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After years of false starts, it appears that the Avatar sequels are actually happening. While in most cases this would mean that filming has begun, in the case of Avatar, it's the digital effects that are reportedly underway. The news that Weta Digital has begun work also confirms another aspect of the massive production, that all four sequels will be in production simultaneously, as Weta has announced that they've begun working on the effects for all the films, not simply Avatar 2.
James Cameron talked about sequels to Avatar almost as soon as the original movie became a massive hit. However, years went by with progress seemingly going at a snail's pace. Now, however, things finally are moving forward and nothing has made that clearer than Deadline reporting that Weta Digital has officially begun work on visual effects for the four upcoming sequels. Considering how cutting edge the effects of the original Avatar were at the time, and how much James Cameron likes to push the envelope of what's possible, one can only imagine exactly what Weta has begun to work on.
Traditionally, a visual effects team wouldn't be able to do all that much without actual footage to add effects to. However, since Avatar was essentially a digital production, there's actually a lot that Weta can potentially do without a frame of film to work with. In fact, the situation here could be very much reversed, that some of the digital effects may be needed in order for those on the set to have an idea what sort of things they're acting against. Even the sets are digital creations so the actors have literally no idea what sort of place they're even standing without the ability to see it on a monitor.
The Avatar sequels promise to show us new parts of the planet Pandora that we didn't see in the first film. The next movie is expected to take place in large part in or on Pandora's oceans. This will certainly create new challenges for Weta to overcome when it comes to digital effects. While Avatar 2 isn't expected until the end of 2020, it's not surprising that Weta is already working on the movie as we have every reason to believe it will take them more than three years to complete the effects work. While we don't know what sorts of boundaries James Cameron will be pushing throughout the Avatar sequels, we assume he's got grand ideas. Considering Weta's track record, they're certainly the ones to trust with his vision, whatever it is.
While we have quite some time to wait before we return to the world of Pandora, unless you plan a trip to Disney World, It seems we really will be going back in large part thanks to the extensive work that will be done by Weta Digital.