Saturday, February 09, 2019

Netflix's 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Remake to Have "More Creative Freedom"

Netflix's upcoming live-action adaptation of Nickelodeon's beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender series and franchise is still a big mystery. We know the animated series’ original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino are directly involved, and we know they’re determined to avoid the pitfalls of M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation. We also know that the cartoon’s head writer Aaron Ehasz isn’t directly involved in this version — he’s busy with his own Netflix animated series, The Dragon Prince.


So when Inverse had the chance to speak to Ehasz ahead of the The Dragon Prince Season 2's release on Netflix, they had to ask about Avatar. Here’s what he had to say about what went wrong with the movie, how the live-action show can do better, and why he’s optimistic about the upcoming remake.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the fans,” Ehasz told Inverse. “It’s definitely an opportunity for Mike and Brian to do a live-action telling of this story right, which I think is both going to be a combination of how they cast it, how they creatively cast it, who are the producers and writers involved.”

He also noted that beyond Konietzko and DiMartino, the live-action Avatar remake can also count on at least one more supporter from the original crew.

“The executive who is championing it at Netflix is Jenna Boyd, who was our executive on Avatar at Nickelodeon,” Ehasz says. “So it has a lot going for it.”

One of the toughest parts of bringing Avatar from animation to live-action is accurately capturing the balance of humor and drama that made the original series so great. Fans felt that Shyamalan’s movie never really figured out the comedy side of that equation, and the entire movie suffered as a result.

“Hopefully, also the tone,” Ehasz. “One of the things that was always hard about Avatar that I don’t think translated well to the movie was that it does have this balance in tone that it’s dramatic and epic and emotional, but it’s also funny and quirky and delightful. I think they’ll find that.”

More important of all, Netflix is giving Avatar’s creators the breathing room they need to tell their story the right way, again.

“I know, they have a big challenge ahead,” Ehasz, “but they definitely have more creative freedom, more support, and a better chance to tell the authentic story in a way that I think the fans of Avatar will enjoy.”

The live-action series will also feature a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast, something that the movie failed to do.

“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,” DiMartino and Konietzko said in a statement when the news was announced.

Casting for the live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender begins later this year, and fans will also be able to have the chance to audition in a open casting call.

Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series is expected to release in 2020 or later.

In case you didn't hear the news, Netflix are producing 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 is slated to 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, the Senior Vice President (SVP), Animation Production and Development, Nickelodeon at the time the news was announced: “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.

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 Korra, his successor as Avatar. That series ran between 2012-2014.

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