By James Hibberd
May 22, 2020 at 09:33 AM EDT
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Sorry Avatar 2 actors, it's time to get back into the water tank.

Production on the long-awaited James Cameron sequel is set to return to New Zealand, producer Jon Landau announced on Instagram. "Our #Avatar sets are ready — and we couldn’t be more excited to be headed back to New Zealand next week," Landau said. That likely means Avatar 2 will be the first major Hollywood title to start filming again in the wake of the industry-wide production shutdown in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WETA

Laudau also revealed a new photo of two new futuristic boats featured in the film: The Matador, "a high speed forward command vessel" (bottom) and The Picador, a jetboat (top).

The good news is largely due to New Zealand's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has received worldwide praise for her rapid response to the coronavirus, which included an aggressive lockdown, a travel ban, widespread testing, and contact tracing. Ardern recently declared that thencountry has "won" against widespread transmission. All told, only 21 New Zealanders have died of COVID-19. The country was aided by the fact it's a small island country, making containment of the virus easier than it is for larger countries that share borders with other nations.

No word yet on when the other high-profile production that recently halted filming in New Zealand – Amazon's Lord of the Rings series – will likewise return to set.

Previously, Landau revealed photos of Avatar 2 stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Kate Winslet, and Cliff Curtis in the film's custom 900,000-gallon water tank (the white balls are used to block light from above when doing underwater motion-capture filming).

And here's a shot of Cameron directing the actors:

The production has also released some concept photos of the sequel, which will explore the oceans of Pandora:

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Avatar 2 is the sequel to Cameron's 2009 3D blockbuster and it will hit theaters Dec. 17, 2021. It is the first of four planned sequels, much of which has reportedly already been filmed.

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