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December 10, 2009

James Cameron's Pandorapedia


From a great story by Frank Rose about the director and "Avatar" in the latest issue of Wired magazine: "James Cameron didn't just imagine the planet Pandora, he created an immensely detailed alien world. It's all cataloged in the 350-page 'Pandorapedia.'"

Above, an entry.

No, you can't buy one.


From the article:


Thirteen months after he began work on "Avatar," Frommer wrote a pamphlet titled "Speak Na'vi" and started teaching the actors how to pronounce the language. He held Na’vi boot camps and then went over lines one by one with each actor. "Cameron wanted them to be emotional, but they had to do it in a language that never existed," Frommer says. If an actor flubbed a Na’vi word, Frommer would often step in with a correction. "There were times when the actors didn’t want me to tell them that they had mispronounced a word that had never been pronounced before," he says.

With the language established, Cameron set about naming everything on his alien planet. Every animal and plant received Na’vi, Latin, and common names. As if that weren’t enough, Cameron hired Jodie Holt, chair of UC Riverside’s botany and plant sciences department, to write detailed scientific descriptions of dozens of plants he had created. She spent five weeks explaining how the flora of Pandora could glow with bioluminescence and have magnetic properties. When she was done, Cameron helped arrange the entries into a formal taxonomy.

This was work that would never appear onscreen, but Cameron loved it. He brought in more people, hiring an expert in astrophysics, a music professor, and an archaeologist. They calculated Pandora’s atmospheric density and established a tripartite scale structure for the alien music. When one of the experts brought in the Star Wars Encyclopedia, Cameron glanced at it and said, "We’ll do better."

Eventually, a team of writers and editors compiled all this information into a 350-page manual dubbed "Pandorapedia." It documents the science and culture of the imaginary planet, and, as much as anything, it represents the fully realized world Cameron has created. For fans who want to delve deeper, parts of "Pandorapedia" will be available online this winter.

December 10, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien's world and multiple language creation to create the stories we are so familiar with.

Posted by: Tim | Dec 10, 2009 8:51:41 PM

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