Avatar finally ended its stretch as America's #1 movie, but people are continuing to point out sources that James Cameron borrowed from. It's become a national pastime, our version of Banshee-catching. We've rounded up 16 sources that Cameron allegedly nabbed.
Dances With Wolves
The similarities: A military man "goes native" and takes the side of the natives against his own army.
Is there a case? James Cameron came out and admitted it, last summer. Other similar stories he looked at: At Play In The Fields Of The Lord and The Emerald Forest. Said Cameron, "I just gathered all this stuff in and then you look at it through the lens of science fiction and it comes out looking very different but is still recognizable in a universal story way."
The similarities: Fail Blog has a rundown of the overlaps — mostly they have to do with a guy going native and falling for a native woman, while his comrades want to run the natives out. Oh, and the native woman is betrothed to a native warrior guy, but she's not into him.
Is there a case? At a very general thematic level, sure.
Call Me Joe
The similarities: As we wrote back in October, this 1957 novella by Poul Anderson has a lot of common ground with Cameron's movie:
Like Avatar, Call Me Joe centers on a paraplegic - Ed Anglesey - who telepathically connects with an artificially created life form in order to explore a harsh planet (in this case, Jupiter). Anglesey, like Avatar's Jake Sully, revels in the freedom and strength of his artificial created body, battles predators on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually goes native as he spends more time connected to his artificial body.
Is there a case? The website Litigation And Trial considered the merits of Anderson's claim, and noted that you can't copyright an idea — only your expression of the idea. (As the publishers of the source material for Rear Window found when they tried to sue Steven Spielberg over Disturbia.) Anderson's heirs would have to prove that Anderson originated the idea of someone controlling a hybrid alien body with his/her mind.
Roger Dean's paintings
The similarities: We ran a gallery of Dean paintings that look awfully similar to Cameron's vision a while back, and it is definitely striking how much correspondence there is — the floating mountains, the dragons, the weird fauna, the arch-shaped rock formations, etc. Dean posted a wry comment about it on his site, but has since deleted that blog post. (It was literally just a link to a google search for "Roger Dean avatar.")
Is there a case? A lot of people seem to think so. Entertainment Weekly asked Cameron about it, and he laughed it off, saying he might have been influenced by Dean "back in my pot-smoking days."
The similarities: This was a big meme before Avatar came out, and then people seemed to realize the two animated films didn't have that much in common. Mostly, they share a certain visual style, and they both have an "emotional but strong" female lead.
Is there a case? No, not really.
Battle For Terra
The similarities: This one's a bit stronger than Delgo, actually. In both Avatar and Terra, humans arrive to exploit an alien planet full of cute natives. One human decides to take the side of the natives, and help them fight against the evil humans. Both movies have a "tree of life" and similiar structure, although there's no human-piloting-an-alien-body thing in Terra.
Is there a case? Maybe a bit of one. But as one person points out here, Cameron was working on Avatar long before Terra was even in the pipeline.
The Winds Of Altair by Ben Bova
The similarities: Bova's novel involves a planet that is uninhabitable to humans, due to its hostile environment. The humans adapt some of the local animals to do work for them, controlling them remotely via electronic brain implants, so the humans can stay safely on their orbiting ship. Eventually, they realize that making the planet habitable to humans will require wiping out all the native life forms. In his regular column for the Naples News, Bova says the similiarities caused "a bit of a storm of protest among the bloggers."
Is there a case? Bova himself says, "To me, Cameron's film resembles Dances With Wolves more than The Winds of Altair... In fact, the basic idea in The Winds of Altair had been explored in earlier science-fiction stories, most notable Poul Anderson's 1957 novelet, Call Me Joe."
"Desertion" by Clifford Simak
The similarities: Humans go to Jupiter, where they can only survive in specially altered bodies. But all of the humans who venture out never return, because they discover a paradise and don't want to come back to the human world.
Is there a case? Not much of one, although Dark Roasted Blend says the "avatar" bodies make it sort of similar. Their article also points to Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Word For World Is Forest," which features a military raid on a tree-city and natives who are deeply connected.
Judgment On Janus by Andre Norton
The similarities: There are idllyic forest people, the Iftin, who are in touch with their world and live in big trees. And they bond neurally with their hunting birds, the quarrin. A human who's part of a group looking to exploit the planet goes into the forest and gets the "green sickness," then finds that he's been transformed into one of the Iftin. (And it turns out all of the Iftin are transformed humans, the real Iftin having been wiped out long ago.)
Is there a case? Not much of one. Even this CBC article, which starts out saying Avatar "bears a lot of similarities" to Norton's Janus novels, winds up arguing that the real problem with Avatar was that it didn't steal from Norton enough.
The World of Noon by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
The similarities: The Guardian reports that Russians are up in arms about the parallels between this ten-book series and Cameron's film. They both take place in the 22nd century and feature a planet called Pandora. The aliens in the Noon books are called the Nave. Both Pandoras are idyllic forest worlds, although the Noon books feature two humanoid native species, not one.
Is there a case? The surviving Strugatsky brother, Boris, shrugs off the similarities. Which seem mostly to consist of the name of the planet and of the creatures who live there.
The similarities: Io9's own Garrison Dean and Chris Braak pointed out the similarities in the storyline in this video they did for us a while back.
Is there a case? The basic outline is quite similar, although the specifics are actually pretty different.
The similarities: This Marvel/Epic comic from 1985 features a sexy blue cat warrior woman, who looks — and moves — an awful lot like Neytiri, points out Marcus Parcus. (Tons more awesome images at the link.)
Is there a case? Even Marcus writes, "The comic/film parallels don't seem to extend much past the visuals here (the story in this particular issue features an extended Jimi Hendrix cameo and other raditudinal oddities), but I find them amusing enough."
The Fire Kind
The similarities: This comic came out in 2000 A.D., just before Cameron wrote his first "scriptment" for Avatar. There's a lush jungle world, where the blue natives ride on big dragons, and an evil corporation wants to mine the rare mineral Hexacrin. And the natives have a psychic connection to their entire world. And there are "weird floating rocks." Also, the main character is a human botanist who goes against his own kind to defend the natives.
Is there a case? A bit of one. There's no "avatar" technology, but a lot of the other stuff is similar. More info over at Heavy.com.
The similarities: A reader tipped us off to this computer-animated French film, which features a dragon called the "World-Gobbler." And there are floating land masses.
Is there a case? Not really. Floating continents are so popular, TVTropes has a huge entry devoted to them. Floating "islands" play a huge part in Crossgen Comics' series Meridian.
Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy
The similarities: Nevare is a soldier from an expanding colonial power, Gernia, until he's claimed by the primitive forest-dwelling Specks, who split his soul in two and cause him to go native. He becomes the Specks' weapon in the fight against Gernian expansion.
Is there a case? Not much of one. Just the "going native" thing.
The similarities: This Australian animated film features peace-loving forest folk with special powers, whose magic trees are threatened by humans who want to chop them down. And one human gets shrunk and joins the fairies on a wild adventure, helping them to save their forest. There's also an evil guy played by Tim Curry, who gets released from his tree prison by accident. This was a big meme a while back, resulting in the trailer mashup you see above.
Is there a case? Ummm... well, there are trees. And a guy sort of goes native.
Additional reporting by Mary Ratliff.