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Creating an Alien Underwater Realm: Behind the Production Design of ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

February 27, 2023
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Avatar: The Way of Water is the highly anticipated sequel to James Cameron’s groundbreaking 2009 film, Avatar. The movie takes audiences to the Pandora moon, where exciting new environments have been designed to bring the story to life. Production designers Dylan Cole and Ben Procter had to carefully craft the intricate sets providing a truly captivating and immersive experience for viewers.

The Metkayina village, as featured in the sequel, is a popular highlight ideal for portraying the Na’vi’s culture, traditions and values. They worked with diverse cultures in the South Pacific region to inspire the design and compliment the sacred connection the Na’vi have with the water. Interconnected pathways were created to depict the Na’vi’s unity and connection to the environment.

The underwater world of Avatar: The Way of Water is just as breathtaking. It was essential to virtually create a large biomass density of sea life that has not been seen since prehistoric times. To do this, hundreds of aquatic species had to be designed. All of the intricate coral structures remind viewers of the intelligence Eywa has in this alien world.

The SeaDragon ship was another major production aspect, requiring Ben Procter’s creature-like design skills. The ship had to incorporate the thrill of the action-packed climax, featuring a manta ray-like shape and all the technical elements necessary to make it come alive.

Creativity ran wild as Rick Carter took on the task of designing John Ford’s office on the studio backlot. Drawing inspiration from Western paintings, this idyllic setting is aesthetically pleasing while still providing the audience with a sense of story and emotion.

Another challenging production was re-creating Elvis Presley’s famous home. Catherine Martin put together a great team for the task of recreating Graceland in Australia. Everything was accurately re-created from the ground to the timber to ensure that the recreation felt as authentic as possible.

Finally, Florencia Martin created the Kinoscope studio in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, by busing a vast studio setting on location and incorporating a gold rush Western bar from North California. This incredible display of creativity was inspired by Chazelle’s hand-drawn storyboards and provided viewers with a full sense of the 1920s Hollywood world.

From the exotic Metkayina village in the first Avatar movie, to the ambitious SeaDragon ship in The Way of Water, production designers have truly created immersive, beautiful and captivating imaginary worlds. Audiences will be taken on a magical journey as they explore the detailed worlds created by the imagination of top production designers. These films are sure to keep moviegoers entranced, captivated and in awe of the art of cinema. Don’t forget to comment below your favourite sets and set designs seen in films!

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