Monday, September 24, 2018

Netflix to Produce Live-Action Adaptation of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' [Updated W/Press Release]

Netflix has announced that it is set to produce a live-action series based on Nickelodeon’s mid-2000s hit animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and is bringing aboard original creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko as executive producers and showrunners! The new series will be made in partnership with Nickelodeon, with production to start in 2019. The new series will air exclusively on Netflix.


Concept art for Netflix's live-action 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'. Courtesy of John Staub/courtesy of Netflix

The original Avatar: The Last Airbender aired for three seasons (or "Books") on Nickelodeon from February 2005-July 2008, winning an Emmy in 2017 and a Peabody Award among other honors. The series followed main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation. A total of 61 episodes aired.

The series was praised for its animation, which adapted the fluid motions of martial arts into its system of elemental bending, for its world influenced by Asian culture, and for its strong characters and story.

“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender,” DiMartino and Konietzko said in a release announcing the project. “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. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building. Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.”

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender has continued to live following the series' end thanks to a best-selling comic book series that's still producing original stories. It also spawned a live-action 2010 feature film, The Last Airbender directed by M. Night Shyamalan — which was not well-received. Konietzko and DiMartino also created a follow-up series, The Legend of Korra, that returned to the world of Avatar years after Aang’s death to follow his successor as Avatar. That series concluded in 2014,

The property has spawned a comic book and graphic novel series, and the home video compilation Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series is nearing $5 million in retail sales since its release earlier this year. The series of graphic trilogies are published by Dark Horse Comics and act as a continuation of the television series. These stories were written by Gene Luen Yang with artist Gurihiru. Faith Erin Hicks and Peter Wartman took over the series this year. The books include The Promise, The Search, The Rift, Smoke and Shadow, North and South, and Imbalance.

“We are committed to honoring Bryan and Mike’s vision for this retelling and are thrilled to support them on creating a live-action event series, bringing Aang’s epic world of elemental magic to life for global audiences on Netflix,” said Netflix’s Melissa Cobb, VP Kids & Family Content.

If that wasn't cool enough for fans, original composer Jeremy Zuckerman is said to be creating the musical score for the new series.

"Avatar: The Last Airbender continues to grow and resonate with fans around the world due its combination of relatable characters with all their foibles and a fully realized world of epic, high-stakes stories and adventures," said Chris Viscardi, senior vp animation production and development at Nickelodeon. "This partnership with Netflix is part of our broader efforts at Nick and Viacom to tap into our enormous library of culturally resonant properties to produce new interpretations, and we can’t wait for people to see Netflix's live-action version of Avatar."


The news follows Nickelodeon recently partnering with Abrams Children’s Books to produce a series of Avatar books about Avatar Kyoshi, the longest-living human Avatar in history at over 230 years old, whom fans know very little about. The news also follows Netflix debuting The Dragon Prince, a brand-new animated series helmed by Avatar producer Aaron Ehasz and director Giancarlo Volpe.

Nickelodeon have previously teamed up with Netflix. In 2017, the streamer debuted Greenhouse Academy, a English-language adaptation of Nickelodeon Israel's The Greenhouse. Netflix is also set to debut the brand-new Nickelodeon show Pinky Malinky soon.

The new series also falls in line with other remake plans from Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon and MTV. The late-night action cartoon Aeon Flux, which aired on MTV in the mid-’90s, is getting a live-action reboot as well, while Daria will return with a new take on the animated classic.

In a press release from Netflix, the streaming company released the following information:

Netflix will produce a reimagined live-action series based on the award-winning and beloved Nickelodeon animated series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, from the original creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who will serve as showrunners and executive producers. The new series, in partnership with Nickelodeon, will be exclusively available on Netflix and will start production in 2019.

“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. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building. Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.” — Bryan Konietzko & Michael DiMartino

“We are committed to honoring Bryan and Mike’s vision for this retelling and are thrilled to support them on creating a live-action event series, bringing Aang’s epic world of elemental magic to life for global audiences on Netflix,” Melissa Cobb, vice-president of Kids & Family Content.

Attached to a tweet from preview account See What’s Next is a single piece of concept art by artist John Staub; it features the giant sky bison Appa with a tiny human we can only assume is Aang, our airbending hero.

A version of that art first appeared on creator Bryan Konietzko’s blog in July. He referred to it then as “a very old concept from Avatar, one of the earliest drawings I did for the project.” It’s interesting that this appears to be a reimagined take on that piece itself — a testament to this project at least trying to honor its roots.

Update (9/20) - Below is Netflix's official Press Release announcing the exciting news, via INGPOP!:

Netflix announces all new live-action series based on Nickelodeon’s award-winning animated ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’


Original Avatar Creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko reunite as showrunners



Netflix will produce a reimagined live-action series based on the award-winning and beloved Nickelodeon animated series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, from the original creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who will serve as showrunners and executive producers. The new series, in partnership with Nickelodeon, will be exclusively available on Netflix and will start production in 2019.

Avatar: The Last Airbender aired for three seasons originally on Nickelodeon, where it began in February 2005 and concluded in July 2008. The series was nominated for—and won—Annie Awards, Genesis Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Peabody Award. Avatar: The Last Airbender follows the adventures of the main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation.

“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. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building. Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.” — Bryan Konietzko & Michael DiMartino

“We are committed to honoring Bryan and Mike’s vision for this retelling and are thrilled to support them on creating a live-action event series, bringing Aang’s epic world of elemental magic to life for global audiences on Netflix,” Melissa Cobb, vice-president of Kids & Family Content.

Added Chris Viscardi, Senior Vice President, Animation Production and Development, Nickelodeon: “Avatar: The Last Airbender continues to grow and resonate with fans around the world due its combination of relatable characters with all their foibles and a fully realized world of epic, high-stakes stories and adventures. This partnership with Netflix is part of our broader efforts at Nick and Viacom to tap into our enormous library of culturally resonant properties to produce new interpretations, and we can’t wait for people to see Netflix’s live-action version of Avatar.”

Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender emerged from its initial three seasons (61 episodes) as one of the most beloved animated properties in history. In addition to the series’ success, the property also has been translated into a successful comic book and graphic novel series, which continue to roll out new original stories. The “Avatar: The Last Airbender” graphic novel series spent 70 cumulative weeks on the New York Times Graphic Novel Bestseller list, hitting number one. The DVD and Blu-rays are also incredibly successful, with the “Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series” generating nearly $5MM in retail sales since its 2018 release.

About Bryan Konietzko

Bryan Konietzko graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design’s Illustration Department in 1998. He worked in TV animation as a character designer, storyboard artist, and art director before teaming up with Michael DiMartino to co-create and executive produce the Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. He is the creator of the upcoming graphic novel series Threadworlds, to be published by First Second Books.

About Mike DiMartino

Michael Dante DiMartino began his training at the Rhode Island School of Design where he graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Film and Animation Department. His directing credits include the primetime animated series King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Mission Hill. DiMartino is a co-creator of the award-winning animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. From 2002 to 2014 he served as executive producer and story editor on both series. He continues Korra’s story as writer for the graphic novel, Turf Wars, published by Dark Horse comics. He is also the author of the fantasy novels Rebel Genius and Warrior Genius. DiMartino currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

About Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, now in its 39th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, recreation, books and feature films. Nickelodeon’s U.S. television network is seen in more than 90 million households and has been the number-one-rated kids’ basic cable network for 22 consecutive years. For more information or artwork, visit http://www.nickpress.com. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB).

About Netflix

Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with 130 million memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

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Update (9/24) - Jeremy Zuckerman, the composer who penned the score for the animated Avatar: The Last Airbender series, as well as its sequel, Avatar: The Legend of Korra, which aired for four seasons from April 2012 to December 2014 will be back to create the music for Netflix’s live-action remake of the show! When it was announced that Netflix would be making a new Avatar series, Zuckerman tweeted to say, “HUGE NEWS,” and later followed it up with an unofficial announcement about his own involvement.


Zuckerman is an Emmy Award-winning composer who is known for his work on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and other TV shows. His vibrant, eclectic score was considered a highlight of the Avatar series, so fans will be excited to hear about his return.

As the remake is currently in early development, not much is known yet about production, casting or a target premiere date. However, further announcements about new and returning talent should continue to roll in.

Originally published: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 7:09pm BST.

Sources: Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter; H/T: Kidscreen; Additional sources: Netflix Life, The Mary Sue, Collider, Polygon, EW.com, ComicBook.com, Bounding Into Comics, CBR.com, Coming Soon.
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