Tag Archives: “Avatar

Eric Ryder’s “Avatar”

You may have heard about the lawsuit filed in December against James Cameron, alleging that James Cameron stole a science fiction writer’s story, then turned it into “Avatar.”

I did.

But what I did not hear until a couple of days ago was that the plaintiff was Eric Ryder.

As in Eric Ryder, Staples Class of 1979.

According to Courthouse News Service — what, you don’t read it regularly? — Eric’s Los Angeles Superior Court suit alleges that he worked with Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm Entertainment “for almost 2 years” to develop Eric’s story, “KRZ 2068,” into a 3-D movie.

Courthouse News reports:

"Avatar" was my idea, says Westport native Eric Ryder.

Ryder’s story followed “a corporation’s colonization and plundering of a distant moon’s lush and wondrous natural setting, the corporation’s spy sent to crush an insurrection on the distant moon among anthropomorphic, organically created beings populating that moon, and the spy’s remote sensing experiences with the beings, emotional attachment to one of them in particular, and eventual spiritual transformation into a leader of the lunar beings’ revolt against the corporation’s mining practices,” according to the complaint.

Eric says he pitched the story to Lightstorm in 1999.

Ryder says he also provided the production company with “treatments, photographs, 3-D visual representations and imagery, character and scene development, story element and production ideas, and screenplay development assistance, in anticipation of the motion picture’s production.”

But after 2 years of development work, Ryder says, the production company told him the film could not be made “because no one would be interested in an environmentally themed science fiction feature film.”


Eric seeks punitive damages, and a share of the profits.

That would be substantial. “Avatar” was the highest-grossing film of all time.

Westport’s Avatar

In 2007 Connor Murphy graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design.  He’d focused on studio-scale animation, and enjoyed internships working on productions like “Corpse Bride,” “Brotherhood” and “Underdog.”

Connor Murphy

Now the 2003 Staples grad needed a Real Job.  He wrote 1,300 personalized emails.  Finally, he landed work as a “glorified production assistant” at Giant Studios.  The company — specializing in “motion capture technology” for film and video games– was just gearing up for a new project:  “Avatar.”

“It was pure Irish luck,” Connor recalls.  “To be honest, at that point I would have taken any job.”

Giant Studios is actually rather small — 30 people — allowing Connor to learn quickly and move up.  He served as director James Cameron’s camera assistant on stage, and ran the motion capture system.

With his animation training, Connor worked as a motion editor on 3 simultaneous projects:  “Mummy 3,” The Incredible Hulk” and “Prince Caspian.”  He applied the captured human motion to the movie characters, then changed, blended or enhanced that motion as needed.

When the motion-editing phase of “Avatar” began, he moved easily into that.  He had, he says, “the unique and very advantageous position of working on both the on-set capture and post-production effects portions” of the mega-blockbuster.

Six-day weeks were typical — and on those days Connor would work from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.  “We all got a little crazy, and a little fatter,” he notes.

“‘Avatar’ was my first credit.  Having touched nearly every scene in the movie in 1 way or another, I’m just proud that we finished and that people like it,” he says.

At Staples Connor was involved in tech for Players.  He took several advanced drawing courses, and spent his free time drawing in the art rooms.  He credits teacher Camille Eskell and the rest of the art department with helping him take art seriously — and get into RISD — but realizes now that “the rest of my Staples education was invaluable to successfully merging art with the real world.

“Being able to speak to the physics and the ‘reasons why’ behind the animation is just as valuable as being able to do it in the 1st place.”

This week, Connor began his next project:  “Real Steel.”  Directed by Shawn Levy, it’s “a ‘Rocky’-style story about robot boxing in the future.”

Connor looks forward to working on fight scenes — and “more extreme characters.”