A new batch of artwork revealed an adorable sea creature that was ultimately cut from Jame Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water.
It is hard to think anything hit the cutting room floor on Way of Water, as the long-gestating sci-fi sequel sports one of the gaudiest runtimes in recent memory at 3 hours and 12 minutes, but it seems there were.
And one of the biggest draws to the Avatar sequel is the film's stunning world of Pandora and the characters that inhabit it. The fictional planet shines yet again with all sorts of new flora and fauna for the audience to ogle at.
Amongst the new underwater portion of the planet that was introduced were some truly awe-inspiring creatures, but it turns out there could have been even more wildlife that never made it into The Way of Water's final cut.
Avatar's Cut Sea Otter Creature
Revealed as a part of Avatar: The Way of Water's official artbook, an adorable sea otter-like creature was cut from James Cameron's latest sci-fi sequel.
This never-before-seen Pandoran animal sport features similar to the sea otters of the Pacific Northwest, although seems to be covered in scales instead of fur.
It was revealed the otter-esque creature was a part of a cut scene featuring the youngest of the Sully clan, Tuk. About the animal, Avatar: The Way of Water production designer Dylan Cole noted, "otters are just fun," and the cut scene saw "Tuk swimming around" alongside the alien:
“Otters are just fun, and that scene was a playful little moment with Tuk swimming around. The otter went through a lot of different iterations, some more toward literal otters, and some very much not.”
As a part of the artbook, director James Cameron also broke down what it was like designing the whale-like tulkun. He remarked that the team "[struggled] to keep the essence of what you’d immediately recognize as a whale" while including "specific details [that] had to be very alien:"
“I felt we were struggling to keep the essence of what you’d immediately recognize as a whale, yet the specific details had to be very alien. The example that I used for the artists was the direhorse. You look at it and it’s clearly a horse. But when you really get to study it, it is some strange, alien dinosaur that has some horselike properties. I wanted the same thing with the tulkun. There should be no doubt in your mind what the metaphor is, but the specifics of it are very alien and strange, and totally unique to that species.”
Cameron took it upon himself in the design process to sketch out a few of his own takes on the tulkun.
"We had so many different tulkun designs," the director lamented, so he "holed up for a day and a half" and found something that "focused in on what [he] wanted:"
“We had so many different tulkun designs, and some of them were quite interesting. But none of them were quite hitting what I thought was the essence of it. I broke that piece off myself, and I holed up for a day and a half. I did around 20 sketches until I finally focued in on what I wanted.”
From there Cole and the production design team took the filmmaker's concepts and "it slowly and steadily came into focus:"
“They went through many iterations from Jim’s illustrations. And then it slowly and steadily came into focus.”
The team strove to create the most diverse aquatic ecosystem they could, including a number of varied fish that both did and did not end up on-screen. Cole recalled creating the baitfish (schooling fish), sharing that they spent a long time asking "how [can we] make these different," settling on "[adding] crazy fun tail fins onto very simple shapes" to make each one feel different:
“We did a lot of these baitfish, asking how we can make these different. We ended up playing with the idea that they’re still basically torpedoes, but we just added crazy fun tail fins onto very simple shapes.”
A Closer Look at the Sealife of Pandora
As was the case with the forest in the first Avatar, much of the work that went into The Way of Water was defining an entire complex ecosystem. James Cameron and co. have done as much filmmaking as they have alien marine biology, and the movie is better for it.
The biggest sentiment from audiences coming out of the Avatar sequel has been something akin to "the story is thin, but gosh, the world is beautiful," and that is thanks to work such as the images above.
For the otter creatures, specifically, it would have been fun to see this cut scene featuring Tuk alongside these animals. Of the Sully kids, Tuk was one of the few that did not get a tonne to do during The Way of Water's three-hour runtime. So, to have gotten a simple moment where the youngest of the Sully clan plays around with these adorable sea creatures would have been welcome.
However, with the movie as bursting at the seams as it already is, it feels obvious that there had to be cuts made.
Also as mentioned in the artbook, just because these creatures did not make it into the final theatrical cut of the film, does not mean they are not canon. So, perhaps come Avatar 3 (or any of its other sequels), audiences will finally be introduced to these cuties.
Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now.