Writer/director James Cameron created a fully-realized CG world with 2009's Avatar, which seemed to dazzle audiences worldwide. While the film made more than $2.7 billion at the box office, more than any other film ever, talk of sequels came and went over the years without any real urgency. However, there has been some real buzz lately about a whopping four sequels — complete with titles. Of those four, two have already wrapped principal photography.
Iger explained that Disney's relationship with the franchise began "well before we anticipated buying Fox," specifically when they licensed the property from Cameron to build massive Avatar attractions at their theme parks to capitalize on the film's success. Iger explained it as a way to offer fans an immersive experience when they visit one of their parks.
"You’re going to Arendelle and you’re going to experience Frozen with Anna and Elsa. Or you’re going to fly a banshee into Pandora. Go to Cars Land. We built Radiator Springs. You’re with the characters in that town," said Iger.
As far as the sequels, Iger confirmed that "there are two more Avatars coming and two in the pipeline that have not been greenlit."
Still, for a movie that 10 years later still claims the title of highest grossing film worldwide, it didn't seem to resonate with fans in the long-term. Some have attributed that to the film's lack of compelling characters to inhabit the world Cameron created. If that is an issue, it's one that Iger doesn't seem terribly concerned with.
"The new ones are a continuation of the former one, so the characters will become more familiar because they’ve only been in one movie," Iger said. "I can’t get into all the details, but there’s obviously character development and story development as part of Avatar 2 and 3. I’ll call it growth or evolution of core characters and introduction of some new ones."
"It didn’t do $2.6 billion worldwide by accident," he added. "There’s something there."
We'll see if Iger's right when Avatar 2 storms into theaters on Dec. 18, 2020.