After my film was shown at USC's First Look in 1993, I was contacted by Hanna-Barbera (recently purchased by Turner) and got a couple interviews, and was asked if I had any script ideas for a new animated film, with an emphasis on a more adult theme. I did, and I tried really hard to develop them. I was never really happy with them, always too dark and not the satire I was hoping for. Also it is not clear what happened to Hanna-Barbera/Turner, as they never talked to me again, and it does not seem they hired anybody else or went anywhere near producing any such films.
I was shocked at the similarities of my plot with Avatar, and I feel I really should post this, just in case the sequels, now in production, have any resemblance to how the idea developed. I do not think James Cameron stole my idea. Instead I think we both stole from the movie Fern Gully, and perhaps other stories and movies, with attempts to add twists to make it more interesting and plausible.
I think I was also satirizing HB's own Once Upon a Forest, which I knew about even though I have never seen it.
The Original Script for Guardian of the Forest
Besides the obvious, I noticed these similarities with Avatar:
Where I differed most from Avatar is that I was worried that the whole thing sounded a bit sappy and too preachy for an entertainment that is supposed to be adult, and too blunt of an environmental statement. I also had some close friends who would probably not be very happy that I modeled some characters on them and made Libertarians into the bad guys. There was also the problem of exactly what the Fluffies would do after very quickly turning from a primitive society into an organized one with modern technology and enough drive to defeat and wipe out a much better-armed enemy: it seemed unlikely that things would just stop and they would go back to as they were before! I think all these criticisms can be directed at Avatar as well!
So during the final firefight, an earth military leader, recognizing defeat, makes an all-out effort to destroy every piece of technology left in the colony. It is impossible and she is defeated, though (in some versions) she escapes. The Fluffies are seen wandering through the burning wreckage of the colony, shocked at what they have done, but searching. One digs up a CD marked as containing the Library of Congress (this is before Wikipedia!).
Then the main Fluffy character, who had joined the humans because he was fascinated by their ability to fly, is seen. He is older and he is in the cockpit of a plane of some sort. There are many others, in a hanger like on an aircraft carrier, all buzzing to life and preparing to launch. A group of Fluffies in military uniforms on the bridge study a big black globe with symbols and battle plans drawn on it. Great doors open and the ships are launched out of a huge organic-looking spaceship, into a hellish space battle, and they dive toward a planet that is blasted with craters and red glows and is shooting at them. On the bridge the globe is spun and you see the lines showing the continents. They are attacking Earth. End credits.
I seriously expected Avatar to end the same way. I was both disappointed and happy when it did not...
That basic plot dates from 1993. I worked on it on and off over the next few years, when I actually was working for James Cameron at Digital Domain.
I felt there was no way the twist ending could be kept a secret. Also the battle with Earth was becoming more and more interesting, and it started taking over a longer part of the end of the script. It would be a War of the Worlds told from the alien's point of view! And they would be adorably cute and emphatic! It all seemed like a great idea and I really wanted to see it. The original environmentalist stuff was reduced but it was an excellent motivation plot point. I though it could be two movies, with the war of the worlds being the sequel, I thought this would work very well because you would be rooting for the aliens in the first one, and questioning your own judgement in the second. But I am not James Cameron and I doubt suggesting two movies would get me very far. I do wonder if that is what James Cameron is up to with the Avatar sequels, but I have not heard any such rumors.
I did want it to be somewhat hard science fiction (much more so than Avatar) and did spend some time developing the back story and technology:
Other than such technical details, I never really came up with a script. Later versions kept making the war bigger, until the original movie had all happened in flashback. I tried lots of variations involving a Fluffy who is caught by the humans and thus makes the first contact (all others are killed when their ships are shot down). I never really had anything that I thought was a story. Writing is a frustrating experience. Besides what is in the treatment, here are some plot ideas:
Also it was obvious that my career was going to be writing software, not producing movies. In addition the failure of 2D animation (the movies Treasure Planet and Titan A.E were similar sci-fi/animation mash-ups and they bombed!) made me think this was not going to work (I was convinced my idea required traditional 2D animation so the Anime/Disney styles would fight).
Attached is the most complete treatment, dating form 1999. In this version I added child Fluffies in an attempt to make this lighter. I am not sure if my idea worked.
Here you can see my work as a Production Designer. To seriously do this film you would need a lot of talented designers, and I thought it would be really cool to have conflicting designs for the Fluffies, Earth, and also the mysterious aliens who made the hyperdrive.