Fictional universe of Avatar

In the 2009 science fiction film Avatar, director James Cameron conceived a fictional universe in which humans seek to mine unobtanium on the fictional exoplanetary moon, Pandora. The Earth-like moon is inhabited by a sapient indigenous humanoid species called the Na'vi, and varied fauna and flora. Resources Development Administration (RDA) scientists, administrators, recruits, support, and security personnel travel to Pandora in the 22nd century to discover this lush world which is inhabited by many lifeforms including the human-like Na'vi. The clan with which the humans have contact in the film "[lives] in a giant tree that sits on a vast store of a mineral called unobtanium, which humans want as an energy supply".[1]

The Pandoran biosphere teems with a diverse variety of bioluminescent species ranging from hexapodal animals to exotic fauna and flora. The Pandoran ecology forms a vast neural network spanning the entire planetary surface into which the Na'vi and other creatures can connect. The strength of this collective consciousness is powerfully illustrated when the human invaders are defeated in battle by the Pandoran ecology, after the resolute Na'vi were nearly defeated. Cameron utilized a team of expert advisors in order to make the various examples of fauna and flora as scientifically feasible as he intends.[2]


Overall development

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cameron spoke of prioritizing story and character over the effects of technology by explaining, "When they see a Pixar movie, they don't need to know about the hundreds of artists who slaved away at computers for years to make it. It's just: Do I like this story? Do I like the characters? I think Avatar will work that way."[3]

Cameron explained his objective to seamlessly translate actor performances into computer-generated characters, saying, "It evolved from a couple of things: growing up on a steady diet of science fiction, imagining alien characters, and being ultimately dissatisfied with what was possible with makeup and prosthetics, with an actor having to be in the makeup chair for six hours a day. This technology isn't about replacing or marginalizing actors. It's about allowing actors to transform and empower them to be as creative as they want to be. And by the way, we did tall blue people with pointy ears here. But we could easily have done a straight human face if we'd wanted to ... If we had put the same energy into creating a human as we put into creating the Na'vi, it would have been 100 percent indistinguishable from reality."[4]

Cameron hopes to explore the other moons in future sequels, books, and spin-offs.[1][5][6][7]

Astronomy and geology

Artist interpretation of Polyphemus

In the film, Pandora is depicted as being located in the Alpha Centauri A system approximately 4.37 light-years (276,000 AU) away from Earth. It is one of the many natural satellites orbiting the gas giant Polyphemus,[8] named for the Polyphemus of Greek mythology. Pandora's atmosphere is a mix of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, xenon, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. Humans cannot breathe this, so they wear Exo-Packs when outside their buildings or vehicles.

Leri Greer, a designer at Weta Workshop, explained the unusual day/night cycle experienced by the Na'vi, who inhabit a moon orbiting a planet, that in turn orbits around a star.

I actually wrote about how it causes a particular sky coloration across the visible spectrum at moments of pure dusk. And the Na'vi, depending on what elevation they live at (sea level versus higher altitudes), perceive a distinct color in narrow band at the horizon at that moment. They identify themselves, and signify in their markings, with this color. Which helps other Na'vi quickly discern at a distance what/where they are from, or what they are likely to be like (fishermen, high plains, skyriders, etc.). That pure dusk "color," combined with their other predominant color markings lets you also know how they relate to Eywa as a "religion" versus Eywa as a physical reality. And during ceremonial gatherings you can "read" a Na'vi by how they mark themselves with dyes, muds, and paints. And the environment and day/night cycle is directly responsible for the development of this social expression behavior. Again, this was an internal idea to help us design things at Weta Workshop, it's hard to say how much filtered upward to the larger production.[9]

Pandora has lush, tropical rainforests that cover much of its continents. Pandora also possesses a lesser gravitational force than Earth does. The geology of Pandora is strongly affected by the presence of unobtanium, a mineral whose superconductive properties allow it to float in magnetic fields. This property makes it highly valued by humans, who mine it for transport back to Earth. Pandora's levitating Hallelujah Mountains contain significant quantities of unobtanium, which allows them to ride the strong magnetic fields in their region.

Pandoran biosphere



One of the challenges in designing Neytiri was making her look sufficiently alien and yet familiar and appealing enough to make Jake's attraction to her natural and convincing.[10]

In Avatar, the Na'vi are an indigenous species that live on Pandora. They are humanoid in appearance and are 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3.0 m) tall, having pairs of eyes, ears, arms, legs and feet like humans, as well as a nose, a mouth, and expressions recognizable to humans. The Na'vi differ from humans in having blue, striped skin, pointed and mobile ears, large eyes, catlike noses and teeth, tails, and four fingers (hybrid avatars retain the five fingers of their human DNA). While taller than humans, they have narrower proportions in body frame. Their bones are reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber. The Na'vi also have a distinctive tendril feature protruding from the back of their heads, surrounded by hair (resembling a long braid or queue), feeding directly into the brain. This organ allows them to connect with other organisms around them, transferring electrochemical signals such as thoughts and memories to the trees, plants, and other creatures. In the original script, Cameron refers to these as "Jubilees" although the word is not used in the film and may be changed by the time the novel is published. The Na'vi were initially conceived to be more alien in appearance. Cameron recalled that when one of the main characters, Neytiri, was originally drawn, she had fins, gills, and other protuberances. In addition to feline features,[11] the species was redesigned to look more like humans so audiences could relate to them better.

According to Cameron, the appearance of the Na'vi character Neytiri had some specific inspirations and requirements: she was inspired by Raquel Welch's character in Fantastic Voyage and by Vampirella, noting in the latter's case, "the fact [Vampirella] didn’t exist didn’t bother me because we have these quintessential female images in our mind, and in the case of the male mind, they’re grossly distorted. When you see something that reflects your id, it works for you.... Right from the beginning I said, 'She’s got to have tits,' even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals. I designed her costumes based on a taparrabo, a loincloth worn by Mayan Indians."[12]

Cameron has described Avatar as more "science fantasy" than true science fiction and has said that he would explain in the novel for the film why in the fictional universe the Na'vi look like humans.[13]

Culture and language

According to Entertainment Weekly, "The Na'vi can commune with animals on their planet by literally plugging their braid into the creatures' nerve systems. To become a warrior, a Na'vi must tame and ride a flying creature known as Ikran."[11] The Na'vi also use this neural bonding system, called "tsaheylu", to mate with a "life partner", a bond that when made, cannot be broken in the Na'vi's lifetime. This is akin to human marriage.[14]

Conceived for the film was the Na'vi language, a constructed language often spoken by the actors when they played Na'vi characters. The Na'vi language was created by communications professor emeritus and linguistics consultant Paul Frommer of University of Southern California. He designed the language so it could be spoken by human actors, combining syntactic and grammatical rules from other existing languages. Frommer created over a thousand words for the Na'vi language and coached the actors who played Na'vi characters on speaking it for the film.[15] When communicating to humans in the film, Na'vi characters – especially Neytiri – speak in accented and broken English.

On religion, the chief and possibly sole deity of the Na'vi is a benevolent goddess known as Eywa. The Na'vi are able to "connect" to Eywa when they use their braids to connect to the Tree of Souls and other similar flora. Eywa is said to have a connection to all things Pandoran.[16]


James Cameron's core idea for the Avatar's fictional creatures was for them to be "superslick and aerodynamic, and be like a race car with racing stripes".[17] Neville Page worked on Avatar as the lead creature designer. He adapted Cameron's conceptions of the fauna into design that served three purposes: look expressive, function with animation technology, and be believable enough for audiences.[18] He and creature designer Wayne Barlowe sought to base the design of Pandora's creatures on race cars, but they struggled to adapt the concept. Page drew on his education in automotive design, recognizing the irony that race cars were based on real-life animals in having "bone lines". Existing automotive designs drew from seashells, turtle shells, and insects, and the creature designers returned the design to the fictional creatures. They found the biggest challenge in designing most creatures to give them organic appearances since they lacked excessive skin texturing. Some creatures were also designed to have special breathing holes located in the trachea, copying how cars have intakes.[17] Challenges that the creatures posed for visual effects technicians were to create believable "walk and run" cycles for six-legged creatures and believable flying for creatures that had four wings.[19]

The fictional creatures are not connected telepathically according to Cameron and the designers. However, even though they discussed the idea of the creatures being part of Pandora's "Worldmind", they preferred to interpret the creatures as having heightened instincts. Page explained, "Animals are hooked up to this planet. We're the ones who are detached.... The way I dealt with it was, We have so much rich [material] here to reference, that we don't have to dream up a whole new process of animal awareness."[17]

The fictional moon has less gravity than Earth, so the creatures' larger sizes match their environment. Most Pandoran wildlife are hexapodal, or six-legged. Much of the fauna and flora are bioluminescent, which is seen in creatures on Earth such as fireflies, many deep sea animals, and some microscopic algae. The aforementioned breathing holes, located on multiple parts of a creature's body other than the mouth, are similar to spiracles in some of Earth's animals.[20] The flying reptile-like creatures in the film can be compared to extinct flying reptiles such as pterosaurs and to the modern gliding lizard Draco sumatranus.[21]

List of fauna

  • Direhorse (Pa'li in Na'vi) is a bioluminescent hexapodal equine-like animal with tongues similar to anteaters. It is scientifically known as Equidirus hoplites. The Na'vi use the Direhorse to hunt.[22] The Direhorse was conceived and designed by Cameron and Stan Winston Studios. The Direhorse is grey with blue stripes and stands thirteen feet (3.9 meters) tall, fourteen feet (4.2 meters) long. The Na'vi "break" a Direhorse by connecting the fleshy tip of their hair to the animal's antennae. Xenobiologists call this a neural whip. Once intertwined, the Na'vi rider can communicate motor commands instantly through the neural interface; however, this connection does not lead to a life-long, exclusive bond, as it does with the Mountain Banshee. Cameron described the creature as a "six-legged alien Clydesdale with moth-like antennae". The Direhorse uses its long tongue to eat the sap out of Pitcher Plants.[23]
  • Mountain Banshee (Ikran in Na'vi) is an airborne predator who lives in mountainous territory on Pandora. Na'vi warriors attempt to bond with a Banshee, a dangerous and required rite of passage. They are cousins to the Great Leonopteryx and they are scientifically known by Xenobiologists as Pterodactylus giganteus. A Banshee bonds to a Na'vi warrior for life. They are four-winged creatures that, like the Leonopteryx and Direhorse, have a biologically produced carbon fiber flexing on the skin. Neytiri had a Banshee named Seze (translated from the language of the Na'vi roughly as "blue flower").[24] Page spent the most time designing the Banshee for the film so it would be convincing when it flew or perched. The designer said, "The hardest thing of all was having a Na'vi on top of it and flying it. You had to backwards engineer it. It was like designing and engineering an aircraft."[25] Barlowe, who contributed to the Banshee's design, was influenced by manta rays and skates as well as relatively little-known pterosaurs and plesiosaurs that had "many, unique aerodynamic and hydrodynamic" characteristics.[17] Like the color scheme for the Great Leonopteryx, color schemes based on Earth animals were used for various Banshees, though Page was inspired by Art Nouveau prints to warp the schemes so they would not look familiar to film audiences.[26]
  • Great Leonopteryx (Toruk in Na'vi, meaning Last Shadow) is the apex airborne predator native to Pandora. It is scientifically known as Gavilandora maxima. The fierce beauty and nobility of the Leonopteryx gave the species a place in central Na'vi lore and culture. Leonopteryx are scarlet with black stripes and a midnight blue crest on top of the head and on the lower jaw. It is celebrated in dance, song, and with elaborate totems that symbolize both the fear and respect accorded to the creature. The Leonopteryx is considered crucial to the Na'vi sense of destiny and interconnectedness. Prior to the events of the film, it had only been tamed five times, and Neytiri tells Jake that the riders (Toruk Makto, Rider of Last Shadow) brought peace among the Pandoran tribes. Later, as an act to regain the Na'vi's trust, Jake became the sixth Toruk Makto. He managed to capture one by jumping on it from above from his Banshee, but released it after the battle with the humans ended, saying Toruk Makto was no longer needed. The Great Leonopteryx and the Banshee were designed with bright colors. Page based the colors on Earth's birds, poison dart frogs, and Monarch butterflies, though he altered the patterns so that their inspirations would not be so obvious to moviegoers.[26] The skull and crest shapes appear to be derived from pterosaurs from the genus Tapejara.
  • Hammerhead Titanothere (’Angtsìk in Na'vi) is a large hexapodal herbivore whose massive, low-slung head features bony projections on either side of the skull, similar to Terran hammerhead sharks. These protrusions are often used to push and destroy objects: a single sideways thrust of the neck being sufficient to down a significantly-sized tree. It has exceedingly thick, gray skin. There is a small "fan" feather structure on the head that it flares up as a warning symbol seen in the film and in the video game.[27] The creature, which resembles a cross between a rhinoceros and a hammerhead shark, is angered easily.[23] Its hide is impervious to human ammunition, though firing on it is known to anger it. This massive, grazing creature travels in moderately large herds or packs of 10–20 animals. Avatar creature designer Yuri Bartoli explained to about the creature's colorful threat display: "Originally, the Hammerhead just had to be a huge creature, big enough that even a Thanator would think twice about attacking one. A threat display is meant to be seen, so it required bright colors that would stand out against its more muted body". It is moderately social, but also extremely territorial and hierarchical. A soft ungulate mouth is protected by a rigid, beak-like jaw structure. It is scientifically known as Titanotheris hammercephalis.
  • Hexapede (Yerik in Na'vi) are hexapodal deer-like creatures. They are dark blue herbivores, with white and yellow stripes. Twin horn structures sheathe a thin, patterned membrane structure. Their small, sloped skull is topped by this light-colored fan structure. This fan has an eye pattern on it similar to those found in Terran insects. A skin membrane hangs under the jaw and runs the length of the neck. Twin lines of dark hairlike bristles run down the Hexapede's back. The antennae are at the back at the head. As a threat display, the Hexapede flares up its twin membrane structure like a satellite dish and retracts both lips. It is scientifically known as Sexcruscervus caeruleus.[23]
  • Prolemuris are blue, hexapodal creatures based on Earth's lemurs. They have two eyes, small nostrils, and their two upper arms are partially fused. Like most Pandoran creatures, it has a queue on the back of its head. They have lateral skin membranes on each side of the body. They have large eyes and grow 1.5 meters(4.9 feet)tall.
  • Thanator (Palulukan in Na'vi) is a large hexapodal land predator that is believed, by the RDA, to be the apex land predator. It is scientifically known as Bestiapanthera ferox.[28] Cameron personally designed the creature.[29] The Thanator is first seen when Jake wanders off into the jungle, and touches multiple Helicoradian leaves, and they retract to reveal a family of Hammerhead Titanotheres behind. The Thanator scares off the Titanotheres, then goes after him. Jake later escapes the Thanator by going over a waterfall. It is black with white fleshy skin under each hand. Its appearance is similar to a panther; Cameron describes the Thanator as "the panther from hell". The Thanator has ten sensory quills connected to six pads at the rear of the skull that flare up before it attacks the prey. The director explained how the Thanator is the most fearsome creature on Pandora, "The Thanator could eat a T-Rex and have the Alien for dessert."[23]
  • Viperwolf (Nantang in Na'vi) is a hexapodal nocturnal carnivore. They are scientifically known as Caniferratus costatus.[30] They have bioluminescence for pack identification. Cameron described the Viperwolves, "[They are] hairless with shiny skin that looks like overlapped armor. Most disturbing are its paws, which are like leathery hands." They are vicious in combat but treat their babies in a loving, nurturing way. They are seen in the daytime caring for their babies and have green eyes. They have a laugh which sounds like Earth's hyenas. Like most Pandoran creatures, they have antennae. They have opposable thumbs allowing them to climb trees as well as stalk from the ground, thereby are able to create a three-dimensional hunting field.[23]


The Helicoradian plants in Avatar were based on Spirobranchus giganteus, a species of tube worm common to many seas on Earth. These worms quickly withdraw into their tubes when disturbed.

Flora on Pandora are of a tropical type several times taller than that existing on Earth. Many, if not all plant and animal species have bioluminescent properties.[31] The flora specimens seen in the film were all designed by Jodie Holt, a professor of botany at the University of California, Riverside. According to Holt, Pandoran flora are able to communicate with each other through signal transduction and are larger in size than Earth flora due to a combination of factors such as the atmosphere on Pandora being thicker, gravity weaker and because there is a strong magnetic field.[2]

List of flora

  • Helicoradian (Loreyu in Na'vi) is a carnivorous plant that has red spiral-leaves. The plants are up to 3–4 metres (9.8–13 ft) tall and, when touched, they curl and collapse into themselves instantly. They are zooplantae, part animal, part plant. They are first seen when Jake wanders off into a forest of Helicoradia, touches multiple leaves, and they retract and coil up to reveal a Hammerhead Titanothere behind. According to Avatar designer Craig Shoji, the behavior and design of the Helicoradian was based on the Christmas tree worms, tube worms that live on coral reefs. In the video games, it has the ability to heal the player.[9]
  • Obesus rotundus (Rumut in Na'vi) is a tree that looks like a puffball tree.[2]
  • Pseudocycas altissima (Tsyorina'wll in Na'vi) is a plant that looks like a tall Earth cycad.[2]
  • The Hometrees (Kelutral in Na'vi) are great enough to house hundreds of clan members. The trees are honeycombed with natural hollows and alcoves in which the Na'vi sleep, eat, weave, dance, and celebrate their connection to Eywa. Adult Hometrees are more than 150 meters (492.1 feet) tall, and roughly 30 meters (98.4 feet) in diameter.[32] The Omaticaya inhabit a Giant Hometree, standing roughly 460 meters (1509.1 feet) tall. A distinguishable feature of the movie landscape, the tree itself is central to the movie story arc. Like many sacred sites on Pandora, the Giant Hometree sits above a large deposit of unobtanium. It is destroyed by the humans using rockets and missiles, which leads to the Na'vi clans' alliance against the humans.
  • The Tree of Souls (Ayvitrayä Ramunong in Na'vi [Cameron: Vitraya Ramunong]) is a tree where the Na'vi are able to communicate with the biological network that exists throughout Pandora. Cameron described the Tree of Souls as "a big input-output station" and was inspired to design it by bioluminescence that he encountered during night diving. In the film, the tree is seen to be capable of transferring a specific consciousness from one body to another.[29]
  • The Tree of Voices (Utral Aymokriyä in Na'vi [Cameron: Utraya Mokri]) is the most important tree to the Na'vi after the Tree of Souls. It is smaller but its appearance is similar and it too is illuminated. Neytiri tells Jake that it allows the Na'vi to hear the voices of their ancestors. It is destroyed in the bulldozer attack by the humans. This was where Jake and Neytiri chose each other as mates and mated before Eywa.
  • Woodsprites (Atokirina’ in Na'vi) are seeds of the "holy tree", appearing similar to airborne jellyfish. Neytiri describes them as very pure spirits, and scolds Jake for slapping two of them away. The Omaticaya Clan plants one of these seeds with the body of a deceased Na'vi, so the Na'vi's consciousness will become part of Eywa.[23]
  • Various plants and trees that look like Earth's ferns, palm trees, mosses, grasses, bamboo, and succulents. Several forest plants of Pandora resemble the Earth's zoanthid soft corals, which can be bioluminescent as in the movie.


Of interest to the humans is Pandora's reserves of unobtanium, a valuable room-temperature superconductor mineral valued at "20 million a kilo". The name is a reference to mythical materials used in engineering which have better properties than real materials.

In the Avatar universe (set in the year 2154), humans have achieved a technologically advanced, post-industrial society dominated by powerful corporations and industries. One of Earth's most powerful corporations is the globally integrated Resources Development Administration (RDA), a quasi-governmental organization that possesses a monopoly over all resources in the Alpha Centauri system and any other non-Earth location. The Interplanetary Commerce Administration granted these sole rights to the RDA under the stipulation that the use of weapons of mass destruction of any kind are to be strictly prohibited.[33] Known RDA personnel on Pandora include head administrator Parker Selfridge, Colonel Miles Quaritch, Private Sean Fike, Corporal Lyle Wainfleet, Dr. Max Patel, Dr. Grace Augustine, Dr. Norm Spellman, and Samson 16 pilot Trudy Chacon.

Although Earth is never seen in the film, other than in the extended collectors edition, Cameron developed the future Earth of Avatar as a dystopian, overpopulated, overpolluted, global urban slum wrecked by corrupt, nature-destroying industrialism; the movie's background cyberpunk theme is a regular feature of his work. According to Jake, the Earth is a "dying world" where humans have "killed their mother", suggesting that there is very little, if any, plant life left. By the film's 22nd century timeframe, Earth faces a worldwide economic/energy crisis due to the depletion of natural resources. Earth is also apparently so politically unstable that the services of private security contractors and the militaries of Earth's nations are in high demand; Colonel Quaritch boasts about serving three combat tours of duty in Nigeria before coming to Pandora and notes that Jake is a veteran of a military operation in Venezuela.


One of the futuristic computer screens, used for the AVATAR program, which employ 3D graphics and touchscreen interface.

Technologically, humans have achieved monumental advancements by 2154: interplanetary and interstellar space travel and colonization; virtual 3D printing and holography mapping; and advanced methods of cryonics and psionics are employed. Using their capability of advanced genetic engineering, humans develop "Avatar" hybrid bodies from genetically distinct modified-human DNA and Na'vi alien genetic material. Through psionics, genetically-matched humans are then mind-linked to these "Avatars" for remote control operation. In the area of medicine, humans have developed advanced stem cell neuroregeneration technology that can cure Jake's paralysis. However, in 2154, it is still extremely expensive and is not covered by Veterans Affairs benefits. Thus, RDA is initially able to use Jake's desire to regain the use of his legs as leverage against him.

As with many science fiction films, many space vehicles, aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons and technologies were created to fit the story. Many were patterned after historical or contemporary technologies to give the film a sense of futuristic realism.[34] Concept artist Ryan Church based many drawings on aerodynamic research from previously classified NASA and DARPA technical papers. Unlike the movie Aliens which employed one drop ship from de-orbit to ground combat, several vehicles cover specific roles of utility transport, gunship, and base resupply. This is similar to the specialization of aircraft and helicopters in the United States military since the Vietnam war.

  • Amplified Mobility Platform suit is a MK-6 class combat vehicle that is worn and controlled as a large "mech" motorized suit. They are 16-foot-tall (4.9 m) exoskeletons powered by ceramic turbines. Soldiers at Hell's Gate use these for patrol and for battle. AMP suits are controlled via a semi-master-slave system – with the AMP's arm motion slaved to the pilot's arm motion. Motion-sensing gloves worn by the pilot are used to control the AMP arms – the result being that the AMP's arm movements exactly match the pilot's movement. AMP's are armed with 30mm GAU-90 autocannons, which the suit deploys as a soldier or Marine would hold and use a rifle. There is an ammo belt that extends into the gun, into an ammo canister on the shoulder, over the arm, into a socket at the back. The GAU-90 fires 350 rounds per minute. The AMP suit has GPS, thermal imaging display, FLIR, and radar. Stan Winston Studios animator and Avatar Design Supervisor John Rosengrant described the AMP suit as "An Apache helicopter with legs". It also has a ceramic knife that is three feet long. Quaritch owns an AMP suit and has named it "Beyond Glory". Its GAU-90 has a dragon painted on the ammo tube.
  • AT-99 Scorpion Gunship is the heavily armed gunship counterpart to Samson and is similar in role and appearance to the AH-64 Apache or Mi-28 gunships. Dual co-axial ducted-fan rotor systems with a total of four prop-rotors each with three blades lead as the aircraft's primary proplusion. It drives on redundant fuel cells. Twin turbine generators driving counter-rotating annular ceramic motors. It is equipped with radar and sonar generators. It is armed with hex-cluster pylon-mounted .50 caliber rotary chain gun systems that can rotate a full 360 degrees with 700 rounds per minute cyclic rate of fire as close range primary weapons. The Scorpion has two pair of stub-wing pylons to carry its armament. Scorpions carry 190 TK-411 WAFAR (Wrap-Around Fin Aerial Rocket) rockets in ten 19-tube rocket launchers. The use of the rocket varies according to the warhead that can range from tactical applications to impact-based sensor systems. Eight Hawkeye NPB-9 Hellfire (Helicopter Launched Fire-and-forget) missiles are used to engage air-to-air targets in conjunction with the nose-mounted sensor suite. The tail doubles as a rear stabilizer.
  • C-21 Dragon Assault Ship is a large four-post ducted-fan VTOL heavily armed transport and gunship which can deliver AMP suits through drop doors. Quaritch led RDA forces with one of these. Its myriad arsenal of heavy machine guns, dozens upon dozens of rocket and missile pods, and door-gunners makes it the RDA's largest ship so far. Quad turbine generators drive the four-posted ceramic propellers. The Dragon is heavily armed with multiple weapons systems included grenades, rockets, missiles and point-defense Gatling cannons. Ability to deploy many troops and AMP suits, variety of medium automatic guns, ATG and ATA missiles, incendiary rockets, grenades, door gunners, plus dual and quad Gatling gun systems. All gun and missile systems are constrained by friendly fire avoidance codes (IFF Lockout). It has twin cockpits. Its propellers counter-rotate to navigate, plus the nose-mounted radar suite. There are eight fifty-millimeter sentry guns mounted below the right cockpit.
  • GAV Swan is a six wheeled terrain assault vehicle. Its full name is the Ground Assault Vehicle JL-723. It has a gyrostabilized platform so when it travels over rough terrain, the gunner platform is stabilized. The extended gunner's chair can rise up 3.6 meters above the vehicle to see over obstructions between the gun and the target, like the long neck of a swan, hence the name. This 6x6 is built for all terrain, and its permalloy armor and four turret-mounted sixty-millimeter rotary autocannons provide protection from the Pandoran environment. The wheels have little armor and are designed with a thick polymer alloy. Swans have a gyrostabilized system that rotates a full 360 degrees. Swans also have a roll bar and four rear headlights. Swans have redundant fuel cells in the rear. When the chair extends, the ammunition storage canister is located at the back.
  • Hell's Gate is a secure forward operating base with airfield, resembling a "modern day Khe Sanh". Slightly more than a third of the site is taken up by the shuttle runway, VTOL pads, hangars, equipment storage areas, and garage structures. The armor bay is where vehicles come to get stored, repaired or refitted. This building is the main storage area of all AMP suits. There is also a small weight room inside a weapons locker that Quaritch uses. Designed for security and rapid force deployment, the Armor Bay is the core of Hell’s Gate’s defenses. Housed inside its fortified hangar and at the ready are Dragon Assault Ships configured for forward strike operations, Scorpion Gunships, Samson Helicopters, Model 10 Slash-Cutters, an array of AMP Suits, and other attack craft including support vehicles and assorted battle-ready machinery.
  • ISV Venture Star or Interstellar Vehicle Venture Star is an interstellar bulk carrier starship that uses antimatter propulsion systems to enable interstellar travel. It transports supplies, equipment, personnel, refined ore, and data between Earth and Pandora, taking around six years to travel from one to the other. The Venture Star does not land on the planetary surface, but stations itself in orbit and rendezvouses with operations on Earth and Pandora via Valkyrie shuttlecraft that dock with it. The Venture Star is one of twelve RDA ISV mineral carriers, continuously traveling between the Sol and Alpha Centauri A systems. According to film designer Ben Proctor:

The huge glowing radiators mounted to the engines dissipate their heat, and the enormously long central truss, with its own protective coolers and reflectors, protects the cargo and crew modules from the engines' heat and radiation using the simple rule of r-squared attenuation rather than heavy shielding. (Yes, [James Cameron] really thinks about this kind of stuff and explains it very clearly in text and in person.) The ship has a pair of centrifugal-gravity-gen modules for the crew who remain awake for the duration, which has become a pretty typical feature of quasi-realistic ship designs in movies. But one unique feature it has which directly relates to the sub-light realistic travel is a cascade-style shield stack to protect the speeding craft from interstellar debris. Jim's [brief] completely explains this technology, apparently based on current NASA research, and how it obliterates potentially catastrophic particles by letting them slam through a series of thin, light shield surfaces.[9]

The ship was based on designs by scientist and author Charles Pellegrino, who served as science advisor on the film,[35] and deceased scientist and author Robert L. Forward.
  • SA-2 Samson is a twin-ducted fan VTOL utility aircraft. It is armed with two door mounted machine guns and two pylons near the cockpit with missile pods mounted on them. The pair of ducted-fan assemblies, each with two coaxial propellers, enable the Samson of 6,000 kilograms lifting capability by manufacturers specifications, but lifting performance is rated at 150% of that on Pandora due to the thicker atmosphere. Both ducted-fan assemblies are capable of changing blade pitch independently. From the pilot perspective, forward and aft, lift, yaw and roll authority are accomplished by similar sets of controls found in conventional helicopters. Propulsion is twin Goetz-Korman turbine generators.[36]
  • Valkyrie TAV is a delta-wing space vehicle/aircraft used to transport equipment and personnel between ISV Venture Star and Hell's Gate on Pandora and its chief purpose is to bring Unobtanium to the spacecraft. The Valkyrie's official name is SSTO-TAV-37 B-class shuttlecraft. The Valkyrie has a payload of up to 60 armed troops, 25 AMP suits, 25 tons of refined Unobtanium and/or supplies. Two Valkyries carried by the ISV Venture Star are used for transfer of personnel and cargo between the orbiting ISV and the surface of Pandora. It has VTOL capability by rotating its fusion engines, and like the C-130 Hercules was adapted as a bomber to drop daisy cutter bombs out of the rear cargo ramp.


Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly writes, "Cameron turns Pandora into a vertiginously suspended forest landscape...Jake and the sexy tribal princess Neytiri (Zoë Saldana) wow us with their fluid, prancing movements, but there's no subtext to their smoothly virtual faces."[37] Carol Kaesuk Yoon of the New York Times wrote that Avatar "has recreated what is the heart of biology: the naked, heart-stopping wonder of really seeing the living world".[38]

CNN reported that the film's universe has had a profound effect on the audience over their perception of Earth, and life on it, in reality.[39] Avatar Forums posted a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible" which received "1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope" (a second thread was posted for more room).[39] Philippe Baghdassarian, the site administrator, commented that, "I wasn't depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy, but I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed."[39] Many have confessed to falling to depression and harbouring suicidal thoughts, while others have expressed disgust towards humanity and "disengagement with reality."[39] Psychiatrist Dr. Stephan Quentzel added that "Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far."[39]

In February 2010, CNN published an article exploring the "Avatar science" (the technology linking the human mind to a remotely controlled body).[40] Elizabeth Landau wrote, "Scientists say we are many decades, even centuries, away from making this kind of sophisticated interaction possible, if it can be done at all."[40] A neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh, Andrew Schwartz, further commented that, "[it] shouldn't be taken as anything but fantasy."[40]


  1. ^ a b Rottenberg, Josh (December 18, 2009). "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World". Entertainment Weekly (1081): p. 51. 
  2. ^ a b c d Kozlowski, Lori (January 02, 2010). "Inventing the plants of "Avatar"". Los Angeles Times.,0,5033714.story?track=rss. Retrieved January 03, 2010. 
  3. ^ As quoted in Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment Weekly #1081 (December 18, 2009): 48.
  4. ^ Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment Weekly #1081 (December 18, 2009): 48.
  5. ^ Carroll, Larry (June 29, 2006). "'Titanic' Mastermind James Cameron's King-Size Comeback: Two Sci-Fi Trilogies". MTV. Retrieved October 18, 2006. 
  6. ^ Murphy, Mekado (December 21, 2009). "A Few Questions for James Cameron". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Eric Ditzian (December 21, 2009). "James Cameron Talks 'Avatar' Sequel Plans". MTV. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  8. ^ Although not mentioned in the movie, Polyphemus was discussed in the book James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide by Maria Wilhelm & Dirk Mathison. ISBN 978-0-06-189675-0. See Polyphemus in Wikia.
  9. ^ a b c Anders, Charlie Jane (February 4, 2010). "27 Avatar Questions, Answered By The Movie's Designers". Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  10. ^ Duncan, Jody (January 2010). "Avatar". Cinefex (120): 138. 
  11. ^ a b Rottenberg, Josh (December 18, 2009). "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World". Entertainment Weekly (1081): 48–51. 
  12. ^ "James Cameron: Playboy Interview". Playboy. December 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  13. ^ Germain, David (December 21, 2009). "'Avatar' creator Cameron shares alien shop talk". Associated Press via Google News. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ Staff (January 4, 2010). "Avatar fans promised alien sex scene on DVD". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 7, 2010. 
  15. ^ Milani, Matteo (November 24, 2009). "An interview with Paul Frommer, Alien Language Creator for Avatar". Unidentified Sound Object. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  16. ^[]=eywa
  17. ^ a b c d Anders, Charlie Jane (December 9, 2009). "Pandora's Creatures Were Partly Based On Cars". io9 (Gawker Media). Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  18. ^ Cohen, David S (December 27, 2009). "'Avatar' unleashes a new kind of creative". Variety. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  19. ^ Desowitz, Bill (December 21, 2009). "Avatar: The Game Changer". (AWN, Inc.). Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  20. ^ Choi, Charles Q. (December 21, 2009). "How much real science is in ‘Avatar’?". (MSN). Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  21. ^ Richard, Michael G (February 16, 2010). "Y'Know the Flying Dragons in Avatar? Tiny Real-Life Version Discovered in Indonesia". Retrieved February 17, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Direhouse". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f "A Look Into the Making of Pandora for AVATAR". S&S Media Services. December 6, 2009. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  24. ^ "Mountain Banshee". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  25. ^ Kennedy, Gerrick (December 4, 2009). "'Avatar' designer on Jim Cameron, banshees and those nagging 'Delgo' comparisons". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Anders, Charlie Jane (December 10, 2009). "Those crazy color schemes are from the ocean floor — and Art Nouveau". io9 (Gawker Media). Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Hammerhead Titanothere". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  28. ^ "Thanator". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  29. ^ a b Maher, Kevin (December 8, 2009). "Avatar: pictures of James Cameron’s fantastic new world". The Times (London). Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Viperwolf". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. Retrieved December 28, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Video:Pandora Discovered". 2009-12-08. 
  32. ^ "Avatar: Pandorapedia – Hometree". 2009-12-08. 
  33. ^ Wilhelm, Maria; Dirk Mathison (November 2009). James Cameron's Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. HarperCollins. p. 147. ISBN 0-0618-9675-6. 
  34. ^ "Avatar's hardware was all based on real-life stuff". io9. 
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (December 25, 2009). "But What About Avatar? James Cameron's 3-D epic didn't make our top 10 lists. But critic Owen Gleiberman praises its visual artistry". Entertainment Weekly (1082/1083): 84. 
  38. ^ Kaesuk Yoon, Carol (January 19, 2010). "Luminous 3-D Jungle Is a Biologist's Dream". The New York Times: p. D-1. 
  39. ^ a b c d e Piazza, Jo (January 11, 2010). "Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues". Retrieved February 19, 2010. 
  40. ^ a b c landau, Elizabeth (February 3, 2010). "Is the 'Avatar' concept really possible?". Retrieved February 9, 2010. 


  • Fitzgerald, Lisa (2009). The Art of Avatar: James Cameron's Epic Adventure. Abrams. ISBN 0810982862. 
  • Wilhelm, Maria; Mathison, Dirk (2009). Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. It Books. ISBN 0061896756. 
  • Wilhelm, Maria; Mathison, Dirk (2009). James Cameron's Avatar: The Movie Scrapbook. HarperFestival. ISBN 0061801240. 

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