Special-effects giants sign on to ‘Avatar’

Three-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri and his special-effects team at New Zealand studio Weta Digital have signed on to James Cameron’s first feature film project since his 1997 “Titanic” cleaned up at the box office and the Academy Awards.

Set in the future, the film, “Avatar,” is about a paraplegic war veteran who arrives on the planet Tandora, which is inhabited by a humanoid race whose culture clashes with the Earthlings’.

Letteri and his colleagues won Academy Awards for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “King Kong.” “Avatar” will employ visual-effects techniques refined in those films, notably the “performance capture animation” that was used for the characters of Gollum and King Kong.

“Avatar” is expected to be produced for 20th Century Fox and will not be scheduled for release until 2008 at the earliest, according to sources close to the project.


Lynn Smith