James Cameron is being sued by someone named Gerald Morawski who sold some art pieces to Cameron a couple of decades ago intended for a film adaptation of a short story called Burning Chrome that Cameron was working on. Morawski claims that after he sold Cameron the art he pitched a movie to the director about a struggle between an evil mining conglomerate and an indigenous tribe, and believes that movie became the mega hit Avatar.
To prove that Avatar is solely Cameron's idea, the director wrote up a 45-page sworn declaration that explains in detail how he came up with Avatar, its themes, and even where Avatar is going in the next two films. Cameron's road to Avatar spanned five decades, starting in elementary school in the 1960's when he wanted to be a scientist.
It moved on to the eleventh grade when he drew a picture he called "Spring on Planet Flora" which he says became the concept behind the alien jungle landscape on Pandora. He also talks about several unproduced film projects that he worked on and wrote over the years that led him to making Avatar, starting out with a college project called Chrysalis about a "cosmic journey of self-discovery and transcendence taken by a wheelchair-bound man who elects to surgically remove all external sensory input, so that he can journey through his own mind."
Another film he talks about in great detail is a movie called Xenogenesis that he wrote in the late 1970's. This story served as a major inspiration for Avatar and the upcoming sequels. Here's some information on that story,
Xenogenesis is the saga of the voyage of Cosmos Kindred, a mile-long spaceship employing a fusion ramjet interstellar drive unit. In the face of destruction of the Earth, scientists engage in a last-ditch effort to preserve a nucleus of humanity by trying to find a new planet on which to live. Cosmos Kindred carries a cyber (artificial intelligence) that has cell samples, which, under the cyber’s direction, will be developed into cloned individuals once the spaceship finds a suitable new home planet.
The central section of the Xenogenesis story focuses on the human drama of the pilot dealing with a female stowaway who has been raised by the cyber. They experience exotic, danger-filled alien landscapes on different planets that I created, on which they see bizarre flora and fauna, and take samples.
There's a lot more information on how this story ties in with Avatar in the court report embeded below. Something I highly recommend that you read because it's full of a ton of great stuff, and it goes into a lot of detail. It's very, very clear that this film is what Avatar became. As far as where the Avatar sequel could possibly go, he goes on to explain some of the other planets that the characters in Xenogenesis explore.
The characters in Xenogenesis also visit a world called “Techno- Planet.” On this world, our main characters discover an advanced civilization that has collapsed because the people withdraw into highly realistic fantasy worlds generated by computers. The alien characters of this advanced civilization are seen only as skeletons, lying long dead within their liquid-filled, womb-like eggs, their skulls still connected by cables to the central computer. The characters discover that the inhabitants had “gathered to fuse their individual minds together into one super-entity using advanced cybernetic networks, and the results were so pleasant or offered such god-like perceptions that they were unwilling to give it up, but chose to live vicariously in an electronic reality, dying without the replacement of procreation.
Another movie that Cameron wrote was called Mother, which was originally called E.T. -- he changed the title after Steven Spielberg began making his classic family sci-fi film.
In Mother, humans have plundered Earth and look to exploit another planet. As I wrote in 1980-81: “It was a … plan, born of desperation. For Earth was becoming hell too, crushed beneath a sea of homo sapiens, and they needed new territory. Not simply a new continent: an entire world was required. And so they came.” This effort is spearheaded by an international and interplanetary consortium called Triworld Development Corporation, or “the Company,” which sets up mines on another planet, possibly Venus or an extrasolar planet or moon such as Titan. Due to the planet’s extremely high temperatures and a toxic atmosphere of carbon dioxide at high pressure, humans cannot survive there without environment suits. But that does not stop the Company.
He then goes on to talk about several of his other ideas that he worked on before 1991 including Aliens, Rambo II, The Abyss, The Terminator, The Terminator II, and how they also have Avatar themes. For example, he sites that the Paul Reiser character in Aliens is basically the same character played by Giovanni Ribisi in Avatar. He explains that some of the military gear in Rambo II served as inspiration for the heavily armed gunships in Avatar. He also claims that the idea of a neural-net was first explored in his Terminator movies. He then moves on to another unproduced movie called Wind Warriors.
The basic story of Wind Warriors was this: An aviatrix crashes into the Brazilian rainforest and mysteriously disappears. Her daughter travels to the jungle in order to search for her mother and, together with an archaeologist who speaks the language of the natives, hire a bush pilot to take them upriver in his converted World War I bomber plane. They are attacked by mercenaries under the command of a greedy industrialist, who is seeking a mysterious but extremely valuable metal. The industrialist has an airship, which the indigenous warriors believe to be a god, and he uses the airship to make them dig for more of the metal. The indigenous warriors ingest the root of a plant that makes them invincible, but causes others to have terrible visions that drive them mad and die. The protagonists are captured by these warriors, but are not killed because they ingest the plant to prove their acquaintance with the gods. The protagonists fight the mercenaries, who wear gas masks. When the protagonists, aided by a huge South American condor, destroy the airship, the shaman calls his people to rise up against the mercenaries, who are forced to withdraw. The archaeologist discovers that the metal is actually a remnant of an alien ship that crashed there.
One thing is for sure, Avatar is seriously Cameron's life work, it's what he's always wanted to do, and he's doing it. I don't think this guy suing him has a case after reading through this sworn declaration. Like I said, there's a ton of interesting details in this thing about the films Cameron has worked on over the years, and you should read through it, especially if you're a fan of Cameron and Avatar.