Avatar's Pandora to come to life on Shanghai stage

Pandora, the mysterious planet in James Cameron's "Avatar," will come to life in Shanghai as Cirque de Soleil brings their multimedia show "TORUK – The First Flight."
Ti Gong

Pandora, the mysterious planet in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” will be live in Shanghai in August as Cirque du Soleil presents the immersive multimedia spectacle “TORUK — The First Flight.”

Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions.

To bring the world of Pandora to life, the team reached Cameron and kept in communication during the process, according to Janie Mallet, publicist of TORUK Company. Cameron kindly provided many documents about his “Avatar” to help the team recreate the mysterious world on the stage.

“For those who have seen the movie ‘Avatar,’ you may recognize something familiar and find something surprising in the show,” Mallet says. “There is no obstacle for those who have not seen the movie as the story was set 3,000 years before the events depicted in ‘Avatar’.”

In the story, when a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, two boys on the brink of adulthood fearlessly decide to take matters into their hands.

About 40 projectors are used in the show to help create the planet, together with other stage settings. The total projection surface is approximately 20,000 square feet (1,858 square meters), more than five times the size of a standard IMAX screen. 

Ti Gong
Ti Gong
Ti Gong

The video projection sometimes overflows beyond the set and right into the audience, giving spectators the feeling that they are not merely gazing at Pandora’s magical landscapes.

“Set changes, which sometimes occur in the blink of an eye, are not mechanical, but optical,” says Michel Lemieux, the multimedia stage director.

A series of large-scale puppets and indoor kites help bring Pandora’s creatures to life on stage, such as viperwolves, direhorses, austrapedes, turtapedes, swarms of woodsprites, banshees and toruk.

All the performers, of course, will look, speak and act like the Na’vi on the Pandora. Though morphologically similar to humans, the Na’vi have wider noses and larger eyes. It takes each performer an hour to complete makeup. 

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Costumes for the show are produced with “invented” Pandora fibers, which are actually cutouts of loofah sponge or molds from cabbage leaves.

“The whole idea of Pandora world was originally created by Cameron, but he gave us much freedom in creating our show. He has personally watched it several times. We hope that Chinese audiences will also have fun in the adventure on Pandora,” says Michael Veilleux, manager of TORUK Company.

Performance details

Date: August 16-26, 7:30pm
Tickets: 280-780 yuan
Tel: 4001-816-688
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena
Address: 1200 Shibo Ave, Pudong New Area

Ti Gong
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