(CN) – A California judge tossed an artist’s claims that James Cameron swiped his idea for the Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar.”
Morawski, a visual effects consultant, sold Cameron four pieces of original art in 1991. He claimed he also pitched an idea for a film, “Guardians of Eden,” in two additional meetings with the director the same year.
“Guardians of Eden” allegedly shared much with “Avatar,” including an “epic struggle” between a mining company and an indigenous tribe, a planet that has a “collective consciousness and spirituality,” a rain forest setting, and a protagonist who is a disabled military veteran and eventually falls in love with the daughter of a tribal leader, among other things.
After the meetings, Morawski says he faxed conceptual details of “Guardians of Eden” to Lightstorm. The company’s then-president allegedly requested a screenplay, but Morawaski never wrote one.
Gerald Morawski sued Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment in 2011 for breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.
Countering the allegations in a sworn declaration, Cameron acknowledged that he met with Morawski in 1991, but said he did not use “Guardians of Eden” as a basis for “Avatar.”
“Avatar,” a science-fiction film, is set in 2154 on Pandora, an earth-like moon where a mining company’s expansion threatens the indigenous population.
The first in a planned trilogy, “Avatar” grossed $2.7 billion worldwide at the box office.
Cameron said the “Avatar” story was a combination of ideas from his other movies and his own past.
In his declaration, Cameron detailed what he said were the foundational experiences underlying his creation of the movie: dissecting frogs as a child, his time as president of a high school science club, and scuba diving as a California transplant in the 1970s.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow dismissed Morawski’s case.
Even if Morawski did pitch “Guardians of Eden” to Cameron in 1991 and if many of the elements of the project matched those in “Avatar,” that would not be enough to rule out the possibility that Cameron based the movie on his own past experiences and projects, Morrow found.
“By way of example,” Morrow wrote, “Cameron’s documented pre-1991 ideas include a disabled protagonist transporting his consciousness to another form, evil mercenaries attempting to exploit resources in a jungle-like setting, a jungle containing bioluminescent plants and unusual animals, a protagonist fighting alongside natives against a superior fighting force, and a sentient planet.”
Morawski claimed that Cameron’s other movies are “nothing like” Avatar.
But Morrow shot down that argument.
“The fact that none of Cameron’s earlier works exactly duplicates the story of ‘Avatar’ does not defeat his claim that he used the prior works as inspiration for ‘Avatar,’ and did not copy the ideas embodied in ‘Guardians of Eden’ that Morawski pitched in 1991,” Morrow wrote.
Cameron also said he drew on classic tales like “Pocahontas” and “Romeo and Juliet” to create “Avatar.”
“Ultimately, it is clear upon reviewing Cameron’s notes and testimony that ‘Guardians of Eden’ was not the ‘vehicle’ he utilized in developing the story of ‘Avatar’; ‘Avatar’ is simply a re-telling of the familiar story of European colonization and the love story between Pocahontas and John Smith. It is the story of indigenous people fighting for their home against a stronger, encroaching enemy, and of an unlikely romance between two people on opposing sides. These ideas form the basis for countless works dating back centuries,” Morrow added.
Additional lawsuits over “Avatar” remain for Cameron, including a complaint filed by Eric Ryder in Los Angeles Superior Court in 1999.
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