Sunday, July 22, 2018
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James Cameron, Zoe Saldana and more appear at Disney's Pandora

ORLANDO — As he stood on a stage at Disney World Wednesday, director James Cameron revealed his teenage dreams.

He was 19 when he first envisioned a bioluminescent world of strange creatures and floating mountains, he said. Now, he was standing under one to dedicate a new land in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Pandora — the World of Avatar.

Disney CEO Bob Iger joined Cameron on stage in Orlando "to honor the best of both our worlds" in dedicating the new land in the zoo-like theme park estimated to have cost $500 million.

They were then joined on stage by stars of the film including Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.

The land opens to the public on Saturday but the media preview revealed a highly-detailed recreation that Cameron said had him in awe.

"The Navi have a spiritual connection with their world," Cameron said. "This park, which is based on a deep respect for nature, is the perfect place to connect Pandora to our world. They both inspire us to respect the natural world and our place in it."

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In 1994, Cameron wrote an 80-page treatment for Avatar, drawing inspiration, he has said, from "every single science fiction book" he has ever read. He had to wait 10 years for movie technology to catch up.

Avatar became the highest-grossing film in history, and the best-selling Blu-Ray in the history of the medium. And yet, almost a decade after its release, you don't see conventions blue people like you do for the worlds of Star Wars or Star Trek. They are two franchises Cameron has long admired and said he hoped to emulate in creating a new universe as an artist.

Cameron has said he intended to realize the Avatar universe "over 20 years or more in various media, some of which have yet to be invented." That has taken shape as a Cirque du Soleil-style stage show that came to Tampa last year, plus this theme park and four novels commissioned by Steven Charles Gould of the Jumper series.

Disney's theme park lands brings to life his floating mountains and strange, glowing plants with rides that push technical boundaries in the same fashion as the movie.

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It all comes from a PG-13 movie with salty language and gritty war scenes. It's no Moana. But Iger said after he first saw the film, "it felt so real to me. I wanted to visit there."

He said it still captivates "and we eagerly wait the next chapter. ... No pressure, Jim."

Cameron recently announced that four sequels to Avatar are to be filmed at the same time and released in December of 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025.

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