By: Paige Gibbs
Na'vi language creator Dr. Paul Frommer and James Cameron's "AVATAR" concept designer TyRuben Ellingson held seminars Jan. 2 for nearly 70 fans at OmatiCon, the community's first international virtual meetup hosted by Na'vi language community Kelutral.org.
The day-long convention celebrated the film with "AVATAR"-themed games, workshops and guest speakers utilizing Discord and Zoom. Virtual attendees spanned multiple time zones and many sessions were hosted in both German and English.
Ellingson hosted an informal Q&A regarding his time as a concept designer for "AVATAR." His vehicle designs eventually became the film's iconic A.M.P. suits and the larger-than-life dragon gunship.
When asked how he felt having worked on a project as big as the "AVATAR" film, Ellingson spoke very highly of working with Cameron and the other designers.
"It's bliss. It's kind of glorious bliss," Ellingson said.
"I know that we can think about our life goals and we can think about the things we want to accomplish. And it's a struggle. It's a struggle for everyone who has dreams to go out and make them real. When you do finally find your way to getting your projects realized… for me to actually have that opportunity was like a dream come true."
His final word came as an exhortation to aspiring artists and filmmakers.
"Start now," Ellingson said. "Like get started now. Shoot crap movies. Shoot phone movies. Like don't wait. There's never a perfect moment to get involved with your dreams."
Community member Kris, known to the community as EanaUnil, led draw-along workshops in both German and English, where she taught the basics of drawing a Na'vi. She ended the sessions by helping aspiring artists fine tune their work.
Frommer spoke on the topic of language learning versus Stephen Krashen's theory of second language acquisition. After a short demonstration lesson of how to practically apply language acquisition as a teacher, Frommer answered questions from eager language learners.
Fans of the "AVATAR" franchise both old and new enjoyed discussing the first film, as well as the promise of the sequels. The next is scheduled to release December 16, 2022. As is tradition at previous in-person meetups, the evening closed with a group watch viewing of the film.
Some fans joined the community at large specifically to attend OmatiCon.
One such fan and Na'vi language learner is simply known as Ducky. She has been learning Na'vi with the German-speaking language community Lerngruppe since March 2020. Ducky was pleased to meet so many new people and have the opportunity to listen to Frommer's seminar, she said.
Being new to the Na'vi language and community, Ducky found OmatiCon inspired her to continue her language journey.
"I think [OmatiCon] was gorgeous, because there were so many people, and a big motivation boost, because it was a wonderful experience," Ducky said.