"The message of James Cameron's Avatar, which comes out on DVD and Blu-ray April 22 in conjunction with Earth Day, is unapologetically green. "All life on Earth is connected," the director told me, when I interviewed him for my book, The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron. "We have taken from nature without giving back, and the time to pay the piper is coming."
But Cameron took from nature, too. If the lush, alien jungles of Avatar feel eerily familiar, that's because the director rooted them close to home. His muse for Avatar's fictional moon, Pandora, and its wildly fantastical creatures, plants and landscapes was the planet Earth. In May of 2005, before the film was greenlit by 20th Century Fox, a four-man team of designers began secretly creating Pandora in Cameron's home in Malibu, Calif. The director gave them National Geographic photos, botany books and nature documentaries for reference. Says Neville Page, a concept artist and creature designer behind much of Pandora's spectacle: "The best we could do was try to capture what nature has done so perfectly and expand on it."