits
·n1ey wear ceremonial pieces like those shown on clan leaders Mo'at and Eytukan here, but and pieces were either fabricated or collected for her and as samples for the digital artists at Weta
because both the men and women fight, there needed to be a balance between adornn1ent and Digital who required tactile information such as: What is the weight? Does it stick or blo,v about
annatnent. Costume art director John Harding oversaw much of the early beading, woven fabric, in the \Vind? How does it interact with the thread next to it? Does it float or sway? Is its surface
and garment development work as well as the creation of jewelry and weapons that the Na'vi use. rough or smooth? Ultimately, Weta received a con1bination of image files, actual costume pieces,
Ca1neron, Rick Carter, and Richard Taylor (the head of \'qeta Workshop) all agreed that if and texture references, which was followed up by real-world dialogue bet\veen Scott and Weta
rhcy were going to successfully communicate the textural subtleties, the weaving styles, and the about ho,v to successfully apply these elements onto the fully synthetic, mobile characters within
translucency in the jewelry (for example), then samples initially needed to exist as physical props the CG software.
that the director, the art department, and finally the digital-effects tearn could handle, feel, and

55
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THE THAN ATOR Because of the scale and scope of this filn1111aking entcrpris<.:, it
,votild b<.: challenging fo r any single artist to be credited ,vith developing or finishing any 011,

- the creatures, vehicles, or landscapes. 1/1111l11r's 11,orld-building cr<.::1rivc d<.:vcloprncnt sp:11111<.: d


course of several years, with designers working around the clock to offer up this fully crafted
universe. Nonetheless, while many helped realize rhe look of the creatures, all will tell you th

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rhe Thanator, 1nore than any ocher, ,vas unarguably "Ji1n's baby." He directed and oversaw its
development from beginning to end. Designed to shock and frighten Avatar Jake during his

- trip into the forest on foot, the Thanator, as Ca1neron ,vrote in the script, is the rnostfaarsorn.
ofthe Pandoran land predators- a black, six-limbed panther, the size ofa tractor trailer, with a
armored head, a venomous, striking tail and a massive, distensible, armoredjau; with nine-inci
fangs. All of the sketches found on these pages are by Jan1es Can1eron.
-~
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- -
HO MET R EE "It's hard to put into words the connection the people have to theforest," says
Jake in a voice-over. "They see a network ofenergy thatflows through all living things. They know
that all energy is only borrowed-and one day you have to give it back." Forbidding and larger
than life from afar, the multi tiered Hometree is the center ofJake's new world; designing it and
defining the life of the Na'vi people went hand in hand. It is one the film's critical set locales for
the many emotional transformations of the main character. Early illustrators took inspiration
from the script: Hometree, like a gothic cathedral overhead. Sunlight streams down through gaps in
the towering vault; 2 5o meters tall with a trunk four times the diameter ofthe largest sequoia and
a base ofmassive mangrove pillars. ... [With} an open central area ... helical core ofnatural spiral
staircase . .. a vast, cylindricalgallery. Rob Stromberg reflects: "I always thought of this as a
multilevel world." Hometree towers above the forest's natural canopy, its strangler roots creating
the first-floor matrix at the tree's base, where the Na'vi enter and exit. From within it resembles
the inside ofa shell, with a central core of three main levels and spokes flaring out like a DNA
helix. As with all interiors and exteriors for the film, the design approach was holistic, considering
both how things worked (where the Na'vi sleep, eat,' store weapons, and gather) and also how best
to provide Cameron with detailed environmenrs that he could shoot cinematically. The first level
interior image to the lefi: was an early exploration for this; above is one of many Na'vi weaving
patterns designed by talented concept artist Daphne Yap.

61
TH E D I REHO RS E "It had been the town bike of creature design;' says creature still have the creature's three-dimensional body lines logically flow. If they were not successful
designer Neville Page. "Everyone had taken a crack at it." It wasn't until famed artist Wayne with the biomechanics here, once the digital artists inherited the design and began to embark
Barlowe sketched out a silhouette that included the now-signature horny mane that things began upon movement studies, the viewer ,vould imn1ediately notice- without necessarily knowing
moving along in the right direction. "Human beings first see shapes 'in total.' That is how your why-that the creature's movement was 1nost likely "unsettling" and "wrong." Overall, the design
brain receives information," says lead designer TyRuben Ellingson. "That's why a loose sketch can priority was ahvays twofold: First, achieve a creative and distinct look, and second, ensure that
be so critical and why you'll hear designers ask the question 'Does the silhouette read as legitimate?"' the creature is also plausible. Once these ele1nents were resolved, Stan Winston Studio's designer,
Once the overall shape was set, the illustrators could begin to tackle the director's additional Christopher Swift, created real-world n1aquettes, adding in a face inspired by the appearance of
notes: six legs, cross with a dinosaur, saddle-like, plated back, yellozu eyes, bony mane, elongated an anteater and detailing the breathing orifices in three dimensions. Swift then began laying down

moth-like neural links, and no hair. For all the creatures, Ca1neron was interested in designing bold, striped patterns and inserting the creature into environments so they could begin exploring
a way for the beasts to breathe through an orifice other than the nose. With assistance from color and tone. Cameron wanted the Direhorse to stand out in the forest, so they began with an
Page, they resolved to place the tracheal penetration of this "alien Clydesdale" at the base of all-white creature and layered that over with n1ore complex tonalities and patterns, as exhibited
the neck, where there was room between the muscle groups to port air into the lungs and in the image to the right.

66
' ., •
'
S I TE 2 6 "Everything is backward nozv, like out there is the true zvorld, and in here is the possessing a bit of "hon1e." As for the environs, the tone for chis \vas set within the script itself,
dream;' recounts Jake into his video log at Sire 26, orher\vise known as the "shack." Ir's the which reads: Samson lands, beating the grass zvith its rotor ivash. Humans step out wearing masks.
half\vay point bet\veen the hurnan world and the Na'vi world. Ir is a high-tech rnobile lab, bur it They move tozvard the shack, taking in the spectacular panorama.
is also a place where bonds are forged, secrets are revealed, truths are spoken, battles are fought, "Jim wanted the arrival to this area to be to be the first view of the Roaring mountains;' recounts
and some characters come close to death. Like our rnain character and the film itself, Sire 26 is concept designer Dylan Cole. "He ,vanted it to be grand and big and sho\v how this place \vas
an ordinary place set within extraordinary circun1srances. When conceiving the building's look, perched right up in there at high altitude with a clear perspective of the 'hallelujahs;" \Vhich both
Cameron's directives to designer Jan1es Clyne \Vere sin1ple: "I want it ro basically look just like ominously and gloriously hint at the mysteries held within the Pandoran world. The keyfra111e
an RV of today. Just rnake it look like an RV." So the rnain challenge, once again, was ro design on the previous spread is a composite of a Steve Messing panora111ic Roaring rnouncain translight
a building char \Vas both otherworldly and plausible-something slightly futuristic, bur also (live-action set background) painting, cropped and inserted into the backdrop of this scene.

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M O N S VE R IT AS In designing an environment chat is both treacherous and accessible,
it was all a question of scale. In the ,vide shot to the left you see Mons Veritas-the Mountain of
Truth-a rock face larger than Yosemite's Half Dome. The scale is epic. For the close-ups, ,vhich
enco1npassed che hu1nan-or Na'vi-perspective, the goal ,vas to create a sense of vertigo and
com,nunicate the massive height and potential danger co the characters, as well as set up this
dyna1nic, aerial environn1ent for the battle scenes to follo,v. Overall, the environn1enc was not in-
tended to be particularly friendly; on Pandora che floating 111ountains are in constant flux, akin to
large boats drifting and grinding into one another, creating boulder-sized raindrops of cru1nbling
rock. Over ti1ne vines have gro,vn, trickling do,vn to forn1 a kind ofscair,vay, a gnarly tangle of
roots and rocks-the Beanstalk-that the characters clin1b. Follo,ving these descriptions, concept
designer Dylan Cole ,vas largely responsible for developing the look of this environ1nenc. Ac one
point the director said, "You kno,v, there's still an angle that I really would like to see," and he
pulled out a piece of paper. "A 1nore dra,natic angle looking do,vn," he continued, loosely sketch-
ing out his concept. Cole took that idea and created a painting that executed the director's freshly
n1inced dra,ving in con1plete detail-this ultin1ately beca1ne a shot in the 1novie. "[Jin1] was look-
ing for ,nuch n1ore perspective, where you see all the ,vay do,vn to ,vhere they ca,ne fro1n-the
Beanstalk wrapping around ,vich hints of the rivers and 111ountains down belo,v." The repeating
figures installed in Ca,neron's loose sketch assisted in establishing that feel.
THE 8 ANS HEE Thwap thwap! is the sound Banshees make ,vhen their leathery
twenty-foot wings take flight. More bat than bird, and shaped like a sting ray, the wildly colorful
Banshees have four wings with translucent membranes, glassy fangs, razor-sharp talons, extra
eye-like sensors, a distended jawbone, whip-like antennae, and bony heads. Agile, elegant, and
' fierce, mountain Banshees cake shelter in clusters of hundreds ,vichin shaded grottoes in the heart
'
of Mons Vericas. They would sooner shriek, glare, hiss, and snap with their rows of fangs than
surrender to a symbiotic relationship with a Na'vi. Wild Banshees, as the script describes, huddle
on rock outcroppings asfar as the eye can see. They cling to the walls with foreclazvs on their zvings,
l
or perch on ledges. One of the heroic creatures of Avatar, Banshees enjoy a lot ofscreen time.
These aerial predators feature in intimate close-ups, battle scenes, joyriding nose dives, delta dives
in combat, snap rolls, hairpin banks, soaring aerobatic turns, and extended "creature against
machine" attacks. In the design process, "literally head to toe, every single element of the creature's
look and movement was thought out. Whether or not we achieved it so chat it is biomechanically
sound, we, at the very least, pursued it that way." Wayne Barlowe's automotive design concept-
cars in particular-informed the approach to creating the creature's "form language." "Take a look
at the point of its chin and that single line that flows over the top of its head and travels down the

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into the wing structure." On this spread are color samples ofJake and Neyteri's final Banshees in
aerial and side views, as well as one of Neville Page's head sketches, above left, complete ,vith his
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T H E LEO N O PT E RY X By air, the Banshee-eating Leonopteryx is the king predator of and the Leonopteryx." The bug-like, colored \ving tips were the final crowning detail, thought
Pandora. Wayne Barlowe's initial sketch set the tone, fashioning a Aan1boyant-looking creature in to lend a greater level of articulation to the wings as well as in1prove the plausibility of the bird's
the spirit of America's bald eagle. Character and creature designer Jordu Schell then designed flight. Concept artist Daphne Yap contributed the signature color and patterning details to this
a clay sculpture, follo\ved by Neville Page tackling the resolution of the many design questions, most magnificent creature of the sky. Upon seeing test 1novement studies from Weta Digital,
including where to place the additional sensory pits acting as alternative eyes and ho\v the Page commented, "You can see the 1nuscularity of its 'arn1s' within the wings, the strength of its
1nouth-with its very large teeth and low jawline-would close. l11e challenge lay in the shoulders, how it adjusts its \Veight, looks around, and twitches. Unbelievable stuff. That's where
1nechanics of deployn1ent and \vhen Cameron suggested, "just have the111 pop out," the parrot's I receive way too n1uch credit for \vhat I do, because the anin1ators are the ones who infuse it
jawbone provided the answers. In the spirit ofJanine Benyus's Biomirnicry: Innovation Inspired with life, and that's what the audience responds to, those nuances of a blink or a twitch."
by Nature, Page says, "That's the way nature does it, and that's the way it \vorks on our Banshee
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THE AM P SU IT TyRuben Ellingson was responsible for overseeing the conceptual


developn1ent of the Armored Mobility Platform, the massive thirteen-foot "walkers" originally
referred to on the set as the "power suit." As with all the designers' work, the overarching theme
\vas "forn1 follows function." In the storyline, the AMP Suit ,vas originally conceived of as an
an1plification of a foot soldier-and as such it evened up the lhanator-human match in the final
battle. On Pandora it was useful for many day-to-day tasks as ,veil. As with all the human appara-
tus, Ca111eron required that it be very functional and accessible for the characters in the film. The
AMP Suit had relatively good viewing capacity, with rearview mirrors, exterior roe pads drilled
into key spots for the actors to casually enter and exit, and n1ore. The sketch on page 27 shows
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Actual pneu111atic elevators ,vere constructed for the live-action sets.

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THE DRAGON "It's a fantasy vehicle, re1niniscent of WWII big bo1nbers, but ,vith che story under consideration. He co1nn1encs, "I had a perfect blending, in 1ny s1nall universe, of
multiple rotors, multiple cockpits, and eccentric weaponry. Think of the Dragon as being a big, being very precise on the technological end but then also I could push it so chat they are 1ne1no-
1nuscular beetle;' ,vas the ,vay Can1eron described the initial design specs co TyRuben Ellingson. rable, iconic, 1novie n1achines. I was able co express t,vo sides of che design curve, if you ,viii, and
Ellingson infused his ship designs with fantastic qualities, ,vhile also keeping the require1nents of always have a fresh task."

91
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THE FAN LIZ AR D "This is our s,van n1on1enc, ,vhen our ugly duckling turns into s,vann, akin co a band of synchronized fireflies. In yet another exan1ple of the film's exploration
a beauty;' says creature designer Neville Page about the dayci1ne state of the forest-dwelling Fan from the familiar into the fantastic, ani1nacion studies produced by Alex Alvarez allo,ved the
Lizard, another Can1eron inspiration. Rob Scron1berg and ochers pulled their initial illustration illustrators co experiment ,vich the addition of a unique elen1enc-in chis case various radial pat-
ideas directly fron1 the script, ,vhich depicts other,vise non-descript lizards unfurling their long terns produced by the Fan Lizards' fully spinning discs, ,vhich looked like the tips of a propeller
spines, Like Chinese fans, into ;neter-long, disc-shaped membranes, allowing them co fly-or float blade, generating thicker and chinner lines. All of chis develop1nenc ,,,ork ,vas then exported co
like jellyfish-in the Pandoran air. The lizards' nighcci1ne state is meant to inspire a lightness of Weta, ,vho reinterpreted the approved designs once again into their final phocorealisric forn1 for
heart and 1nind in rhe characters as rhe creatures explode ,vith biolu1ninescent color in a heated the big screen.
WOO D S PR IT ES With the lightness of a dandelion seed and the subcle movement
of a pulsating jellyfish, the Woodsprites are designed co Roar along in bands of hundreds in and
through the Pandoran air. Woodsprices, or "seeds from the sacred trees;' may each be the size of
a butterRy, but their inRuence on the storyline was large. "/ 1vas going to kill him, but there u1as
a sign.fi·om Eywa;' says Neyciri co her father about her first encounter with Avatar Jake \vhen a
Woodsprice landed on the end of her bo\v. "Pare of creature/character design is like being an
actor;' says Neville Page. "The design considerations always included questions of what is che
character's motivation, \vhac does it do in the scene, and ho,v will it interact." First accempcing
che design in 2.005, che artists described cheir efforts as "difficult." Cameron had been specific:
"Ir's got tendrils and che ability co glide. It's u1nbrella-like but has a bulb in che center, and it
needs to be beautiful." Nearly two years later, Page had an overnight revelation and came up with
a look he described as an "organic chandelier." "It's like doing fountain design!" he says, further
describing his efforts. "I've finally learned my lesson. I'm noc even going to accempc co challenge
what Mother Nature has done so \veil ... 1'111 just going co cake ,vhat is so beautiful and be
inspired by it."
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Epilogue
James Cameron

When I sat do\vn to write the first draft of Avatar in 1995, it burst forth like a river through a the audience, but to always be alien in the specifics. The 1netaphor I proposed for the Banshee was
breaking dam, seeming co ,vrice itself in just three weeks. The reservoir behind chat da,n had been neither pterodactyl nor dragon, but eagle. A great bird of prey, a raptor whose diving attacks are
filling since I was a child, ,vith i1n-ages fron1 a thousand science-fiction novels and hundreds of swift and deadly. In execution, the Banshee cook on aspects of familiar flying creatures. It has the
movies. Every piece of fantasy arc ever created, every Analog and Eerie magazine cover, all fed into membranous wings of a pterosaur; the hook-like claws of a fruit bat; the bright eyes and splayed
that reservoir. In addition, my real life experiences under the ocean, from the profusion of life in wing tips of an eagle. But it also has the jaw mechanis1n of a barracuda, the coloring of a poison-
the coral ecosystem co the alien fonns lurking at the edges of our submersible's lights miles down dart frog, and the hinged teeth of a viper. And its nostrils, inducting straight into the chest cavity
in the blackness, found their \vay into the swirl of ideas chat fed Avatar. But when chat first draft like the intakes of a jet engine, are unlike anything on Earth. The audience is reminded always chat
was done, complete ,vich all n1anner of new creatures and environments, the real work had only one is on a truly alien planet.
begun. Because all of these myriad things existed only as shadows in my mind, placeholders, if you Neville Page, Yuri Bartoli, Daphne Yap, and the other creature artists brought such a
will, for the fully fonned creatures that would emerge out of the rigorous process of design. sn1orgasbord of ideas to the table that I was challenged to select among them. Then John
The design process for a 1novie like Avatar requires many artists and many imaginations, Rosengrant and his tribe ofartists from Scan Winston Studios swooped in to define the Na'v~
harnessed to a single cause. We sought out and selected the very best fantasy artists in the world, and avatars, and the proliferation of ideas began again. Out of this fertile process came the alien
and turned them loose. They promptly ran off to the horizon in all directions, stretching the beauty ofNeytiri and her clan, as well as the clarity of Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver
envelope far beyond ,vhac I had imagined. I found myself in the role of herding cats, gently shining through their avatar characters.
coaxing chem back coward the forms as I had imagined them. But of course this \Vas not a precise The design of Pandora and her various environn1ents required the sa1ne fecundity of visual
process, because these creatures did not exist sharply defined, but only as faint ghosts. Potentials. ideas. Rob Stromberg led a tea1n of artists tasked with literally creating another world. Rob's lucid
Things chat might be. paintings inspired the team to reach his level of fantastic reality. Again, the goal was to find the
But these ghostly outlines were enough to guide the design process, and so, in a fashion chat alien within the familiar. At first glance, one must see something recognizable enough co be real;
must have seen1ed arbitrary co this stable of amazing artists, I winnowed the ideas down until upon further examination, one sees the strangeness. Mountains rendered with photographic
the shapes and colors of these beasts began co emerge. Where I had something very specific in clarity chat are nevertheless floating, Magritte-like, far above the ground. Plants that seem fa,niliar
mind, I dre\v it 1nyself. such as with the Thanator and the Viperwolf. But for the most part it was from the microcosm of Earth's coral reefs and forests, but whose sheer scale n1akes chem alien and
an evolutionary process, as ideas e,nerged and survived the group's deliberations in an almost exotic in the forest of Pandora.
Darwinian \vay. The guiding principle chat we applied co all decisions was summed up in the And still, chis \vas only half the problem solved. Because Avatar is about a clash of cultures,
question chat I always asked the artists: What is the n1etaphor? What are we trying to say \Vith this and the technological culture of Earth needed the same care in the design process and the same
creature? If it's supposed co be a horse, \Vhac, quintessentially, is a horse? So the horse chat emerged rigorous application of metaphor. Rick Carter, presiding over the entire design tea1n, had the
was fifteen feet call, annored like a dinosaur, with purple stripes, six legs, and a meter-long nectar- difficult cask of figuring out not only what looked right, but also how to build it in the real world.
feeding tongue-but it is still undeniably a horse, just like the Thanator is undeniably a panther Because unlike the Banshees and the Leonopteryxes and the other fantasy beasts and settings chat
and the Viperwolf is undeniably dog-like. were rendered only in CG, the world of the humans had to actually be built. Ben Procter, Dylan
The Banshee is the n1ost in1portant creature in the film, because as the story unfolds, we see Cole.James Clyne, TyRuben Ellingson, and the ochers papered the walls with a cornucopia of
that the Na'vi are a Aying culture and that they are closely bonded with their winged mounts, ideas from ,vhich the machines ofAvatar emerged, all looking both fantastic and yet plausible and
as a medieval knight ,vas ,vith his ho rse. So1ne of the earliest designs were quite alien, more like functional enough to really work.
stingrays or living jct fighters. 'TI1cn, as we tried to wrestle the shapes back to something more It was a director's dream, and an unprecedented experience for me, to work with such a
familiar, they quickl y beca1nc too fan1 iliar-pterodactyls and dragons. The goal became to mix the talented bunch. I hope they share my pride in what they have created: a world that we visit at our
familiar and the alien in a unique way; co serve the n1etaphor and create a sense of familiarity for peril, because we may never want to leave.

105
A special thank you to the follo,ving artists ,vhose ,vork is included in this publication:
Robert Stro111berg, Dylan Cole, Steve Messing, Seth Engstro1n, Yuri Bartoli, Ben Procter,
Ja111es Clyne, Ryan Church, Neville Page, TyRuben Ellingson,Jordu Schell, Victor Martinez,
Paul Ozzimo, Craig Shoji, Daphne Yap, Tullie Sum111ers, Tex Kadanaga, Christopher S,vifi:,
Joseph Pepe, Scott Patton, and John Rosengrant.

Additional thanks to the Weta Workshop Ne,v Zealand staff: Steve Lambert, Aaron Beck,
Leri Greer, Christian Pearce, Nick Keller, Gus Hunter, Dan Falconer, and Richard Taylor.

The author ,vould like to thank Jon Landau, Virginia King, Debbie Olshan, Deborah Aaronson,
and Rey1nundo Perez for their uncon1pro111ising support during this fast-paced project.

Design by Christine N. Moog

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Fitzpatrick, Lisa.
The art of Avatar: Ja1nes Can1eron's epic adventure/ by Lisa Fitzpatrick ;
preface by Peter Jackson ; foreword by Jon Landau.
p. Cll1.
ISBN 978-0-8109-82.86-4 (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)
l. Avatar (Motion picture) I. Tide.
PN 1997.2..A94Fs8 2.009
791.43'72.-dc2.2.

Copyright © 2.009 T,ventieth Century Fox FiJn1 Corporation


Avatar Motion Picture © 2.009 T,ventieth Century Fox Filin Corporation.
All rights reserved.

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