James Cameron Discusses the Design of Na’vi Characters and Why They Appear Human
The director also revealed abandoned concepts for the native Pandorans in the 2009 film Avatar.
When it premiered in 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar captured fans’ attention. The nearly three-hour long science fiction epic transports viewers to the beautiful, habitable moon Pandora, home to the native Na’vi people.
The Na’vi, who can reach heights of 12 feet and have blue skin and yellow eyes, are aliens, yet they also unmistakably resemble humans. Cameron made this choice on purpose to subtly encourage viewers to support the Na’vi as humans start to invade Pandora to take advantage of its natural resources. The director discussed how this motive influenced the Na’vi character designs in an interview with Empire Magazine.
“I wanted the viewers to take the Indigenous people’s side and view the humans as alien invaders wreaking havoc on their planet. A reversal of all the “aliens attack Earth” tales we heard as children. I hoped that by using the medium of film, viewers may be led on a quest in which they took on the role of the antagonist and perhaps, in doing so, saw a fleeting glimpse of how nature views them. Destroyer, invader, and alien The Na’vi were created after a lengthy design process with some incredibly brilliant creature and character artists. Some of the early concepts turned out to be overly lizard-like or amphibious. I desired realism. We gave the Na’vi expressive tails and ears that had that familiarity because I reasoned that we can emotionally relate to dogs and cats. In the end, their most alien features were their scale and hue.
Even while it’s difficult to envisage the recognisable Na’vi in any other colour, Cameron claims that arriving at blue wasn’t quite straightforward; it involved a process of elimination.
“Regarding colour, green was chosen. Green aliens have a lengthy history. And the Hulk. And the pinks and browns we associate with humans were not strange. Yellow was Spongebob. Blue and purple are all that are left.”
Despite the fact that the director claims that purple is his favourite colour, blue was chosen instead because it seemed to better complement the stunning bioluminescence on Pandora.
Na’vi character designs that Cameron has abandoned because they “would mess with the rating”
After the colour choice was made, Cameron had a few more character design adjustments to make before the final Na’vi design was finished, including one that his mother had seen in a dream that would have fundamentally altered the movie.
“My mother also related a dream she had in which a blue woman standing 10 feet tall and had six breasts appeared. Cool picture. I drew her, but the idea of having six breasts didn’t look as wonderful as it sounds, and it would also affect the rating. So, blue it is.”
The long-awaited follow-up to Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water, premieres in theatres on December 16.