Netflix’s live-action TV series adaptation from Avatar: The Last Airbender is still going on, but there is controversy about it. In August 2020, the two original creators left the project, and skepticism surrounding the series has grown ever since. Here’s everything we know about Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s live-action Netflix series, including some exclusive new details.
The animated series, co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, 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 streamed on Netflix in most regions around the world).
The first season consists of 10 episodes of one hour each.
What is the plot of the live action? Avatar: The Last Airbender?
The plot of the live-action remake follows the adventures of its animated counterpart.
In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender civilization is divided into four separate nations. Named after the elements, the four nations are the Air Nomads, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and the Water Tribes. In each country, only a select few people known as the “Benders” can use their country’s element by utilizing the regional martial arts and their telekinetic powers. The only user who can use all four elements is the “Avatar”.
Aang is the newest Avatar of the air nomads. After sleeping in the Avatar State for 100 years, Aang is awakened by Katara and Sokka of the Water Tribe. When Aang learned of the war that is destroying the world by the Fire Nation, he must master the skills of the remaining elements with the help of his new friends so that he can bring harmony between the nations.
Who’s in the cast of? Avatar: The Last Airbender?
No cast members have been assigned to roles for the series yet.
The two executive producers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had this to say about the casting for the series (before leaving):
“We’re thrilled to announce this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The last airbender. We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematic as we’ve always imagined, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast.”
In January 2020, Daniel Richtman posted that the series is “looking for a predominantly Asian cast and a 12-14 year old to play Aang”.
Dante Basco (who voiced Prince Zuko in the animated series) is also pegged for a role in the upcoming Netflix series, but will not be returning as Prince Zuko.
TheIlluminerdi reported in February 2021 (though unconfirmed) that Katara would be the older sibling in Netflix’s live-action remake at age 16, with Sokka being 14, then reiterating that Aang would be around 12.
Who is involved? Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix?
The most exciting news early on in the project was that the original creators of the Nickelodeon series would be involved. That is different from the previous live adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender which was released in 2010. Sadly, original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who were to serve as executive producers and showrunners, no longer do.
Composer Jeremy Zuckerman was also set to return to compose the music for the live-action remake, but in an interview he says he’s not officially signed up for the project, saying:
“No, there was never a contract. It was like “you obviously do the music”, you know, but now that they’re not there I don’t know what they want. I’m not super excited that they won’t be there, so I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t know what the future holds for that, it’s a big question mark. Yes, sorry I don’t have a happier, clearer answer.’
Jang Chol Lee will serve as concept designer for the series according to IMDBPro with his previous credits including: Great Hero 6, confused, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, and Beowulf.
Dan Lin is listed as an executive producer alongside his company, Rideback. Rideback is responsible for a number of major films (mainly for Warner Brothers), including the Sherlock Holmes movies, the Lego Movies, and IT movies.
Albert Kim supposed to take over showrunner duties known for working on TNTs leverage and Nikita. Additionally, Ryan Halprin and Lindsey Liberatore are listed as producers, while Rideback Productions is leading the project. Rideback recently sold another project to Netflix in the form of Parallel.
We can also report that Marc David Alpert was also producing the series at one point. Marc’s impressive credits span decades in which he worked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, deadly weaponn, and Nikita. Recent production listings we’ve seen have omitted his name.
IMDb also currently lists Ryan Halprin and Lindsey Liberatore as executive producers.
As you may recall in August 2020, we found out that the two original creators had left the project due to what are considered creative differences.
In an open letter, Michael Dante DiMartino wrote his thoughts about their departure from the project.
The main 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 it is committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and supporting us in the making of the series. And we shared how excited we were about the chance to be at the helm. Unfortunately, it 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 want to discuss:
“While I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great individuals, both on the Netflix side and our own small development team, the overall handling of the project created what I feel was a negative and unsupportive environment. “
Since their departure, the duo have announced that they will lead new animated projects at Paramount+ in the Avatar universe under a new studio called Avatar Studios.
Since the departing makers, there has been more criticism of Netflix’s view of the series. As Winter is Coming reports, Dee Bradley Baker (who voiced Appa and Momo) didn’t mince words about Netflix’s vision to essentially recreate the Nickelodeon series, saying:
“I just don’t know how to fulfill that better than this show. I’m open to anything they do with the live-action series, which I don’t know about, but it’s like, ‘Well, how do you do this better than the way it was portrayed on this show?’ I don’t know how you do that! I hope you can.”
In June 2021 we learned that Michael Goi will direct the new Netflix series. Although not officially confirmed yet, the veteran cameraman has previously worked on projects such as: American horror story, Swamp thing, Maria and Megan is missing.
Where is production going on? Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1?
It was originally reported in late 2018 that full production would begin in 2019. However, two years later, that didn’t happen for various reasons (one was the departure of the original creators and the second was COVID-19).
The first release production update for the series came in late May 2019. Bryan Konietzko shared an update on the show’s production, saying:
“We are moving to a new office space and are moving on to the next production phase. Our core team is growing. We write, plan and test. While there’s a lot new to us in this live-action process, we’ve been on this long roller coaster ride twice before and many of the climbs and twists feel familiar. At the moment everything seems slow, and we are eager to speed up; before we know it, everything moves too fast and everything happens at once. For those who would like to see this new series and ask if we already have a trailer: thanks for your enthusiasm, sincerely, but you don’t want to see a version of this series made in 9 months. Too much Hollywood fare is accelerated and the results speak for themselves. Lucky for us and this series, Netflix is committed to doing it right.”
In September 2019, Bryan Konietzko shared some old storyboard photos that are from the original animated series, but may be going through them for inspiration for the upcoming series.
Other crew members announced include Jan Chol Lee who is working on the series as a concept designer. His previous roles have included working on Disney’s Great Hero 6, 2006’s beowulf, and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.
In early September 2019, some photos were circulated showing concepts and early film footage, but those have since been debunked.
In October 2019, ProductionWeekly stated that the show was still in active development and production is expected to start in 2020 (it’s unclear as of January 2021 if this is still the case).
Back in March 2020, Bryan shared a small (and rather empty) update regarding the live-action series, saying:
“Other news, sorry for the lack of updates on ATLA’s live action adaptation. It has been a slow process, slower than expected. But there are VERY exciting things in the works for the project… Hang in there. We will share some information as soon as possible. 💙⬇️💙 But there are more important things going on in the world… It’s sure to be a tough ride in the coming months. 💙 So, again, let’s all try to be careful.”
Of course, the original creators left the series in August 2020 (see above), so production is still up in the air, which we can assume is still early.
Production will continue in Vancouver, Canada, and while it is listed multiple times as to start, multiple sources now believe that production will begin in November 2021 and run through April 2022.
The show is being filmed under the working title ‘Trade Winds’.
When is the release date for Avatar: The Last Airbender?
Not a word about this. Given that production won’t start until November 2021, we currently expect a release date at the end of 2022 or even 2023.
Before we leave you, we strongly recommend that you follow AvatarNews on Twitter and its website. They remain one of the best sources for news on all things Avatar and even created this incredible concept poster art for the Netflix series:
SPIRIT. BLOWN. Netflix Avatar: The Last Airbender LIVE ACTION SERIES is coming. ALL DETAILS: https://t.co/7FMdLXBJ5c pic.twitter.com/GjJE9LpPFD
— Avatar News (@AvatarNews_) September 18, 2018
Looking forward to the live-action edit of Avatar: The Last Airbender? Let us know in the comments below!