After more than a year of drawing inspiration from his gorgeous new farm in New Zealand, James Cameron has apparently decided that the world of "Avatar" deserved not two, but three sequels. 

The director and 20th Century Fox announced late yesterday that the three films will be shot simultaneously, with production commencing in 2014. To achieve such a feat, Cameron is calling upon help in writing the film from screenwriters Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”), Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planets of the Apes”), and Shane Salerno (“Savages,” “Salinger”).

“In writing the new films, I’ve come to realize that ‘Avatar’s’ world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen,” Cameron said in a statement. “And to help me continue to expand this universe, I’m pleased to bring aboard Amanda, Rick, Shane and Josh -- all writers I’ve long admired -­- to join me in completing the films’ screenplays.”

Added 20th Century Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos: “We at the studio have no higher priority, and can feel no greater joy, than enabling Jim to continue and expand his vision of the world of ‘Avatar.’  The growing breadth and scale of Jim Cameron’s plans for his magnificent fantasy worlds continue to amaze us all.”

The studio, putting to rest years of speculation, has solidified release dates - with "Avatar 2" in December 2016, "Avatar 3" in 2017, and "Avatar 4" the following year. In terms of plot, we know that at least the second film will take place in Pandora's oceans - with the 58-year-old director once again weaving environmental themes into the plot. 

“We’re doing ‘Avatar’ films now, so we’re making up an ocean ecosystem for Pandora," Cameron said in 2012. "That’s gonna have less to do with the deep exploration that I’ve done than it has to do with my concerns about conservation of Earth’s oceans. The fact that we’re basically overfishing, climate change… a few degrees of temperature rise are gonna basically take out the coral reefs. All those beautiful images of the coral environments we all grew up with won’t exist in 50 years at the rate we’re going in terms of pumping greenhouse gases into the environment. These are the things that concern me.”

Going further, the commitment a fourth film is not only great for fans of Pandora, but also for our own world. Both Cameron and Fox earlier committed to using some portion of the gross from the sequels to benefit environmental charities - a huge addition to the 1 million tree planting initiative for the first "Avatar". The director's studio, Lightstorm Entertainment, will also power production with 100% green energy via a recently-added 960 kW solar array

“The Avatar sequels are a great opportunity to show how we, as a production company, can make clean green solar energy as we go. Going into Avatar 2 and 3, we are going to be able produce enough solar energy to handle the entire electrical demand for our computers and performance capture systems here at MBS Media Campus,” said Cameron last year. “We have to do this for the future, for our children, and as a moral responsibility to the planet.”

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

James Cameron to direct three 'Avatar' sequels
Long-rumored fourth movie becomes real as 20th Century Fox announces work on all three films will begin simultaneously in 2014.