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Disney unveils 'Avatar' theme park concept art

Yes, there are plenty of waterfalls.

Disney just unveiled first-look concept and model images for its mammoth Avatar attraction planned for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Fla. Partnering with Avatar director James Cameron, Disney is “imagineering” the alien world of Pandora in the 2009 film as a walk-through immersive land within the park.

Walt Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs wrote on the Disney park’s blog that guests “will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bio-luminescent plants that are alive with light and sound.” He also noted, in a first hint of what rides might be involved, that guests will “discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”

The Avatar land is part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, which will also include a new nighttime event “where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River.”

The Avatar experience won’t be open anytime soon, however — its current launch date is 2017. In the meantime, Cameron is working on three Avatar sequels, with the first opening December, 2016.

Check out these first-look concept images from Disney, and one with Cameron and the Disney team hovering over a park model: READ FULL STORY

From 'Jurassic Park' to 'Back to the Future': Movies meant to be seen on the big screen

Lightning strikes the clock tower in Back to the Future. Panoramic helicopter shots sweep over the hills of Middle-earth in Lord of the Rings. Jack and Rose hold each other on the bow of the Titanic. These are images that we may see over and over again on our living room TVs, but there’s nothing like seeing them on the big screen.

King of the world – or at least the box office – James Cameron has said that watching movies like Avatar on an iPhone “is dumb.” While I won’t totally discount the value of being able to consume entertainment on the go on a portable device, I do agree a massive screen and a quality sound system – not to mention viewing with an audience – is key to the full experience of epic blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars.

So as Jurassic Park heads back to theaters for its 20th anniversary this weekend (with an added dimension), let’s take a moment to celebrate a few of the movies built for a big screen and a big audience, starting with the 1993 dinosaur epic now playing in 3-D.

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'Mars Needs Moms' is the best 3-D movie since 'Avatar,' says Robert Zemeckis

How badly did Mars Needs Moms flop? Badly enough to earn the number four spot on EW’s list of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history. The $150 million film earned just $39 million, making it Disney’s worst performer of all time. The box office was so poor that it inspired Disney execs to shorten John Carter of Mars‘ title, changing it to just John Carter. (Spoiler alert: Their gambit didn’t work.)

But even though critics and audiences around the globe shunned this animated film, Mars Needs Moms did have at least one champion. EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the move an A-, calling it “visually magnificent” and favorably comparing it to James Cameron’s Avatar. And apparently, Mars producer Robert Zemeckis agrees with her sentiment. READ FULL STORY

'Avatar 2': Are you ready for some Chinese Na'vi?

James Cameron always has one foot in the future. As a filmmaker, he waited several years to make Avatar so that the effects technology would catch up to the vision he had in his head. And as a savvy businessman, he’s bet heavily in the vast potential of the Asian movie market. “Within five years, China could easily be as big a gross-revenue market for film as North America, and there are very specific economic incentives for having both Chinese content and Chinese co-production,” Cameron recently told the Hollywood Reporter.

But Cameron is looking beyond investing in mere cinematic infrastructure; he’s doubling down with his creative process. The Oscar-winning director tells the trade that Avatar fans should expect to see Chinese actors and Chinese characters in his two sequels. “We can have Chinese Na’vi; [and in the live-action sequences] we can also have Chinese actors who speak English in the film.” Cameron said. “We are projecting a future in Avatar, and if you project that future out, it is logical that there would be a number of Chinese amongst the contingent on Pandora.” READ FULL STORY

Disney moving ahead with ‘Avatar’ theme-park plans: What rides would you want to see?

Avatar-special_320.jpg

I see you, Bob Iger. According to a Deadline report, Disney CEO Iger allegedly let slip at the company’s annual shareholders meeting today that preliminary design is “just beginning” for the previously announced Avatar theme park, which is planned for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando.

The park is set to explore both familiar and as-yet-unseen settings from creator James Cameron’s Avatar universe (including environments from the two sequels in development), and is the result of a licensing deal between Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Fox Filmed Entertainment, allowing the Imagineers at Disney World to develop attractions based on the film as an extension of the Animal Kingdom area of the park. Iger reportedly said the park “in all likelihood” won’t open until 2015 (initial plans for the park call for construction to begin in 2013).

READ FULL STORY

'Phantom Menace' will eclipse 'Dark Knight' grosses -- Is Top 10 quality going down like the 'Titanic'?

News broke today that Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, thanks to its recent 3-D re-release, is on track to surpass 2008’s The Dark Knight in box office grosses. This infusion of money will make Phantom Menace the 10th highest-grossing film of all time. Many would argue that Christopher Nolan’s twisty Batman Begins sequel is far superior to George Lucas’ uncontrollable exercise in CGI, and it got us thinking: Are the newest crop of movies to join the top 10 (six since Avatar kick-started a box office frenzy in 2009) demonstrably worse than their chart-mates? Well… yes and no. See the new top 10 list below. READ FULL STORY

'Avatar 2' is four years away, says producer

If you’re a fan of eternally-in-development science-fiction franchise extensions, then this has been a tantalizing week for you, you weirdo. First, Star Wars consigliere Rick McCallum announced that the live-action Star Wars TV show was going to be titled Star Wars: Underworld, though he later backtracked and told EW it was just a working title. He also said the show — for which 50 scripts have already been written, why not — would be coming out in five or six years. Well, the second half of this decade just got more crowded: Jon Landau, producer of Avatar, has told Bleeding Cool that the first sequel for Avatar is “about four years away.” That directly contradicts James Cameron’s stated goal of releasing the two Avatar sequels on Christmas 2014 and Christmas 2015, but to be fair, he said that almost exactly one year ago, and no one really took him seriously. READ FULL STORY

Rated Arrrrr! Top 10 most pirated movies of all time

In response to Netflix’s recently released list of the “Top 10 Movie Rentals of All Time,” BitTorrent has release its own — albeit utterly illegal — list of the “Top 10 Most Pirated Movies” of all time. The usual suspects were there, with Avatar (21 million downloads) taking top (dis?)honors, and The Dark Knight tying for second place with Transformers at 19 million downloads apiece. And, yes, of course there’s a Pirates of the Caribbean installment on there. It’s only right.

Still, there is surprisingly little overlap between the lists (only Inception and The Departed). Apparently Netflix users favor Oscar bait while Internet thieves go for tentpole popcorn movies, with the Venn Diagram overlap between those two strangely being Leonardo DiCaprio. So what other movies made the list, and which were the most head scratch-inducing? See the full list after the jump. READ FULL STORY

Disney World opening 'Avatar'-themed land. James Cameron, should we be concerned?

It’s been almost two years since James Cameron taught us all a valuable lesson about the effects of pollution on adorable blue monsters in Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film ever made thanks to its horrifically influential use of 3-D technology. But we all knew that virtual 3-D was never going to be good enough for Cameron, and now we have proof: A joint press release from Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Fox Filmed Entertainment has just announced plans to open an Avatar-themed land in Florida’s Walt Disney World, inside of the conservation-themed Animal Kingdom park. Cameron even teased that the park would involve settings from the upcoming Avatar sequels: “With two new Avatar films currently in development, we’ll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore,” said the filmmaker. READ FULL STORY

'Avatar 2' might go under the sea

avatar-2Image Credit: Weta; DisneyJames Cameron says that the first sequel to Avatar won’t come out until Christmas 2014 (…which probably means the meticulous director will actually release it in summer 2016.) So we should be skeptical about any plot rumors. Still, this is too fascinating to not at least chat about: Avatar co-star Michelle Rodriguez has told the Associated Press that Avatar 2 will bet set at least partially underwater. Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, had no comment about the “underwater” plotline, but considering the director’s history with watery movies, this rumor rings at least a little bit true. Would you want to see the Avatar sequels go under the sea? READ FULL STORY

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