Author Topic: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming  (Read 7845 times)

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Offline Jane MacMillan

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Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« on: September 19, 2011, 04:57:36 pm »
Kaltxì, ma oeyä eylan!
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to become a Na’vi. What follows is my advice and suggestions, including a lot of photos of my costumes, and a few suggested resources.

Why should you take my advice? You certainly don’t have to. But allow me to present Figures 1 and 2.


NWC34 | Saturday 415 by Norwescon, on Flickr


Jane McMillan, Avatar Driver. Best In Show - Recreation. by Mark Shallcross, on Flickr

Figure 1: my Na’vi costume at Norwescon 2011, where I was honored to win Best in Show and Best Workmanship journeyman class,.

Figure 2: my Na’vi costume at Renovation (Worldcon) 2011. I was thrilled to win Best in Show-Recreation and Best Makeup journeyman class.

I’m very proud of this costume, and some costuming experts liked it too.


Step Zero: References!
The first thing you must do, before any costuming project, is look at the source material. Go watch Avatar again. (What a hardship.) Pay attention to the colors of the Na’vi, the clothes and jewelry they wear, and the weaponry they carry. Look at the avatars, what they’re wearing, how they look compared to true Na’vi. Find all the screencaps you can. At any point during construction, whenever you’re unsure what something should look like, go back to those references.

If you want to be an avatar, look at Jake, look at Grace, look at those background avatars we see only briefly in the beginning. Grace’s avatar looks just like human Grace, so in order to capture the hybrid facial structure look at Jake and Norm’s human and avatar faces.

 If you want to be Na’vi, look at Neytiri, Tsu’tey, and the big crowd shots. You have a lot of options with jewelry and clothing here. Pick your favorite pieces from any of the characters, or design your own.

Step One: Paint or Fabric?
The first thing you must decide is, will you paint your skin blue with makeup or will you wear a blue bodysuit? The bodysuit will be cheaper and faster, since it is reusable. It is also warmer (which is either a pro or con depending on where you live) and more modest. The makeup will look more like skin, and be easier to colormatch, but will take a long time to put on each time you “link up”, as it were. It can also be prone to rubbing off over time.

If you choose a bodysuit, the search terms to use are unitards or “zentai suit”. I have heard good things about WeLoveColors.com and JudyZentai.com, but have never ordered from either place. I’d suggest trying to find a blue color that matches the Na’vi skin tone fairly closely. You’ll need to add stripes in a darker shade of blue. Dye will work better than paint since it will be more flexible. Either way, paint the suit while you are wearing it (and thus stretching the fabric out) so that the stripes end up in the right place. Get an assistant to help with the awkward places.
You will need to paint your hands and face to match the bodysuit, so consult the section below for that information. You can use bracelets and necklaces to conceal the line between skin and clothing, which works very well with Na’vi fashion.

If you choose makeup, you’ll need to find a theatrical supply or costume store. Makeup is the route I chose, because it looks more natural than fabric. I have used two types of makeup: water-based and alcohol-based.


IMGP4951 by tereshkova2001, on Flickr
Figure 3: Water-based makeup, right after application.


Faerieworlds - Bad Fairy Day by kightp, on Flickr
Figure 4: Water-based makeup, after a day at an outdoor music/shopping event. (Note the wear on my stripes especially.)


WorldCon Masquerade by thewanderingfool, on Flickr
Figure 5: Alcohol-based makeup, many hours after application.


Avatar Driver, the next morning by tereshkova2001, on Flickr
Figure 6: Alcohol-based makeup, after a theatrical performance, a night dancing, sleep, and a shower with soap.

You can see why I like the alcohol-based makeup now. It does not smear, rub off, or fade. The drawback is the expense: that’s about $300 worth of ink.

Water-based Makeup
Any theatrical makeup company will sell colored liquid and cream makeup, My personal preference is Ben Nye Magicolor. I have also heard good things about Kryolan and Mehron. Whichever brand you choose, you’ll need around 10-12 oz for a full-body paint job. Expect to mix blue and white for the base skin tone, and add some blue and some black to that for the stripes. The exact amounts will vary. Remember what I said about reference images! You will discover that the Na’vi, like everything, appear different colors in different lighting. I would generally go for photos where they are in bright sunlight and use that as your guide.

Application: First, get an assistant. They will speed up the process, and they can get the parts of you that you just can’t reach.
You can use an airbrush, or you can apply by hand with a brush. If you’re just doing arms and face (for a clothed avatar) it will be simpler to use a brush or sponge to apply. You can probably do that much without an assistant.
Full-body coverage will be faster and easier with an airbrush. I use an airbrush designed for house painting and a shop air compressor. The airbrush will allow you to get a more even layer of makeup, and it will be faster. Mix the makeup with roughly 10% of a sealant. I use Ben Nye Final Seal, but I’m pretty sure other makeup lines also include a sealant. This will thin the makeup out so it sprays better, and help it last longer. You’ll need 1-2 coats of skin color to get a good even coverage.
Stripes: you could freehand them on, or you could do what I did and make stencils. I used posterboard and cut out curvy lines for the stripes. Make the ends of the lines pointed, and leave plenty of intact posterboard at the edges for handling. I ended up making 1 small stripe stencil, one large stripe stencil, and specialized designs for the forehead, cheeks, throat, collarbone, and spine. The limbs, back, and sides were all done with the two general stencils. As long as the stencil has some variation, moving it around your body will give plenty of different stripe patterns. You can hold the stencil while your assistant sprays you, or you could recruit another assistant for stencil duty.
Dots: you’ll need white makeup  to make the small white dots. The dot patterns roughly follow the visible veins on arms and legs, while they are more decorative and leafy on the trunk and face. Use a small brush to put them on. Again, you’ll need an assistant for your back.
Nose and Ears: you need a little bit of pink for the tip of your nose and the inside of your ears. I use Ben Nye Magicake in Bazooka Pink.
Removal: just take a shower! Another advantage of water-based makeup is that it comes off easily with soap.

Alcohol-Based Makeup

I use Reel Creations Body Ink. The base color is mostly white with some Blue #4 mixed in until it looks right. The stripes take some of that base color and add in more blue and some black. No sealer or thinner is needed; just load that mixture into your airbrush.

The application process is nearly identical for alcohol- and water-based makeup. Especially with alcohol-based makeup, do your spraying somewhere well-ventilated. Trust me, doing it indoors will make you and/or your assistant woozy and lightheaded.

Hair:
If you have long hair, braid it and color it black. If not, I suggest a wig. Na’vi swìn (braids) begin at the top of the skull, while avatar swìn start at the base. Both kinds of braids reach about to the butt, which means your wig/hair must be much longer than that to begin with. A good-quality wig that long will cost about $80 and be a major pain to handle. You might want a shorter wig for sanity’s sake. Braid it while wearing it, tie it off with a black hair elastic, and use hairspray to help keep it nice. I tied some pink string into the center of the braid for the neural tendrils. Don’t forget to wear a wig cap under your wig. It will help contain your hair, if it’s longish, and if not, it will still keep your wig clean and help it stay on.

Those are the only absolutely must-have details. Your skin must be blue, and you must have a long braid. Everything else is just refinement from here.


Ears:
Na’vi ears are just above the temples, in a position more catlike than humanoid. This means that most prosthetic ears that fit over your own will not look right. They are easier to wear, however. If you choose prosthetic ear tips, here’s how to apply them: apply spirit gum to the insides of the appliance (the prosthetic piece) and to the skin where they will fit. Let those dry, and gently tap them with a finger until they are tacky. Fit the appliance over your ear. Avoid catching too much hair under the edge, and make sure the front and back edges seat nicely onto your ear. You may use liquid latex to blend the edges into your skin; if you do, go over all parts where the appliance edge touches your ear. To remove, carefully peel the latex and the prosthetic off. Use spirit gum remover liberally to clean the appliance and your ear.
   I made my own ears and attached them to my wig, so they would be in the right position. Here’s how I did this the first time: I made Fimo polymer clay ears, based on a photo of Jake, and painted liquid latex over them in many thin layers. It took about a week of painting latex on gradually to get a good thick layer. I then peeled the ears off of their molds and painted them with makeup. To mount them to the wig, I cut and folded index cards into a T shape, slipped the vertical part of the T through the wig wefts, and glued the ears onto that with spirit gum. The horizontal T bar helps hold the ears in place.
   The second set of ears, I made with foam rubber. Again using polymer clay as the positive, I made plaster casts of the ears. I then used a commercial hot-cure foam latex kit to make positive foam rubber ears. They were a little floppy and not quite as nice as the first set, but I think I could do better the next time.

Facial Prosthetic:
You can buy reasonable prosthetic faces from ReelMagik or Aradani (links in the Prosthetic Resource thread). If you want something that fits your exact face a little better, you can make your own! This involves making a lifecast of your face, sculpting a Na’vi face on it, making a mold from that, and casting the prosthetic in latex or foam rubber or silicone. This is something I’m just starting to look into.
   You can also use a product called nose and scar wax to build directly on your face. It’s not reusable, but it’s not too expensive. The process for that is: apply spirit gum to your nose and the parts of your face you wish to reshape. Let that dry until it’s tacky to the touch, then put the scar wax on. It can be shaped, sculpted, and blended however you wish. When you have achieved a suitably leonine nose (remember to check your profile as well as straight-on), paint over it with liquid latex, blending the edges into your skin a bit. Try not to wrinkle your nose at the stench! Once that dries, you can treat it just as you would skin in terms of covering it with makeup. This is how I do it.

Fangs:
The Na’vi have pointed canines and incisors. You can get tooth caps from a makeup company called Scarecrow, in small and large sizes. For a better fit and a more accurate look, you can have custom fangs made. If you’re anywhere in the western part of the US, look for Victor Moray, who lives in Seattle but goes to a whole lot of cons on the west coast and western part of the country. He’s a former dental technician who uses high-quality dental acrylic to make fangs that fit your teeth without any glue. I’m sure you can find similar fangmakers in other parts of the world. Be sure you find someone who really knows what they’re doing, since teeth are nothing to mess around with.

Contact Lenses:
Those bright golden eyes are very distinctive. If you already wear contact lenses, getting colored ones is easy. When you find a pair you like, give the lens seller your eye doctor’s contact information, and they’ll check your prescription. Depending on how strong your prescription is, you may be able to find yellow lenses easily, or, if you’re near-blind like me you may need to have them custom made.
   If you don’t wear contact lenses, you still need an eye doctor to fit lenses. Your vision is really not something to fool around with. I got my lenses from 9mm SFX. They are scleral lenses, so they are slightly less comfortable than smaller ones, but they really do look fabulous. Even from a distance they’re quite noticeable. There are a number of other places that will sell yellow contacts, some of which are more realistic than others.


IMGP4246 by tereshkova2001, on Flickr

Figure 7: 9mmSFX “Avatar” scleral lenses. They look a little weird with human skin, but they look fantastic with blue Na’vi coloring.

Tail:
The tail armature I made was delrin (a bouncy thermoplastic) and aluminum rods, as shown:



Figure 8: Tail skeleton.

Delrin can be bent when it is heated, but sets in place after it cools down. I bought mine from Tap Plastics. I used a heat gun to heat the plastic evenly, then bent it at a 45° angle or so. You can see a series of bends, giving it a natural curve. To prevent the tail from vibrating too much, I cut a thin aluminum rod into ~2” segments and attached them to the delrin with zipties. The connections between aluminum bits are made from amber rubber tubing. I got the idea for that from a furry costumer who built a gryphon costume. The tubing probably isn’t necessary, but it did make it easier to anchor the metal. Both the metal and the tubing came from Home Depot.
I covered that with cotton batting and then blue lycra. I used clippings from my wig for the tail tuft, hotgluing them to the lycra. The attachment point was a loop of delrin with a belt threaded through it:



Figure 9: Tail attachment rig.

That photo was taken before I put the aluminum weights on.
The final tail stood out from my body, bounced nicely, and was amazingly comfortable to wear.



Figure 10: Finished tail, in situ.

The one drawback to this stiff armature is that you can’t sit down in a regular chair. Stools are fine, open backed chairs sort of work, but theater seats are right out. I don’t mind standing in the back if it’s possible, but you might.

Jewelry:
 Most of the Na’vi jewelry is knotted hemp, like friendship bracelets. Directions are easy to find online. Go for wood, stone, shell, or bone beads (or synthetic versions). I used freshwater pearls in mine, but those aren’t necessarily authentic. (There are coast-dwelling clans, so pearls are plausible at least.) Feathers are nice; you can find exotic parrot feathers on eBay. Make sure you buy them from a bird owner, not from an illegal importer. As for what types of jewelry to wear, we see: chokers; longer necklaces with feathers, beads, or both; armbands; wrist bands; bracelets; and bands at the top of the calf/below the knee. We also see archers wear bracers (forearm guards on the bow arm). Hunters also wear flight goggles sometimes; straps of decorated leather with insect wings as lenses. I have yet to find a satisfactory insect wing simulant, and I’ve tried casting epoxy and heat-shaping vinyl. I made a leather headdress with irregular pearls and knotted hemp for decoration, but it has no lenses.

Clothing (Na’vi):
 A loincloth, and that’s it. The loincloth is a rectangle of cloth that reaches from about mid-thigh to mid-thigh, and is less than knee-length. There’s a belt, and there’s a strip of cloth that runs from the top of the apron, between the legs, and loops around the tail and the belt. When Tsu’tey attacks Jake, he goes ass over teakettle and we see Jake wearing a modesty panel that covers his bits securely. However, he’s the only one wearing such a thing. There are definite shots of Na’vi where you can see their bits. Female Na’vi wear necklaces that cover their breasts poorly; besides Neytiri’s endless array of jewelry we see women wearing macrame tops and the occasional beaded rectangle covering.
   As a human going out in public, you’ll need to cover yourself a bit more than this. I was once given the advice to show “no actual curves of either butt or breasts.” I wear blue shorts (made by myself, of lycra) and a blue fabric square glued over my breasts, to give the illusion of nudity but avoid the reality. I have seen people wear bras and underwear that is blue/painted blue, and I have seen people (like Sarah Noel) wear bikinis in a shade that looks like something the Na’vi would wear. Go for whatever will make you comfortable, but please do also consider the laws of the area.
Speaking of Na’vi colors, there’s a lot of greens and blues in their loincloths, and sometimes off-white. Jewelry is all shades. I chose to use natural dyes to color my fabric, so my loincloth is dyed with turmeric and tea for a vibrant shade of yellow.

Clothing (Avatar):
 The avatars are all driven by humans, so ordinary human clothing will work fine. A lot of the avatars we see are wearing shades of red or shades of grey. White and gold also look very nice with blue skin, so you might consider those as well. The clothing will get makeup on it, even if you use alcohol-based ink, so don’t wear your very favoritest outfit. You’ll need to cut a hole in your lower garment (be it pants, shorts, or a skirt) to slip your tail through. Try on your tail over the garment, and mark where the hole needs to be. Finish the edges, either by folding it over slightly and sewing it or using a product like Fray-Check. That will keep your clothes looking nice for multiple wearings. I don’t seem to have any good photos of my txìm in a skirt to share.

Weapons:
Check with your venue for weapon rules. Some places don’t care what you carry, some places will ask you to peacebond your weapons, and some places prohibit weapons and things that look like weapons. I carry a 68" hickory longbow with a very low draw weight (30 lb), which I purchased on eBay. It is a real weapon, and I own no arrows for it. Just like I would never carry ammunition for a costume gun, I will not carry both a bow and arrows. Too dangerous in my opinion. You might choose to carry a knife like Jake does. I’d strongly recommend making a replica out of wood, plastic, craft foam, or some other non-sharpened material. Accidents can happen and I’d hate to see anyone get hurt.

Bioluminescence:
 This is a fun touch. I used blacklight-sensitive paint to make my dots, and I carry a longbow with UV LEDs. This allows me to make my dots light up.


Na'vi at night, on Flickr
Figure 11: Glowing bioluminescence. See also the videos I posted here.

You can get makeup or paint that responds to blacklight online. I found a product that is the same white color under both visible and UV light (Wildfire Optical White Luminescent Paint), which means I only have to paint the dots on one time. The LEDs I found online. I used about 25 LEDs per arm of the bow, each string rigged to 3 1.5-volt AA batteries. The LEDs are soldered together, and the chain slipped inside clear vinyl tubing. Wires from the LEDs connect to the battery packs and to simple switches on top of the batteries. The tubing is tied onto the bow using strips of leather. The batteries are held together with electrical tape and they're slipped into fabric covers (resembling a quiver attached to the grip). That assembly is also tied onto the bow. This allows me to draw my longbow without worrying about the wires or joints snapping, because they slide through the vinyl tubing and flex as the bow flexes. I can change the batteries without too much trouble.


Whew! Designing and constructing this costume took me about 6 months from idea to 1.0, and another 6 months to version 2.0. I hope you find my advice helpful. If you have any questions at all, please post here or send me a PM.
Good luck becoming a Na’vi, and don’t forget to share photos!

Oel ayngati kameìe, ma smukan sì smuke.
Jane M.




Resources:
Theatrical Makeup: www.fxsupply.com
         Any theatrical supply store
         Costume/party stores might carry the good stuff, they might not.
Alcohol-Based Makeup: www.ReelCreations.com
            This company is the best source I could find for body ink
UV Paint: www.blacklight.com
Contact Lenses: www.9mmsfx.com
Fangs: Victor Moray, 206-459-9220 (Seattle based, visits many western US    conventions)

Offline Sarah Noel

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2011, 06:00:26 pm »
Great guide! I know how long it takes to throw one of these together, so thank you for the hard work. It'll be a great resource for all the aspiring Na'vi roaming around. I look forward to going native with you and all the others next summer.



Jane and I before she "links up."
« Last Edit: September 19, 2011, 06:04:34 pm by Sarah Noel »

Offline Kamean

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2011, 06:17:17 pm »
Adorable! :)

+1 :)
Tse'a ngal ke'ut a krr fra'uti kame.


Offline judytuna

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2011, 01:17:30 am »
WOW! This is really thorough. I can't believe the alcohol-based paint stayed on after a shower WITH SOAP in real life. =O This looks super-fun and I wish I had the wherewithal to do it. haha. Great well-written guide!

Offline Ekirä

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2011, 08:55:35 am »
Wow, wonderful guide! Don't know if I'll ever cosplay, but this is very helpful. :D

Offline Jane MacMillan

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2011, 01:01:48 pm »
Irayo, ma frapo!
Just passing on some of the things I learned, so that everyone can be fabulously blue for next summer.  ;D

Offline Txura Rolyu

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2011, 09:42:58 pm »
Might I suggest some things for our Male audience?  :P  I have been working on my costume for a while and will be getting pictures this Halloween of all of it put together.

I added a few things clothing wise and I use creame base make-up (25$ for whole body each time) but it can wear off kinda fast if you arent careful. Easy wash off thought.  :)
Neytiri: Now you choose your woman. This you must feel inside. If she also chooses you, move quick like I showed.
Jake: How will I know if she chooses me?
Neytiri: She will try to kill you.
Jake: Outstanding. *takes out an ikran-catcher and walks through hometree looking for women*

Offline Jane MacMillan

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2011, 04:32:33 pm »
Sure, feel free to post whatever else you come up with. Most of what I've got here is gender non-specific, except for the part about covering one's breasts/nipples. Silly decency laws.  ::)

Offline Txura Rolyu

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2011, 05:09:47 pm »
Okay I will be sure to post all of my Halloween costume pictures so that people might get an idea from my work.  :D
Neytiri: Now you choose your woman. This you must feel inside. If she also chooses you, move quick like I showed.
Jake: How will I know if she chooses me?
Neytiri: She will try to kill you.
Jake: Outstanding. *takes out an ikran-catcher and walks through hometree looking for women*

Offline ToktorGrace

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2012, 12:19:18 pm »
I have a lab coat.. I think I'll wear that on Friday or Sunday :D Thanks for the inspiration.

Also I really do love your cosplay, if I haven't said it already!
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.  - St. Augustine

 



I speak Na'vi with a French accent...

Offline Human No More

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2012, 05:42:31 pm »
Txantsan! ;D

My costume is nearly complete... I don't think it will look as good as yours though yours is amazing :)

A few things for me to consider for next time though.
"I can barely remember my old life. I don't know who I am any more."

HNM, not 'Human' :)

Na'vi tattoo:
1 | 2 (finished) | 3
ToS: Human No More
dA
Personal site coming soon(ish

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2012, 09:11:56 pm »
I don't know why I never noticed this post before, but what a wonderful resource!

I guess this year, I had the reputation of being the worst-looking Na'vi/avatar that was there  ;) One major problem was I wasn't prepared. the other is paint would not stick to me no matter how carefully I prepared beforehand  :-[ And yes, I need to shave my arms. They are much hairier than I thought they were (but the hair kept the paint on).

Next year, I think it will be PAX or alcohol-based paint, and probably at least partially applied before I go (I'll get some really weird looks at security  ??? ). I like how Ikxeru's PAX paint turned out as well. It looked very natural. But your paint has a 'shine' or a 'depth' to it that is hard to explain, and it looks very real.

Finding all the little bits and beads, etc. will be quite challenging, for a non-jewelry-aware man! Maybe someone would be intereted in making these items for me.

Lastly, for your goggles, consider having a set of prescription lenses made (or use an old set that is still close). The lenses themselves are not too expensive, and they often make them right in the store now. Build these into a wood frame for the renten. If you can find lenses with a slight irridescent look to them, all the better. (Some sunglasses have this, and if you don't need eyeglasses, this is a very inexpensive alternative.) Then, carefully paint some 'veins' on them, but in a way that doesn't drive your eyes nuts. BTW, this is not an original idea; someone at AvatarMeet this year had renten like this.

Yawey ngahu!
pamrel si ro [email protected]

Offline Niri Te

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Re: Karyu Jane’s guide to Na'vi and Avatar Costuming
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2013, 05:30:11 pm »
Ateyo and I will each put something together this spring, if for nothing else than wearing it around here on the Sky Ranch every once in a while. (In the event that we will be unable to afford to go to LA this year.) We will each make Cosplay costumes for one of the characters in our FanFictions. Don't feel bad for us if we CAN'T make it. If we cosplay out here, we could be totally naked, the population density in Hudspeth or Culberson Counties is one person per 3 to 5 square miles. Plus, this "Rebel" Avatar pilot,(Tai Tae Ao), could actually Take "Ateyo" her Na'vi wife up in a plane IN COSTUME.
Tokx alu tawtute, Tirea Le Na'vi

 

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