As director James Cameron moves toward the production of four sequels for his original Avatar (2009), he sat down with Travel + Leisure to talk about New Zealand, a country whose indigenous cultures and surreal landscapes influenced the Sci-Fi universe he created.

When visiting New Zealand in 1994, more than a decade before the release of Avatar, Cameron became inspired by the language, mythology, and artistic expressions of New Zealand's Maori people.

“I was obviously subconsciously influenced by Maori culture. And then as I went back to New Zealand to make Avatar the movie…I started to learn more about Maori culture, and there are a number of Maori actors and stunt people that worked on the film, so I kind of learned more about them as a people,” he said.

“The Avatar films are a celebration of indigenous culture, not just Maori obviously, but cultures in South and Central America, Africa, Native Americans, the First Nations peoples of Canada—it’s all kind of rolled in,” said Cameron. “You try to find common themes that will resonate with indigenous societies everywhere—that’s kind of what Avatar is.”

Intrigued? Check out the full video, above.

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