‘Avatar’ Timeline: The Film’s Long Journey From Dream To Screen

James Cameron's boundary-breaking film has experienced ups and downs for 12 years.

The love, the hate, the hubris and drama! Sure, all those elements are within the story line of “Avatar,” but they’ve also played into the behind-the-scenes hype surrounding the film over its 12-year development.

Now, the proof is finally in the pudding, and you can judge for yourself as you slip on those 3-D glasses and escape into the world of Pandora. But, for old times’ sake, let’s take one final look back at the unique timeline that has followed “Avatar” from script to screen. After all, where else are you going to find an up-and-down story involving Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, FernGully, Adolf Hitler and our own Josh Horowitz?

1995: James Cameron writes his first draft for “Avatar” as an 80-page treatment heavily influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs and his “John Carter” series.

December 29, 1997: Despite a nearly universal consensus that the film’s delays and massively over-budget production had given birth to one of the great all-time bombs, Cameron releases “Titanic.” After making a mere $28 million opening weekend, the film goes on to become the all-time box-office champ, earning $1.8 billion worldwide, winning 11 Oscars and causing Cameron to famously dub himself “The King of the World.”

August 27, 1999: Cameron appears in the little-seen Sharon Stone comedy “The Muse,” spoofing his image as a director whose unprecedented success has him stumped over what to do next.

June 14, 2005: After eight years of short-form IMAX movies and vague statements that a “Titanic” follow-up is in the works, Cameron reveals that he is developing two competing projects to be shot in 3-D with custom-designed high-definition cameras like the ones he experimented with on “Ghosts of the Abyss” and “Aliens of the Deep.” One is called “Battle Angel” and the other is tentatively titled “Project 880.” He plans to make them in that order, but eventually changes his mind — to this day, Cameron still intends on going back to “Battle Angel.”

June 29, 2006: Appearing at the “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” premiere, Cameron tells MTV News that “my summer vacation is over; it’s time to go back to work.” He also mentions: ” ‘Project 880,’ we’ll probably release it as ‘Avatar.’ ”

July 17, 2007: Although the actors are operating under a strict gag-order, details begin to emerge about revolutionary technology and “a sci-fi movie that’s going to blow your socks off.”

February 2, 2009: A production image of the film’s alien creatures, the Na’vi, is leaked. Movie geeks begin to get even more curious about what Cameron is up to.

July 29, 2009: Cameron appears at Comic-Con , reveals footage to mixed reactions, promises “kick-ass action.”

August 14, 2009: The first official image of “Avatar” is leaked, revealing the look of the Na’vi. Although curiosity is again increased, some begin to get skeptical.

August 21, 2009: The first “Avatar” trailer is released , and it’s hard to imagine the online backlash being any worse. Critics immediately maker comparisons to clunkers like “Delgo” and “FernGully.” Criticizing the project’s overly CGI perception and blue creatures, haters dub the film “Dances With Smurfs” and “Smurfa-Hontas.”

August 24, 2009: An “Avatar” preview day takes the unusual move of screening footage from the film at local movie theaters nationwide. Reactions seem to be a bit better, but some moviegoers remain skeptical.

August 28, 2009: The “Avatar” hatred reaches its peak as “Hitler Learns That the Avatar Trailer Sucks” becomes a YouTube sensation, depicting the German leader criticizing Cameron’s reliance on computer technology. “Who the hell wants ‘Clone Wars: Thundercats’?” Hitler asks. Other videos follow, and are even crueler.

December 7, 2009: James Cameron and his cast appear in an exclusive online Q&A with MTV, and the questions seem mostly cordial and appreciative. Hitler remains silent. Could the tide be turning?

December 10, 2009: It’s time to finally put up or shut up, as “Avatar” is revealed in London. Although critics are sworn to secrecy, word begins to leak — and it is good. Much like “Titanic,” reports of a Cameron debacle seem to be premature.

December 18, 2009: “Avatar” opens with midnight screenings across the country. “I feel like this is a revolution,” one awestruck moviegoer tells MTV News. Let the crow-eating begin!

Check out everything we’ve got on “Avatar.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.