What is it about New Zealand that inspired Avatar?
As we all know, New Zealand has become the backdrop of huge blockbusters in the past – most famously The Lord of the Rings. New Zealand is hitting the big screen once again to depict the land of Pandora, the world of the Avatar movies. Not has the live filming and special effects been created in New Zealand for Avatar, but there are a quite a few New Zealand features that inspired Avatar along the way.
Creator of Avatar, James Cameron, has lived in New Zealand for a few years where landscapes and cultures are said to have had an influence over his work on the Avatar movies. See these Avatar inspirations for yourself when backpacking or travelling through Aotearoa, New Zealand!
At time of writing, the production of the Avatar sequels has been secretive, so we will update this article as more information is revealed.
1. The Maori culture
Indigenous cultures are a huge theme in the Avatar movies. Avatar creator, James Cameron, has said this was partly inspired by New Zealand’s Maori culture. In particular, the Polynesian sounds inspired Cameron’s writing for place names and family names on the planet of Pandora. By working with Maori people during the making of Avatar, Cameron has said that he is sub-consciously influenced by the indigenous culture. What’s more, a scene was even shot to depict a style of Haka that could have been used on Pandora in the first Avatar movie. However, the scene didn’t make the cut.
With so much likeness between the Tree of Life in Avatar and some of the native trees in New Zealand, there is much speculation that the trees must have inspired Avatar. The Tree of Life has been likened to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest Kauri tree that translates in English to “The King of the Forest”.
Avatar is praised for its hybrid of live-action filming and visual effects used to create this world of Pandora. The special effects for Avatar were actually created in New Zealand from Weta Digital. This is that same company that brought us effects from The Lord of the Rings. Visitors to the capital city of Wellington can even check out the studios and learn about the effects and props created for Avatar at the Weta Workshop.
Much like the bio-luminescent insects that light up the forests of Pandora, the glowworms of New Zealand light up some of the caves and forests of New Zealand. Look up at a grotto of glowworms inside of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, for instance, and you will feel like you have been transported to a sci-fi world.
James Cameron has lived in New Zealand for a number of years now, a country which he is said has evoked his imagination. In a Tourism New Zealand video, he was quoted saying: “Sci-fi mirrored in world around him,” so the New Zealand environment and landscapes is likely to have helped shape the world of Avatar.