Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time, which also makes it 20th Century Fox's highest-grossing movie. It's certainly something the studio had a right to brag about. But now Disney owns Fox, and James Cameron can no longer lean on his tight relationship with Rupert Murdoch and family. That relationship started with Aliens back in 1986 and was meant to continue through the upcoming Avatar sequels.
So how does the Avatar team feel about Fox now being owned by Disney? Bittersweet is one word to describe it. Here's what Titanic and Avatar producer Jon Landau had to say:
We're very sad the Murdochs chose to sell the company. But if they're going to sell the company, there's nobody better than Disney to sell it to. They get Avatar in terms of what its potential is, not just as a movie but as a franchise.
And Disney has enough money to fund it all, so that helps.
Jon Landau is James Cameron's producer at Lightstorm Entertainment, and he stayed positive and hopeful in his quote to The Hollywood Reporter. As THR noted, James Cameron had an unusually strong bond with Fox's Murdochs -- in one example, they gave him the extra time he needed for the much-delayed Titanic, which certainly paid off -- and now he's working for Disney. Disney is a place where IP like Marvel and Star Wars are the real stars and he's not likely to have any kind of special relationship like he enjoyed with the Murdochs.
However, the Avatar team has already worked with Disney on past projects, including theme parks, so it's not like they are all strangers starting from scratch.
There are four planned sequels to Avatar, which made $2,787,965,087 worldwide after its December 2009 release. A couple of months ago, producer Jon Landau said each movie would be a standalone movie, and you won't have had to see Avatar to enjoy Avatar 2. (But is there anyone left who hasn't seen Avatar?)
In 2016, James Cameron said the storyline of the sequels would follow Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their children, as more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans.
In January 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger referenced two Avatar sequels on the way, but noted Disney hadn't given Avatar 4 and 5 the green light at that point. However, Jon Landau followed that by saying Iger's quotes may have been misinterpreted --- telling HeyUGuys not only were Avatar 4 and 5 greenlit, they had already filmed part of Avatar 4.
Just recently in late March, Jon Landau told THR they were moving forward on production the same way they were before the Disney/Fox deal officially closed last week.
Way back in 2006, James Cameron had said if Avatar was successful, he wanted to make two sequels. Well, it did pretty well. Sequels were originally scheduled for 2014 and 2015. Obviously that didn't happen, and future dates also didn't pan out.
James Cameron is no stranger to delays, and no stranger to gigantic blockbusters. The good news is that technology has advanced so much in the past decade that the sequels should be more impressive than ever.
As of now, Avatar 2 is scheduled for release on December 18, 2020, which would be exactly 11 years after Avatar opened. Avatar 2 is currently scheduled for December 17, 2021. The next films are expected in 2024 and 2025.
By the way, Jon Landau and James Cameron also produced Alita: Battle Angel for Fox. There are question marks on whether that film made enough to justify sequels, but it sounds like the ball might be in Disney's court for that decision.