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James Cameron on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Avatar and Super/Natural

James Cameron is on a mission to push beyond what’s possible. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker quickly became a visionary for his early work in The Terminator franchise and Aliens. Titanic went from a film plagued with production problems to 11 Oscar wins and the first film to reach the $1 billion mark. Cameron’s Avatar dazzled the world with its use of 3D technology on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, a title it still holds today.

Despite becoming one of the most important filmmakers of the last 40 years, Cameron is an explorer at heart, and his fascination with the Earth is on display in the new National Geographic series, Super/Natural. Executive produced by Cameron, Super/Natural takes viewers into the minds of the world’s extraordinary creatures. Thanks to scientific and technological advancements, the series displays some of the most fascinating imagery ever recorded.

An eagle catches a fish in a scene from Super/Natural.
An African fish eagle catches a fish. (National Geographic for Disney+/Joe Hope)

Digital Trends participated in a roundtable discussion with Cameron about the upcoming series. He spoke about discovering new science for Super/Natural, designing new creatures for Avatar, and the excitement behind looking for new ideas.

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. 

Digital Trends: You’ve mentioned when humans get older, they are further removed from nature. With Avatar, you’re bringing people back to a state of childlike wonder with what we see onscreen. In Super/Natural, people are in awe thanks to these jaw-dropping visuals. How were you able to recapture that childlike wonder in Super/Natural?

James Cameron: Super/Natural, for us as the creators of the show, was all about attitude. We wanted to have a style. We wanted to have a subjectivity to it. We wanted to take you into the minds and behind the eyes of these animals and see how they view life. The extraordinary senses that they bring to bear and the strategies that they use. They’re not as intelligent as us, but they’ve had millions of years, in some cases, to develop these incredible strategies, these alliances, these ways of behaving. A lot of this is new science.

Collectively – National Geographic; my company, Earthship; and the lead production house, Plimsoll, in the U.K. – we looked for intriguing new results that had come from scientific investigation. There are obviously thousands of scientists out there all over the world looking into the nooks and crannies of nature to understand these strategies. So we look for exciting new ideas.

A blue alien rides a flying dragon in Avatar 2.

With Avatar, if I created a creature with my designers for Avatar and I said it could see infrared or it could process the world five times faster than we can or it can emit or reflect ultraviolet so they can see each other flying around in the forest at night, you wouldn’t blink an eye. But when you think, “Oh, that’s a squirrel,” or “That’s a lizard,” something that we think of as familiar, all of a sudden, we’re seeing it in a completely different light, literally and figuratively. And I think that’s exciting.

Super/Natural | Official Trailer | Disney+

It’s also about this less reverential style. This isn’t a stodgy, sort of classic natural history series with the narrator droning on. We’ve got Benedict Cumberbatch. He doesn’t just narrate it; he acts it. He gets you inside what’s happening in a way that I think is very relatable.

Super/Natural streams September 21 on Disney+. Avatar will re-release in theaters on September 23.

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