In a decade since the launch of Titanic, the eyes of humanity have focused on the James Cameron laboratory wondering what leap forward would emerge, what gifts he would bestow on our species?
Having built and sunk and ocean liner, were there any mountains left or had humanity been already given all the tools it needed to ensure its eternal contentment?
As we stand on the cusp of revelation, media speculation has focused on the innovations in filmmaking Avatar will bring our suffering world; new digital tools that revolutionize 3D photography, like a “Fusion Camera System” that will perhaps make 3D the multiplex standard for decades to come.
But in an interview with Playboy, Cameron revealed that all this Fusion Systeming and “Facial Performance Replacement” has really been just the nuts and bolts and that the real mission of the Avatar team has always been creating the perfect computer-generated screen boobs for the character Neytiri, a motion-captured rendition of actress Zoe Saldana; a problem so complex and difficult that it apparently took a team of hundreds a decade to solve it to Cameron’s exacting standards.
Discussing the film, the interview focused on the mytho-historical place of cartoon women in our society before turning to the matter of Avatar‘s technological breakthrough:
PLAYBOY: We seem to need fantasy icons like Lara Croft and Wonder Woman, despite knowing they mess with our heads.
CAMERON: Most of men’s problems with women probably have to do with realizing women are real and most of them don’t look or act like Vampirella. A big recalibration happens when we’re forced to deal with real women, and there’s a certain geek population that would much rather deal with fantasy women than real women. Let’s face it: Real women are complicated. You can try your whole life and not understand them.
PLAYBOY: How much did you get into calibrating your movie heroine’s hotness?
CAMERON: Right from the beginning I said, “She’s got to have tits,” even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals. I designed her costumes based on a taparrabo, a loincloth thing worn by Mayan Indians. We go to another planet in this movie, so it would be stupid if she ran around in a Brazilian thong or a fur bikini like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.
PLAYBOY: Are her breasts on view?
CAMERON: I came up with this free-floating, lion’s-mane-like array of feathers, and we strategically lit and angled shots to not draw attention to her breasts, but they’re right there. The animation uses a physics-based sim that takes into consideration gravity, air movement and the momentum of her hair, her top. We had a shot in which Neytiri falls into a specific position, and because she is lit by orange firelight, it lights up the nipples. That was good, except we’re going for a PG-13 rating, so we wound up having to fix it. We’ll have to put it on the special edition DVD; it will be a collector’s item. A Neytiri Playboy Centerfold would have been a good idea.
PLAYBOY: So you’re okay with arousing PG-13 chubbies?
CAMERON: If such a thing should happen—and I’m not saying it will—that would be fine.
As ever in society, the real innovators will go unheralded. Generations of schoolchildren will gaze upon Neytiri’s bosom without ever knowing the names of the heroic scientists who gave ten years of their lives to make the dream of those breasts a reality.