Netflix’s live-action adaptation TV series of Avatar: The Last Airbender is still going ahead but controversy surrounds it. In August 2020, the two original creators departed the project and since then, skepticism around the series has grown. Here’s everything we know about Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s live-action Netflix series.
Co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the animated series was one of the most popular cartoons of the mid-2000s. The series spawned an equally popular spin-off series in 2012 known as The Legend of Korra (both of which are streaming on Netflix in the majority of regions around the world).
What is the plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender?
The plot of the live-action remake will follow the adventures of its animated counterpart.
In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender civilization is split divided amongst four nations. Named after the elements, the four nations are the Air Nomads, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and the Water Tribes. In each nation, only a select few people known as the “Benders” can use their nation’s element by using the regional martial arts and their telekinetic powers. The only user capable of using all four elements is the “Avatar”.
Aang is the latest Avatar of the air nomads. After sleeping for 100 years in the ‘Avatar State’, Aang is awoken by Katara and Sokka of the Water Tribe. Learning of the war ravaging the world by the Fire Nation, Aang with the help of his new friends must master the abilities of the remaining elements so he can bring harmony amongst the nations.
Who is in the cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender?
No cast members assigned to any roles for the series yet.
The two executive producers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had the following to say on casting for the series (before they departed):
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast.”
In January 2020, Daniel Richtman posted that the series is “looking for a mostly Asian cast and a 12-14-year-old to play Aang.”
Dante Basco (who voiced Prince Zuko in the animated series) has also been pegged for a role in the upcoming Netflix series but won’t be returning as Prince Zuko.
Who is involved with Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix?
The most exciting news early in the project was that the original creators of the Nickelodeon series would be involved. That’s unlike the previous live adaption of Avatar: The Last Airbender that released in 2010. Unfortunetely, the original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko who were going to serve as the executive producers and showrunners are no longer doing so.
Composer Jeremy Zuckerman is also returning to compose the music for the live-action remake (and it’s not confirmed he’s departed the production like the original creators).
Jang Chol Lee will serve as a concept designer on the series according to IMDBPro with his previous credits including Big Hero 6, Tangled, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Beowulf.
Dan Lin is listed as an executive producer alongside his company, Rideback. Rideback is responsible for some huge movies (predominantly for Warner Brothers) including the Sherlock Holmes movies, the Lego Movies, and IT films.
IMDb also currently lists Ryan Halprin and Lindsey Liberatore as executive producers too.
As you may recall back in August 2020, we learned that the two original creators had departed the project over what is thought to be creative differences.
In an open letter, Michael Dante DiMartino penned his thoughts on their departure from the project.
The key paragraph is as follows (although the whole letter is worth reading):
“When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners. In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”
Bryan Konietzko also posted a statement on Instagram. Here are some of the key highlights from the statement we’d like to touch upon:
“Though I got to work with some great individuals, both on Netflix’s side and on our own small development team, the general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment. “
Where is production up to for Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1?
The series is still in pre-production as of July 2020 so we’re expecting the script is currently being written and cast members are being searched for. It was originally reported back in late 2018 that full production would begin in 2019.
In late May 2019, Bryan Konietzko shared an update on the production of the show saying:
“We’re moving into a new office space, transitioning into the next phase of production. Our core team is growing. We’re writing, planning, and testing. Though there’s plenty that’s new for us in this live action process, we’ve been on this long rollercoaster ride twice before and a lot of the climbs and twists and turns feel familiar. Right now, everything seems slow, and we’re itching to speed up; before we know it, everything will be moving too fast and happening all at once. For those who are eager to see this new series and are asking if we have a trailer yet: thank you for your enthusiasm, sincerely, but you wouldn’t want to see a version of this series that was made within 9 months. Too much Hollywood fare is fast-tracked and the results speak for themselves. Thankfully for us and this series, Netflix is committed to doing it right.”
In September 2019, Bryan Konietzko shared some old storyboard pictures which are from the original animated series but maybe going through them for inspiration for the upcoming series.
Among the other announced crew members include Jan Chol Lee who is working as a concept designer on the series. His previous roles have included working on Disney’s Big Hero 6, 2006’s Beowulf, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Some pictures were circulated in early September 2019 with concepts and early filming pictures but those have since been debunked.
In October 2019, ProductionWeekly stated that the show was still in active development, and production is scheduled to start in 2020 (it’s unclear as of January 2021 whether this is still the case).
In March 2020, Bryan shared a small (and rather empty) update regarding the live-action series saying:
“In other news, sorry for the lack of updates on the live action adaptation of ATLA. It’s been a slow process, slower than expected. But VERY exciting things are in the works on the project… Hang in there. We’ll share some info as soon as we can. 💙⬇️💙 But there are more important things going on in the world… It is surely going to be a rough ride for the next few months, at least. 💙 So, again, let’s all try to take care.”
Of course, in August 2020 (see above) the original creators departed the series so production is still up in the air which we can assume means the production is still early on.
Since the departing creators, more criticism on Netflix’s vision for the series has materialized. As Winter is Coming reports, Dee Bradley Baker (who voiced Appa and Momo) didn’t mince his words about Netflix’s vision to essentially recreate the Nickelodeon series saying:
“I just don’t know how you fulfill that any better than this show did. I’m open to whatever they do with the live-action series, which I know nothing about, but it’s like, ‘Well, how do you do this better than the way that it was rendered on this show?’ I don’t know how you do that! I hope you can.”
How many seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender can we expect to see?
The animated series had a total of three seasons, and despite there being rumors of a fourth season, this was debunked by series co-creator Bryan Konietzko.
If Netflix wishes to prolong the series and make it last longer, then each season could be split into two parts, which effectively make six seasons of television to be enjoyed.
When is the release date for Avatar: The Last Airbender?
Taking into consideration how far away we are from the start of production, and the current state of the Film/TV industry, thanks to the coronavirus, a release date is a long way off.
With the production of the series still officially in pre-production, there definitely won’t be a 2020 release date.
Given the production updates we mentioned earlier, it’s going to be a while before anything officially starts happening with regards to filming.
2022 seems like the absolute earliest but with production woes and development issues, it could be even further off.
Other news regarding Avatar: The Last Airbender
- In September 2019, BoxLunch revealed an Appa figurine that’s due for release “soon”.
- In February 2020, the original series celebrated its 15-year anniversary.
Everything changed when Avatar: The Last Airbender came into our lives 15 years ago pic.twitter.com/SQF5CpcYRv
— NickRewind (@NickRewind) February 21, 2020
- In late June 2020, Avatar was announced to be part of the online video game Smite where Ang and Korra was added to the game as playable characters.
- In October 2020, Netflix entered into production deals with a number of anime studios including Studio Mir who is behind The Legend of Korra. Their first new project is the anime spinoff for The Witcher.
- It’s been rumored that ViacomCBS may be planning something new for the Avatar universe with them teasing new original content for Paramount+.
Before we leave you, we’d highly recommend following AvatarNews on Twitter and its website. They remain one of the best resources for news surrounding all things Avatar and even created this incredible concept poster art for the Netflix series:
— Avatar News (@AvatarNews_) September 18, 2018
Are you looking forward to the live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender? Let us know in the comments below!