Mattel to create toy line for James Cameron’s Avatar – plus how amazing will the benchmark effects be?

James Cameron and Sam Worthington on the set of Avatar
James Cameron and Sam Worthington on the set of Avatar

Fox Licensing & Merchandising has selected Mattel to develop a toy line inspired by one of the most anticipated films of the year – James Cameron’s Avatar. Tapped as master toy licensee for the epic sci-fi film property, Mattel will create a line of action figures and vehicles scheduled to hit retail nationwide in October 2009, months in advance of the film’s release in December 2009. The announcement was made by Elie Dekel, Executive Vice President of Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

Mattel’s Avatar toy line will feature heroes, creatures and vehicles straight from the blockbuster film. Each action figure or vehicle will come with a 3D web tag, bringing a new level of interactivity to Mattel’s newest action play line. Utilizing a computer’s webcam, consumers can “scan” the web tag, unlocking special content unique to the product, like bio information on action figures and creatures, virtually on a home computer.

“Avatar is one of the biggest and most anticipated films of 2009”, said Dekel. “The new universe created in the film is everything one would expect coming from the mind of James Cameron, one of the most accomplished creators and filmmakers of our time. In bringing this fantastic new universe to life in toys, it was essential that we partner with the world’s biggest and best, Mattel. Mattel’s abilities to continually innovate and strategically grow a toy brand over many years will be core to our long-term strategies.”

The Avatar cast includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver. Academy Award-winning visual effects house, WETA Digital, renowned for its work in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong, will incorporate new intuitive CGI technologies to transform the environments and characters into photorealistic 3D imagery that will transport the audience into the alien world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures and characters.

More than 10 years in the making, Avatar marks Cameron’s return to feature directing since helming 1997’s Titanic, the highest grossing film of all time and winner of eleven Oscars including Best Picture. Avatar is an epic adventure film where ex-marine Jake Sully is torn between duty and honor when he finds himself caught in a battle between the heavily armed forces of Earth’s most powerful star-faring consortium and an exotic, noble alien race whose entire world is threatened by the human invaders.

Filmonic posted these two interview quotes from the DGA and Total FIlm, regarding the effects for the upcoming film.

From DGA.org:

Q: “Obviously CGI has advanced a lot since you created the waterpod in The Abyss. How much have you been able to push the envelope on Avatar?
A: We’re doing effects up to a certain point, and then we throw it over the fence to the guys at Digital Domain to go to higher resolution. They’ve devised lighting software for Avatar that I think is going to revolutionize CG. It’s what they call global illumination. And it’s actually lighting the way things are really lit. If you’re doing a day exterior, you have one sun. Normally you might have 40 or 50 lights to create the effect of sunlight by breaking it up into different areas. They just showed us 11 finished shots for the movie in the last couple of weeks and I showed it to friends who had no direct day-to-day contact with the production, and they said, ‘That’s incredible. How are you doing that makeup?’ They’re not even asking the right questions. They’re not even understanding that every single thing they’re seeing is ones and zeros. It’s all pixels. There’s no tangible, physical reality to it whatsoever, but it looks real.“

Director Steven Soderbergh told Total Film:

“Yeah, I went to the set,” said Steven Soderbergh, when Total Film quizzed him recently. “I can tell you that shit was mindblowing. The shit I saw was crazy. Like, craaaazy. I think it’s gonna be gigantic. It’s gonna be another one of those benchmarks. There’s gonna be Before that movie and After.”

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