A Brief History of the Not-So-Brief Wait for Avatar 2 [UPDATED]

Concept art for the Avatar sequels revealed on the official Twitter.
Concept art for the Avatar sequels revealed on the official Twitter.
Image: Twitter

io9's first article mentioning Avatar 2 was published on December 28, 2009. It was during the site’s second year of operation and also the year James Cameron released Avatar, a 3D adventure that would go on to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time. No movie makes that kind of money without there at least being talk of a sequel and that talk, at least on this site, began days after the original’s release.

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“The planet that Pandora orbits is called Polyphemus, and it’s the primary for a system of moons,” writer-director James Cameron said, prompting our article. “We have some story ideas for how to branch out into other moons of Polyphemus and the Alpha Centauri A solar system.”

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And just like that, the wait for Avatar 2 began. Fast forward over 10 years and the sequel to the now second highest-grossing movie of all time is still, if you can believe it, over a year away. That is if the current December 17, 2021 release date holds. Release dates tend not to hold with Avatar 2, and those are just some of the major things that have happened surrounding the film in the past decade.


Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, in the original Avatar.
Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, in the original Avatar.
Photo: Fox

December 28, 2009: Our first article on a possible Avatar 2 with the aforementioned quote. The original movie had opened only a week prior.

January 15, 2010: James Cameron acknowledges he had been thinking about sequels while making the original. “I’ve had a storyline in mind from the start - there are even scenes in Avatar that I kept in because they lead to the sequel,” he said.

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February 2, 2010: The first rumors of Avatar 2's potential plot surface. “The inevitable sequel will be a huge war movie, with war breaking out early on in the film. And it’ll be made within four years, say unnamed sources.” Those sources were...incorrect. Meanwhile, the original film was entering its eighth week of release and crossed $600 million domestic, beating Titanic to take the number one spot on the list of highest-grossing domestic releases.

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March 2, 2010: Cameron says Avatar 2 probably shouldn’t be called that because the main character, Jake Sully, is no longer an Avatar.

April 16, 2010: io9 interviews Avatar producer Jon Landau, who says deals on Avatar 2 still need to be worked out but that Cameron has begun researching by visiting Brazillian native tribes.

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September 17, 2010: Rumors abound that Cameron wants to film Avatar 2 underwater in the actual ocean.

October 27, 2010: It begins! Avatar 2 and 3 have official release dates. They’ll be released in, drumroll please, December 2014 and 2015. Four whole years! That’ll be plenty of time!

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More Avatar sequel concept art.
More Avatar sequel concept art.
Image: Twitter

April 5, 2012: “Producer Jon Landau says the previously announced release dates of 2014 and 2015 for the two Avatar sequels aren’t looking likely.” Oh no.

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September 4, 2012: Landau confirms scripts are being worked on and technical development has begun, but he and Cameron are in no rush. “We’re going to make the best possible version of these movies, and they will come out when they are exactly that,” he said.

March 18, 2013: Cameron gives an update on the films “I’m deep into it and I’m living in Pandora right now.”

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January 10, 2014: Construction begins on Pandora: The World of Avatar, a full section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

June 17, 2014: Cameron reveals that he’s hired other writers to work on the sequels with him. They are Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, and Shane Salerno. That and much more comes out of an in-depth New York Times article called “For Fox, Much Is Riding on 3 Sequels to Avatar.” Yes, there are now three sequels to Avatar and they’re scheduled for release December 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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A third piece of Avatar sequel concept art.
A third piece of Avatar sequel concept art.
Image: Twitter

December 23, 2015: A year before the scheduled release, Cameron reveals that he needs another year. December 2017 it is.

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January 22, 2016: Actually, no. December 2017 is off the table.

April 14, 2016: A landmark day in Avatar sequel lore. Cameron shows up at CinemaCon in Las Vegas and announced that he’s not making just Avatar 2, 3, and 4, he’s making another movie too: Avatar 5. The new release dates are Christmas 2018, Christmas 2020, Christmas 2022, and Christmas 2023.

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September 7, 2016: After six years of rumors and speculation, Cameron finally reveals what the Avatar sequels are actually going to be about. “The storyline in the sequels really follows Jake and Neytiri and their children. It’s more of a family saga about the struggle with the humans,” he says.

March 10, 2017: “Well, 2018 is not happening,” Cameron says of the Avatar 2 release date.

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April 22, 2017: The new release dates are here! The new release dates are here! For the fifth time, Avatar 2 (and now its sequels) have new release dates. They are December 18, 2020, December 17, 2021, December 20, 2024, and December 19, 2025. That will most certainly be it, right?

May 27, 2017: Pandora: The Land of Avatar opens at Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. The land exists in a time centuries after the movies take place so all is well on Pandora at the end of the films.

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A glimpse inside Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
A glimpse inside Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Photo: Disney Parks

August 8, 2017: It’s revealed that Stephen Lang, the villain who died in the first Avatar film, will be back as the villain in ALL of the Avatar sequels.

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October 3, 2017: Kate Winslet joins the Avatar sequels.

November 21, 2017: The young cast of Avatar 2 talk about learning to hold their breath to film scenes underwater.

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June 12, 2018: A rumor comes out that Avatar star Zoe Saldana may be done filming her parts for the first two Avatar sequels.

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November 2, 2018: Several rumored titles of the four Avatar sequels are released including “The Seed Bearer.” Those titles remain unconfirmed.

February 6, 2019: Edie Falco joins the Avatar sequels.

March 20, 2019: Jake Sully is now related to Mickey Mouse. After months of red tape, 20th Century Fox, which controls Avatar, is purchased by Disney.

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April 4, 2019: Vin Diesel joins the Avatar sequels.

May 7, 2019: Yet again, the Avatar sequels are given new release dates. This time by the franchise’s new owner, Disney. Those dates are December 17, 2021, December 22, 2023, December 19, 2025, and December 17, 2027.

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The fourth and final concept art revealed for the Avatar sequels.
The fourth and final concept art revealed for the Avatar sequels.
Image: Twitter

December 18, 2019: The 10 year anniversary of Avatar. And, to celebrate, Cameron explains why this shit has taken so long. “From 2013 until now we’ve mostly designed the whole world across four new movies,” Cameron said. “We’ve written, finished scripts for all four of those films. We’ve cast them, and we’ve [performance] captured movie two, movie three, and the first part of movie four. We’re mostly done with the live-action. I’ve got a couple months in New Zealand in spring, so we’re kind of on track with what we set out to do.”

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And that brings us to 2020. In alternate timelines, we’ve already seen Avatars 2 and 3 multiple times. In reality, due to covid-19, one has to think there’s at least a chance Avatar 2 could be delayed yet again, depending on how Disney deals with its upcoming film releases and production. Nevertheless, the journey has been long and strange, almost like a Na’vi braid. And, eventually, that braid will intertwine with your eyeballs and we’ll get to see the continuing adventures on the planet Pandora.

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Updated: July 23, 2020, 6 p.m. ET: In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the above paragraph was accurate. Avatar 2, and its sequels, have been delayed a seventh time. Part two is now scheduled for release in 2022 with each sequel moving back a year. Avatar 5 will hit theaters in 2028 to mark the near 20 year anniversary of the release of the original film.

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What are the odds I have to update this story again?


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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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