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Disney announces the Avatar sequels won’t arrive until 2021

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The long road to continuing James Cameron’s most ambitious project

Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, in Avatar.
Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, in Avatar.
20th Century Fox

It’s almost unthinkable that we have yet to see a sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar. Like it or not, the movie is the highest-grossing film of all time (though Avengers: Endgame may break that record), and Cameron has been transparent about his plans to take the Na’vi into full cinematic universe territory. And yet the decade between the first film’s release and the latest announcement from Disney as to the franchise’s future has been a decade in the making.

In an announcement on Tuesday, Disney shifted the expected release date for the second Avatar movie to Dec. 17, 2021. The third film, accordingly, has shifted to Dec. 22, 2023; the fourth to Dec. 19, 2025; and the fifth to Dec. 17, 2027. That’s eight more years of Avatar on the horizon.

More specifically, that’s eight more years on the planet of Pandora. Producer Jon Landau stated that all four sequels would be set on the alien planet, with a focus on exploring the different environments and cultures that populate it. “We’re going to go to totally different environments, we’re going to meet different cultures,” he said. “In the first movie, we only met the Omaticaya clan, and they are the clan here allowing us to come to the Valley of Mo’ara. But as we venture out we’re going to different environments and different clans.”

The sequels will also follow the same characters, as well as their progeny. Several cast members — Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, and more — will be reprising their roles, but the sequels also have a handful of new names attached, including Kate Winslet as Ronal, a Na’vi free-diver, and Michelle Yeoh as a scientist named Dr. Karina Mogue. David Thewlis and Vin Diesel also join the cast, with Sigourney Weaver returning to the franchise in a new and yet-unknown role.

There have also been significant additions to the series’ young cast, with seven young actors cast as a new generation of characters, from young Na’vi to the children of characters from the first movie.

The performance capture for both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 was completed in November 2018; the live-action portion of filming is set to commence this spring, and post-production began in April of this year.

As of now, the second and third sequels are set to hit theaters in 2021 and 2023, though it remains to be seen whether the dates will stick this time.