Written by Matt Packer
For the past few years, Elli has played a valuable role as a key member of the Avatar reddit community, looking after a particularly passionate corner of the film’s fandom. So, this month, Kelutral is delighted to feature her as an honorary Member of the Month.
What’s your biggest memory from the first time you watched Avatar?
Well, the first time I watched it wasn’t until 2017, which is a lot later than most people in this community. So, I didn’t actually see it in theaters. But a scene that really stood out for me was one that a lot of fans have talked about as being particularly effective in 3D, which is when Jake has just met Neytiri for the first time and all the atokirina' [aka woodsprites] show up and land on him.
I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of that moment – and by what happens just after, when they run off through the bioluminescent forest. It marks a complete shift from the Pandora we’ve seen up to that point, where everything has been filtered through the Hell’s Gate perspective of what Pandora is. Our introduction to the glowing forest is when we start to see Pandora as it really is. I found it visually stunning, and it has really stayed with me.
Another memory I have – for somewhat more amusing reasons – is that my phone didn’t synch up properly with the caption track. So, when there were groups of characters all speaking in Na’vi, I had no idea what anyone was saying! But in a funny way, that kind of put me in Jake’s shoes – not understanding what was going on, and having to work it all out.
What does Avatar mean to you – what sort of place does it have in your heart?
That’s a hard question! I’d say Avatar is a showcase for what could be – and that applies as much to human behaviour as it does to technology. Obviously, the film was technologically revolutionary, and in my opinion the CGI still holds up incredibly well 13 years on. But beyond how the film was made, it sets out a vision of the future that I think is very imaginative and believable.
Some critics have argued that Avatar is derivative. But according to story theorists, there are only seven types of stories that humans can tell – and what Avatar does is it kind of distills those fundamental storytelling values in the context of human industrialism. So, there’s a lot of commentary in the film about topics like Manifest Destiny and American colonialism.
But on the flipside of that, there’s also the way it opens up beautiful possibilities – for example, what happens if we do things better? It shows us we have the capacity to make mistakes, but still do things right in the end. We can learn, and we can change. I think that’s what it means to me at its core. Sometimes I get discouraged when I look at the state of the world – but Avatar shows us that humans like Jake and Trudy can learn how to be better.
And I like how it explores that potential.
How did the r/Avatar community get started?
The Reddit community began in August 2009, a few months before Avatar came out. Not many people knew much about the movie because of the secrecy, but the teaser dropped that month and sparked off enough hype for people to start to come together and speculate about what was going to arrive in December.
After that, we grew pretty steadily – we’re not one of the larger fandom-based subreddits, and indeed, we have often been confused for subreddits connected to a certain anime-influenced fantasy franchise… so, that required us to implement a few auto-moderator commands to clear up the timeline! But we’re established and ready to grow more.
What’s it like to be part of that community?
One thing I would say is that this subreddit has really shown me a lot about the character of the fans. Obviously, we have to acknowledge that for years, people have accused Avatar of having a limited impact because it’s not really a film about merch and memes. And yes, perhaps it’s hard to gain a mainstream following that reaches the scale of some of the longer-running, smash-hit SF and fantasy brands when there’s so far only one film.
But from what I’ve seen, the Reddit community is full of people who feel so strongly about this quite frankly beautiful piece of media that they’re willing to stick with it through literally any level of opposition. And their whole perspective when it comes to the negative voices is, “Well, you may not have found much meaning in the film – but I did. And I love it. And you may say that it didn’t have a major impact – but it had an impact on me.”
That whole attitude pretty much typifies what I’ve seen in the community during the hiatus between films. And clearly there have been people waiting in the wings, because when the trailer for The Way of Water dropped, our numbers went up by almost 80%. So, we expect that it will continue to grow as time goes on.
It's a group of people who are individually passionate about the film, and that’s perfectly valid. We have a lot of content creators who have been pushing it and putting a lot of effort into growing the community, which is fun – and most people are good about it. There will always be a minority of people who come in deliberately to be rude or negative to followers, but I think that one of the benefits of being a relatively small community is that it makes those people a lot easier to deal with. Other than that, we’re a pretty close family – we almost feel like a book club!
I think now we’re getting to the end of the 13-year gap, there’s so much potential to get exposure to a whole new type of potential fan. Especially considering that the first film is going to be re-released and will be accessible in its intended form for those who were too young to see it first time around – or not even born.
Plus, I’m pretty sure that Flight of Passage is the single-most popular ride at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom – which goes to show not only that the film has definitely made an impact, but that it’s still bringing new people in through a theme-park spinoff.
It may be a tall order to hope that the sequels will catapult us on to the same level as the online communities that have grown up around things like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. But all being well, James Cameron is doing every bit as amazing a job of putting the sequels together as he did with the first one, and the results will bring in more and more fans. The fact that there are going to be four new Avatar films this decade will help a lot. They’ll give audiences a more regular showcase for this wonderful world.
What sort of relationship has the Reddit community struck up with the Na’vi Language community?
There was a recent shift alongside The Way of Water’s trailer coming out that helped to bring a lot more of the leadership behind Kelutral and the language community into the Reddit. Obviously, it’s a huge commitment to learn a new language, and not everyone on the Reddit is going to do that – but I would say there’s a pretty significant overlap. The language learners are people who feel particularly strongly about the movie, so they’re big contributors. There’s a lot of meshing and cross-pollination going on, for sure.
What excites you most about the Avatar sequels?
One, the world – and two, the technology. On the world side, as we all know, Pandora is absolutely beautiful! So, I’m looking forward to seeing how the sequels explore more of it and show us other types of environments. The second one is going into the ocean, and who knows what kind of territories await us in the third, fourth and fifth? Cameron has such a stunning eye – and I do not expect to be disappointed by where he’ll take us next!
Technology-wise, Avatar was so ground breaking with its camerawork and CG, and we’ve already seen a glimpse of what’s coming up with underwater motion capture, which has never been done before. So, if Cameron can unleash something that’s as advanced in 2022 as the first film was in 2009, that will be very exciting.
How does the Reddit community plan to support the new films?
This all ties back to how much we’re going to grow as the sequels come out. Internet culture changes and, having seen our following almost double with the advent of the new trailer, we’re hoping to see further jumps the closer we get to The Way of Water’s release and just after it comes out. So, we’ll be looking to bring in more moderators to keep a handle on the increase in traffic – both good and negative – and ramp up the community engagement side of things to get more people to showcase their love of Avatar.
It would be cool to get people who have worked on the films to drop by for interviews.
Bittersweet news from IGN today. The official trailer for AVATAR: Reckoning, an upcoming RPG FPS for mobile devices, was premiered on IGN outlets. Accompanying this reveal came news that the game, which appears to be a genre shift from the cancelled "Pandora Rising", has been delayed into 2023.
The trailer for Reckoning was met with mixed reactions due to the attachment of Tencent Games to the title as publisher. At the time of writing, the official trailer had accrued more than 6,000 dislikes on YouTube, with commenters noting that Tencent's track record with free-to-play mobile games is less than stellar. "Can't wait to buy the best weapon in the game for only $50,000! (800% value of course) and that will let me start spending $250 a match for the chance at getting a 5 star orb to upgrade my weapon with an exclusive NFT effect," wrote YouTube user TheCrossFTW. "The future of gaming has never looked brighter."
In the official description of the game, AVATAR: Reckoning "will transport players to never-before-seen parts of Pandora where they will meet new Na’vi clans fighting to defend their home, battle powerful RDA troops seeking to exploit the resources of the moon, and encounter spectacular alien creatures – all playable solo or in dynamic multiplayer matches." The game promises to provide a rewarding leveling experience and a wide variety of single and multi-player game modes.
Are you excited for AVATAR: Reckoning? Join our Discord community for the game to keep up with the latest news about the upcoming title from Archosaur Games!
For several weeks, the official AVATAR Twitter account has been teasing the brand's involvement with LEGOCON 2022. Today, they officially revealed that producer Jon Landau and lore-keeper Joshua Izzo will be on hand for a "special AVATAR reveal".
This reveal is likely an official unveiling of an AVATAR LEGO line coming this fall, which has been speculated about since the first rumors broke about the possibility back in January. Details about the sets are (understandably) limited at this point. However, if the leaks are to be believed, there are at least 4 sets to be revealed- all of which depict moments from the first film. Sorry, AVATAR fans- no spoilers for The Way of Water here!
It remains to be seen if the AVATAR LEGOCON reveals are aimed more for collectors, like Star Wars' line of LEGO dioramas, or younger, playful audiences. As a franchise more than a decade in the making, there will be fans both young and old interested in what the LEGO Group and Lightstorm Entertainment have cooked up.
Don't miss the LEGOCON Livestream beginning at 9am PDT on Saturday, June 18th and be sure to join us on Discord for real-time discussion of the event!
Written by Matt Packer, introduction by Kelutral.org
Like Hometree on Pandora, Kelutral is not a single organism, but rather a diverse and interconnected community of individuals who have come together to create an ecosystem for Avatar fans and Na'vi language learners alike to come and thrive. With the help of Matt Packer's wonderful wordsmithing, we are thrilled to bring to light the faces and names of community members who have contributed substantially to Kelutral in a series of Member of the Month profiles, the first of which can be found below and features our dear Eana Unil!
Eana Unil is an artist and Na’vi Language teacher from Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. Here, she talks about how Avatar has inspired her, and what being part of the language community means to her.
What's your biggest memory from the first time you watched Avatar?
Being completely overwhelmed by all the sensory input that was going on: this completely new world, with incredible, new visuals, and all these wonderful creatures – including, first and foremost, the Na’vi. And how I immediately – I don’t want to say “fell in love” with the Na’vi, but I was definitely intrigued by them and felt a strong connection right away – especially in terms of how they interconnected with their surroundings and all the nature they lived alongside. Their respect for it, and each other, just fascinated me. It really hit a nerve – like, “Okay, I wish we humans did that more,” you know what I mean?
The film resonated with me right from the get-go. And the scene that made me want to go down the rabbit hole of learning the Na’vi Language was when Grace was about to die and the Omaticaya were attempting to save her, and Mo’at is speaking her prayer to Eywa while the clan are sitting before her, all connected and chanting as one. Even today, that scene gives me shivers. And the first time I saw it, I thought: Okay… I need to learn everything I possibly can about this language.
What does Avatar mean to you – what sort of place does it have in your heart?
That’s a big one! The short answer is that it has been my home, more or less, on the internet for the past 12 years. From the moment I joined the Na’vi Language community, I just felt completely at home and never wanted to leave. I’m still part of it now, and I’m very happy about that. If I suddenly weren’t a member of that community anymore, well – I couldn’t imagine how that would feel. There would be a massive hole in my life. I have other hobbies and interests – but Avatar has become this huge thing that has influenced me so much.
How has Avatar influenced you and your life?
Even more so than I did before, I try to treat others with kindness as much as possibly can. I don’t know what each person who I meet throughout the day has been going through – so I try to judge less and be kinder. I hope that if I can inspire people by staying friendly in everyday situations, they may be inspired to do the same after me. I also try to do better at understanding where others are coming from. That seeing into people that the Na’vi do is something we humans are capable of as well.
This reminds me of the scene where Norm is coaching Jake on the meaning of ‘oel ngati kameie’, and Jake’s not really getting it – that it’s about seeing into who the other person truly is and understanding them, not just looking at what’s on the surface.
Exactly. It’s about accepting that person even if they’re withdrawn and, at the very least, taking it for granted that that’s just the way things are with them at that moment, and doing the best with that rather than trying to be negative about it. I think we could all use a bit more of that in our everyday lives.
But that’s just one aspect of it! Avatar has also influenced me a lot creatively. I’m an artist, and I’ve been drawing fan art pretty much since the day I first watched the movie. I was so curious about the Na’vi that I wanted to draw them as a way of mapping out their anatomy and how they work – and how they are proportionally so different to humans. But it’s actually helped me to grow as an artist – I’ve improved quite a lot as a result of all the fan art I’ve done. I mean, 12 years is a lot of time for getting stuff done!
Is your fan art concerned mostly with the Na’vi, or do you also explore the creatures and the RDA side of things?
I’m not an RDA fan! Their hardware looks amazing… but no! I’ve drawn some of the creatures because they’re cute and fun to draw, and I still think that the artists who worked – and are working – on Avatar are geniuses for coming up with those designs. But outside my Avatar art, the thing that interests me the most is the human subject. So that feeds into why I’m so fascinated by the Na’vi.
But it’s not just anatomical – it’s about the language, culture and lore. Everything is interwoven. A great metaphor for this is that if Grace is a xenobotanist who’s studying Pandora’s plants, I’d want to be the person who follows her around with a sketchbook, taking notes, drawing lots of pictures of the specimens she’s studying and trying to understand that world – only my focus is the Na’vi.
What does your non-Avatar art explore?
I’m a tattooist by trade, so I work with all kinds of art styles to give my clients the results they want. But the stuff I draw outside of client commissions and my Avatar work is really dark, weird and twisted – the complete opposite of my Avatar art! So I think I’m living a kind of duality, there – the dark side, and then the light-blue side! It’s a fun contrast.
How did you get involved with the Na'vi language community?
That happened around April 2010. I didn’t watch Avatar as soon as it came out – the first time I saw it was actually a few months later. I came out of the theater, let the movie sink in for a day, then started Googling to see what was out there about the Na’vi Language and whether there was a way of learning it. So, on one hand, I was a little late to the party – but on the other, by the time I started searching, a foundation stone of the community already existed. With that in place, I reached out to and started interacting with the people I found.
Who were your first contacts?
Probably the biggest name in the community who comes up when I think back to where I began is Plumps. My first language is German, so it was natural for me to seek out fellow German fans and find out how they were getting to grips with Na’vi. Plumps is now a very dear friend, and I can say without doubt that he was the person who taught me most about the language. He’s awesome – a great guy.
Thanks to the German side of the community, I came into contact with a Na’vi study group for German-speaking people. Fast-forward to the present, and I am now leading and administrating that group! That has been my role for the past three years. So, the group’s still around, I’m still around – and so are some of the people from back when I began.
Along the way, I also made contact with Mako, Pamìrìk, Txawey and Alìmtsì. Around three or four years ago, I took on Tekre and Tomke as students – and now I can proudly say that each of them has become a karyu, or teacher. I’ve met both Tekre and Tomke in person, and they’re great people. Meeting Mako, Pamìrìk, Txawey and Alìmtsì, who are all based in the US, is definitely on my wish list!
Oh, and I mustn’t forget nawma Neytiri, who we think of as ‘our’ Neytiri… people who know her will know who I mean! Out of us all, she’s the one who I would swear is actually from Pandora, because she’s just so fluent with the language and lore. She’s amazing.
What’s it like to be part of that community?
Warmth. Feeling welcomed. Being able to be yourself. We have all these very different people, with very different jobs and interests outside Avatar and even very different views on the world sometimes – and yet we all come together to celebrate this one thing, as one. And that’s a phenomenon I haven’t witnessed anywhere else on the internet, or in life. It’s really a clan – its own type of family. It’s definitely not your average type of online community. It’s something more.
What excites you most about the Avatar sequels?
More info and details about the Na’vi, Pandora itself, the biology of things and how it all works – and, of course, the language! More words, more grammar – but the thing that fascinates and interests me most on that front is the introduction of Na’vi sign language.
That’s going to completely change the game.
I hope so! It will mean more video lessons, which will be interesting and fun. I know that James Cameron will do a fantastic job with the story, but what I’m more interested in is finding out more about the world. It’s so unique, both visually and details-wise, that I’m just itching to get back there. The flying-fish/crocodile at the end of the teaser is already a big “Wow!” moment for me, and I loved the glimpses of all the different sea creatures and corals, as well as the Metkayina reef people. Can’t wait to take a closer look.
A community blog for language updates, AVATAR news, and community happenings, maintained by the members of Kelutral.org