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How Fox Almost Blew It And Lost Avatar To Disney

After 13 years of development, "Avatar: The Way of Water" is making its way to theaters in just a few short weeks. The James Cameron epic looks to capitalize on the insane success of 2009's "Avatar," which still holds its spot as the highest-grossing movie of all time, despite a valiant effort from "Avengers: Endgame."

While 20th Century Studios is keeping most of the plot details under wraps, we know that "The Way of Water" picks up over a decade after the events of the first movie. Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe SaldaƱa) have created a family with their three biological children, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), and Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). They also have an adopted daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), seemingly a reincarnated version of Weaver's "Avatar" character Dr. Grace Augustine. The family runs into some form of trouble, most likely due to the return of the humans and Quaritch (Stephen Lang), now controlling a Na'vi body. As Jake and Neytiri fight to keep their children safe, they encounter a new tribe, the Metkayina, a clan of water-based Na'vi. Led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet), the tribe helps the family in their fight against humans to save Pandora.

"The Way of Water" promises to be a grand spectacle as Cameron begins his long line of planned sequels. For the upcoming movie, the cast underwent intense training, including learning to free-dive and perform underwater. As its release date inches closer and closer, the hype for "The Way of Water" is building as 20th Century Studios hopes for a box office performance similar to the first. Although it seems like a no-brainer now to fork over the money for more "Avatar" movies, the studio nearly lost the first movie to a big competitor.

Disney always seems to get their way

Long before Disney and 20th Century Studios battled to claim the spot of the highest-grossing movie of all time, the two studios fought over James Cameron's first feature-length film since "Titanic." At the time, no one knew how much money was on the table, but both studios understood that the legendary filmmaker had something special on his hands.

In 2005, Cameron brought his immersive project to the executives at Fox, a brand-new IP, including an entire world straight from the director's mind. His previous work already cemented him as one of the best to ever do it, but the script didn't instantly sell Fox on Cameron's first major movie since "Titanic." In an effort to ensure his project got the green light, the director met with Disney's top executives, CEO Bob Iger, CFO Alan Bergman, and studio chief Dick Cook. Cameron showed the trio some test footage from "Avatar," which was more than enough to convince them. "We have to have it," Bergman told The Hollywood Reporter. "Sitting there in that screening room, I'd never seen anything like it. The world, Jake's character. It was so unique." Disney's determination to get "Avatar" up and running forced Fox's hand, resulting in increased investment from the studio. Cameron eventually decided to stick with his long-running partners, who he had worked with on "Titanic" and "Aliens."

However, Disney eventually got the last laugh, purchasing the company in 2019. The acquisition finally gave them ownership of the "Avatar" franchise nearly a decade after their initial interest. Bergman reached out to Cameron after the purchase, saying, "See, Jim, we had to buy the company to get the next 'Avatar.'"