Production is back underway on the Avatar sequels following the COVID-19 shutdown, and we have photographic proof. Writer/director James Cameron had been towards the tail end of production on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in New Zealand when the worldwide pandemic ground everything to a halt, but thanks to the New Zealand government’s swift action, COVID-19’s impact on the country has been relatively limited. The Disney production got the go-ahead to resume filming, and so Cameron is back behind a very long crane camera in a set photo released by franchise producer Jon Landau.
After basically a decade of writing, planning, and developing four new Avatar sequels at once, production finally got underway in September 2017 and Cameron and his team spent much of 2018 doing performance-capture photography for Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. In 2019, they moved the production down to New Zealand to begin the live-action filming portion for Avatar 2 and 3, but judging by this and other set photos, it appears they’ve also been doing some performance-capture work in New Zealand as well.
The story of the Avatar sequels is under wraps, but we do know that at least Avatar 2 will heavily involve going underwater, with Cameron and his team pioneering the ability to do performance-capture with their actors underwater. The story will also focus on a new generation of Na’vi as the initial cast photos revealed a host of children and young performers who had joined the ensemble alongside returning cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Matt Gerald, and Sigourney Weaver. In terms of new additions, Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, David Thewlis and Michelle Yeoh are among the actors playing new characters in the sequels.
The production right now has been mainly focused on getting Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in the can, and then Cameron says if Avatar 2 is a success, they’ll go back and finish up production on Avatar 4 and Avatar 5. The release dates for the sequels have been staggered out by Disney two years apart to allow for time to see how each movie performs before completing the next one. Except for Avatar 2 of course, which is scheduled to hit theaters on December 17, 2021—over a decade after the release of Cameron’s worldwide smash Avatar. No pressure.
For more on the Avatar sequels, check out what David Thewlis told us about the “bizarre” filming experience.