Why 'Avatar' Isn't on Disney+ Anymore

Avatar is no longer on Disney+, even though Disney is preparing to release the long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water in December. James Cameron's epic 2009 film is getting a theatrical re-release later this month, so Disney pulled it from the streaming platform. This means fans who want to take a trip back to Pandora before The Way of Water opens on Dec. 24 will have to return to theaters or pick up the movie on Blu-ray or DVD. The film is also available to rent on most video-on-demand platforms.

Back in April, Disney and Avatar producer Jon Landau announced plans to re-release the original Avatar to theaters worldwide on Sept. 23, with remastered pictures and sound. The film had been available on Disney+ since the streaming service launched in November 2019 and this is the first time it has disappeared. 

When Avatar hit theaters in December 2009, the film was an instant success and pushed theaters across the world to adopt 3D projectors. Avatar won Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects and earned six other Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Thanks to multiple re-releases, Avatar has retained the title of the highest-grossing movie ever made, earning $2.847 billion worldwide.

The Way of Water is set over a decade after the first film, with Sam Worthington reprising his role as Jake Sully, a former human-turned-Na'vi. Zoe Saldana is back as Jake's wife Neytiri, while Sigourney Weaver has a new role as Kiri, Keyteri, and Jake's teenage daughter. Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, Joel David Moore, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Michelle Yeoh, and Kate Winsley also star. Cameron wrote the script with Josh Friedman.

Cameron shot The Way of Water and Avatar 3 back-to-back, but he plans to make two more movies in the franchise. In a July interview with Empire Magazine, Cameron said the sequels are all part of one big story, comparing them to The Lord of the Rings.

"What I said to the Fox regime at the time was, 'I'll do it, but we've got to play a larger game here. I don't want to just do a movie and do a movie and do a movie. I want to tell a bigger story,'" Cameron said. "I said, 'Imagine a series of novels like The Lord of the Rings existed, and we're adapting them.' Now, that was great in theory, but then I had to go create the frickin' novels from which to adapt it."

However, Cameron also mentioned that he might hand off the director's chair to someone else for the fourth and fifth movies. "The Avatar films themselves are kind of all-consuming," he said, via Entertainment Weekly. "I've got some other things I'm developing as well that are exciting. I think eventually over time – I don't know if that's after three or after four – I'll want to pass the baton to a director that I trust to take over, so I can go do some other stuff that I'm also interested in. Or maybe not. I don't know." Cameron has pretty much devoted his entire career to Avatar since 2009 and hasn't directed a feature film outside the franchise since helming the Oscar-winning Titanic.