Avatar Based On Colorado Town's History?

James Cameron's Tale Has Parallels To Crested Butte

"Avatar" is shattering box office records, scoring nine Oscar nominations and setting a new standard for visual effects.

But could the story that's making history actually be the veiled tale of a Colorado town?

It's an isolated land where locals live in harmony with nature and on top of a mineral a mining company is determined to get.

Sound familiar?

Well, it's not the plot of James Cameron's blockbuster hit "Avatar."

It's the history of Colorado's Crested Butte.

"There are too many things lining up to make it seem like it's a coincidence -- even the fact that people who visit the place have trouble breathing the air," said CU Writing Teacher and part-time Crested Butte Resident David Rothman.

He first published the parallels in the local paper, "The Crested Butte News."

"Is it true? I don't know," said Rothman with a laugh.

But it is the talk of the town.

Glo Cunningham came to Crested Butte 35 years ago and said like the Navi'I, the native people in "Avatar," she and other residents felt a spiritual bond with the land.

"My church is going out every Sunday and getting in my mountains. It's my spirit. It's my connection to nature. It's everything," said Cunningham.

In "Avatar," natives climb floating mountains and ride dragons.

In Crested Butte, they catch big air and paraglide off peaks.

"I guess the difference is in "Avatar," the hang gliders are alive," said Rothman.

Enter, the mining company.

In the late '70s, the Amax mining company found a massive deposit of molybdenum on Mt. Emmons, or as the locals call it: The Red Lady. "It's brilliant. It's beautiful and it's right here in our community," said Cunningham.

The company wanted a large-scale mine and had some support in the community.

But a group of young idealists organized a nationally-publicized fight.

"Mining pollutes. There's no way around it. It pollutes," said Steven Glazer, a Crested Butte resident who fought the mine.

Here's the clincher: just like the hero in "Avatar," the man who led the way, Crested Butte Mayor W. Mitchell, was a paraplegic.

"He was a fabulous spokesperson for us," said Cunningham.

In the end, spoiler alert, Amax withdrew its bid to mine the mountain.

"Any community anywhere can take on a Goliath and win," said Sue Navy, a Crested Butte resident who helped fight the mine.

This may all still seem a bit far-fetched.

After all, what does James Cameron have to do with Crested Butte?

Turns out, he's spent a lot of time at his wife's cabin there.

"I think he got his inspiration from a lot of sources," said Rothman. "It seems as though it [Crested Butte] may be a source. I'd like to ask him. "

Maybe he'll get a chance.

Since that first company was forced out, one mining group after the next has tried to find a way, but many in Crested Butte keep fighting.

"Avatar Two," anyone?

Interestingly enough, "Pandora," the planet in "Avatar," is also a ghost mining town near Telluride.

We checked several times with 20th Century Fox to see what James Cameron has to say about the theory, but he did not respond to our attempts to contact him.