Surprisingly, fans got an update on the development for James Cameron's upcoming Avatar 5 - a sequel not set to hit theaters until 2031.
After Avatar: The Way of Water blasted into theaters and broke record after record at the box office, fans learned in a recent update that they'd have to wait even longer for Cameron's wild plan for three other sequels to come to life.
Disney recently announced a major round of delays for its slate, including Avatar 3 to Avatar 5 - the last of which became the studio's first movie ever to boast a release date in the year 2030 or later.
Avatar 5 Gets Shocking Update
Speaking with Screen Rant, Avatar: The Way of Water production designer Ben Procter shared a surprising update on how long Avatar 5 has been in development.
Proctor revealed that he and lead character designer Joe Pepe started work on a design for an Avatar that was unknowingly prepped for Avatar 5 in 2013 - 18 years before the movie's eventually planned release in 2031.
The production designer looked back to the date on the design recently, noting his shock at how nobody knew when this design would come into play:
"So, Dylan and I, and Joe Pepe, our lead character designer, started in August of 2013 in an exploratory mode. I mean, even Wētā Workshop, we had been doing some stuff already. The Legacy Effects came in to help with creature and character designs, and we were really exploring the full depth. Literally, I was looking at the date on something recently, and it was an Avatar, what I now know is an 'Avatar 5' design, but it was literally the first thing that I did when I landed in 2013... Because nobody knew."
When asked how much work has been done on Avatar 3, which releases in December 2025, Procter noted that the "performance capture and the live action photography for two and three" were done at the same time:
"So we're working on three right now. We did the performance capture and the live action photography for two and three concurrently. So, three is in the can, so to speak, in the sense of the bulk, let's say, of the actors doing their thing and using real cameras and all that stuff."
But he also explained that his job is to edit together a wild amount of "data and cinematic intent" for the different scenes "in [their] editorial department, which is a data wrangling department" more than anything:
"However, in our process, the process of editing together all of the incredible amount of data and cinematic intent, et cetera, of these different scenes that we have, that's something we do in our editorial department, which is a data wrangling department, as much as anything else, they're actually tracking performances as opposed to shots for a huge part of our process..."
He made sure to note how much credit this team deserves, putting in all that hard work so that James Cameron can put forth the best movie and performances that he can:
"...it's an amazing mental exercise that they have to go through and they do not get enough credit, but that has to all get put together so that Jim can then do, looking at the best environment that we've tuned up in the production design wing of things with our virtual art department, the best version of the performances that Jim wants to shoot."
Cameron also puts in a great deal of work with "his proper virtual camera pass" for each movie, which is what his team is in the process of editing right now. It takes "a lot of care and a lot of time" before moving into the future movies:
"Jim then has to go do camera. We haven't really shot huge parts of 'Avatar 3' until Jim goes and does his proper virtual camera pass, which is an entire thing, and then that gets edited and da, da, da. So that's the stuff we're doing now, and that does take a lot of care and a lot of time, and then as far as the other movies, we've done broad conceptual design across the entire arc, and frankly, that's because when we started in 2013, there were no scripts. So, Dylan and I, and Joe Pepe, our lead character designer, started in August of 2013 in an exploratory mode."
Moving back to the work he put in on Avatar 5, Procter looked back to how Cameron "already figured out through his 1500 pages of notes" for the movie, working on "but fine-tuning the story and the characters" with his writers before design work began:
"Because nobody knew. I mean, Jim was giving us basically elements he needed, he had already figured out through his 1500 pages of notes that he wrote, because he's a madman, he'd figured out what the elements were that he needed, but fine-tuning the story and the characters, that's what he was working on with his writing team, but we knew enough to start designing. So a lot of that stuff has a broad stroke of design across it all the way through, but the details are what get you. So digging into the details of four and five still lies ahead of us, and we're looking forward to it."
How Long Will Avatar 5 Be in Development?
After the first Avatar movie debuted in 2009, James Cameron's plan for the next four sequels almost became the stuff of legend before Avatar: The Way of Water finally hit theaters.
And with so much work already getting done on the films coming out in the next few years, it's almost no surprise to see that Cameron already has his mind set on the end of the story he's developed for decades.
The director explained the central theme for the four post-2020 movies shortly before Avatar 2's release, showing an immense understanding of where the Pandoran story is meant to go through the next few movies.
And even with Avatar 5 still nearly a decade away from its theatrical debut, the director and the team behind these movies are making sure that they have more than enough time to pull the end of this story together coherently.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now streaming on Disney+. The next film in the series, Avatar 3, will debut in theaters on December 19, 2025, and Avatar 5 will arrive exactly six years later on December 19, 2031.