Avatar Side-By-Side Video Really Highlights How Ridiculous Filming Mo-Cap Is, But How The End Result Is Worth It

Almost 13 full years ago, James Cameron released Avatar, his first fictional cinematic tale since 1997’s Titanic, to the masses, and it went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. Avatar is now back in the public consciousness not only due to its long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, coming out in December, but because the original Avatar is playing in theaters again for a limited time (with dazzling Way of Water underwater footage attached). With Avatar on the public’s brain, one of the original movie’s crew members decided to share a side-by-side video showcasing how ridiculous filming a motion-capture scene is, but how the end result is worth it.

Garrett Warren worked on Avatar as a stunt coordinator, and among the duties that came with the job was for him to not only help operate a puppet of a Ikran, but also to make the sounds of this Pandoran creature with whom the Na’vi have a special relationship. You can compare how this process went down on set to the final product in Avatar itself by watching the below video that Warren shared on his Instagram page:

A post shared by G A R R E T T W A R R E N (@garrettxwarren) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

This video serves as a good reminder that if you’re going to do motion-capture work, you need to be ok with making yourself look foolish. While Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña and the other Na’vi actors performed their scenes like they would on any other production, albeit in mo-cap suits and with attached gear recording their facial expressions, Garrett Warren and a few other men operated the “rubber chicken,” as James Cameron called it, after spending half a day figuring out how to do that. Then Warren had the added pressure of giving off the Ikran cry, which the stunt coordinator described as “a cross between a horse and pterodactyl.”

Things kicked up a notch when Sam Worthington had to straight up jump on the puppet and wrestle with it to simulate Jake Sully subduing the Ikran so that he can bond with it. It’s a pretty chaotic scene, especially since Worthington, Garrett Warren and the other puppeteers surely to be careful not to damage the Ikran puppet. After the “better part of a day” though, this scene was completed, and from there Avatar’s postproduction team went in to overlay the visuals that audiences would see on the big screen, as well as come up with the “real” Ikran cry based off of Warren’s original vocals. 

Avatar shot in 2007, and while motion-capture and visual effects technology has advanced quite a bit since then, I imagine there were still moments during the making of Avatar: The Way of Water that came off as ridiculous as the scene Garret Warren shared. In any case, after more than a decade of waiting for another Avatar movie, fans are now just a few months away from getting to return to this Madonna-influenced franchise, with The Way of Water following Jake, Neytiri and their children dealing with threats both old and new on Pandora. While the original Avatar isn’t currently available to watch with a Disney+ subscription due to its current limited theatrical engagement, there’s a good chance it will be put back on the streaming platform before the sequel’s release.

Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16, and three other sequels are respectively slated for 2024, 2026 and 2028. Look through our 2022 release schedule to learn what other movies are left to come out this year.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.