Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Reveals First Look at Cast Photos

The 2023 edition of Netflix’s fan event, Tudum, made room for all possible fan teases and IP flexes, even if there wasn’t much to show for it. At the center of the event: the most basic of looks at the streamer’s upcoming live action Avatar: The Last Airbender, which has been in the works for half a decade. Promising to once again follow Avatar Aang and his friends Katara and Sokka on their quest to unite four elemental nations by defeating the conquering Fire Lord Ozai, Netflix The last air Master took the spotlight with a teaser – or maybe more of a mood control? – which showed the symbols of the Water, Earth, Fire and Air tribes, as well as images of the four main actors in costume.

The Tudum segment also revealed that the show will premiere [waves hand] in 2024. That’s 366 potential drop dates – it’s a leap year, baby! – For Avatar: The Last Airbender. But for die-hard Airbender fans, there’s also a year left until the original Aang gang returns to the screens. Things could get weird.

Netflix first announced plans for live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender in 2018, and at the time it looked like a coup: original creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko would return to oversee what they saw as a “reimagining” of the Nickelodeon animated series, which unlike the film version of M. Night Shyamalan, would try to do justice to the identity of the characters. “We look forward to realizing Aang’s world as cinematically as we’ve always imagined, and with a culturally appropriate, un-whitewashed cast,” they wrote in a statement at the time. “This is a unique chance to build on everyone’s great work on the original anime series and dig even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building.”

Live-action Aang in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Picture: Netflix

The music to fans’ ears quickly died down as theoretical work began. But two years later, DiMartino and Konietzko resurfaced to say they were quitting the project.

“To be clear, it wasn’t a simple matter of not going our own way,” Konietzko said in an Instagram post in August 2020. “Mike and I are very collaborative people; we didn’t need everyone these ideas come from us. As long as we thought these ideas were in keeping with the spirit and integrity of Avatar, we would gladly have adopted them. However, we eventually came to the belief that we would not be able to significantly guide the direction of the series.

DiMartino echoed the sentiment in a post on his personal blog, encouraging fans to give Netflix and the new creative team the benefit of the doubt on the finished product. But he also made one thing clear: “What I can be certain of is that whatever version ends up on screen, it’s not going to be what Bryan and I had envisioned or planned to do.”

Dallas Liu as Zuko in Netflix's live-action series Avatar: The Last Airbender

Picture: Netflix

Netflix and producer Dan Lin (The Lego Movie), which originally brought in Konietzko and DiMartino, eventually found a new team to take over the show, and a team made up mostly of creatives of Asian descent. The version arriving in 2024 touts Albert Kim (sleepy hollow) as showrunner, with Michael Goi (Riverdale), Jabbar Raisani (lost in space), and Roseanne Liang (shadow in the cloud) directing the first season. The cast was also stacked: while Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko (Ozai’s son who chases after the trio for most of the show) would be played by relative strangers, names like Daniel Dae Kim, Amber Midthunder, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Danny Pudi and George Takei all imbued the show with major credibility. But showrunner Kim, in her opening remarks on the new approach, shaded everything with a bit of skepticism.

“My first thought was, ‘Why? What could I do or say with the story that wasn’t made or said in the original?'” he wrote on the blog. Netflix in 2021. “But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. VFX technology has evolved to the point where a live-action version can not only faithfully translate what was done in animation, but also bring a new visual dimension rich to a fantasy world. […] Additionally, Netflix’s format meant we had the opportunity to reimagine a story that was originally told in standalone half-hour episodes as an ongoing serialized narrative. This meant that the story points and emotional arcs we loved in the original could have even more room to breathe and grow.

Ian Ousley Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Series

Picture: Netflix

As DiMartino said when he left the Netflix series: It could be good. Damn, that could be awesome. Don’t mind the Cowboy Bebop Live Remake over there in the cornersilently insists Tudum’s teaser, look here these emblems. But the beginnings of Kim and company’s pursuit to reinvent Avatar: The Last Airbender with the new technology is a reminder that Konietzko and DiMartino left because they weren’t doing what they wanted to do – and they left to create more Avatar in whatever medium they wanted.

In February 2021, Viacom, the conglomerate in charge of Paramount Pictures and Paramount Plus, announced the creation of Avatar Studios, a new home for Konietzko and DiMartino to create any Avatar-related content for any brand that made sense. Until then, the only Avatar story expansion was Nickelodeon’s sequel series. The Legend of Korra, and books and comics endorsed by Konietzko and DiMartino. Now there would be more – probably a lot more.

Key art of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Momo, and Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Picture: Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Most of Avatar Studios’ plans are locked away in a spiritual library buried beneath a desert, but the team’s first project is an untitled theatrical feature from director Lauren Montgomery, whose credits include DC’s badass animation. . wonder woman movie, Netflix Voltron series, theory Spider-Gwen Spider-verse spinoffs, and of course, many amazing episodes of airbender And Korra. All we know about the film is that it features adult versions of Aang and his friends and Paramount will debut it in theaters in 2025. If you like airbenderyou’re probably pumped.

In 2024, Avatar: The Last Airbender competes with itself. Netflix and the creative team will put together a show fans should love in theory, with forward-thinking storytelling and a focus on racially conscious casting. Meanwhile, the creators who created the original are showing what it’s all about by trying to replicate that themselves, while reimagining the good and bad sides of this series for ever-growing audiences. Who will do it well? What does that even mean? What is Avatar, and is there room for it?

Kiawentiio Tarbell in Netflix's live-action series Avatar: The Last Airbender

Picture: Netflix

Most franchises don’t have to deal with that – no one was doing alt-Star Wars when George Lucas returned to his prequel trilogy or when Lucasfilm cracked an Expanded Cinematic Universe. The creators of Star Trek have always passed the baton as the franchise jumped between movies and TV, while each heir relied on the canon and kept it in order for the next crew. The MCU (with Sony’s somewhat connected mayhem), the DCU (where the Snyderverse continues but is clearly over…but isn’t?), and even Middle-earth (WB making more movies to upset Amazon for their billion dollars , hobbit-less prequel) look like obvious parallels for an odd situation, but even then, none of these empires involve the original creators rubbing shoulders with well-meaning imitators.

The future of the Avatar franchise looks robust, but fractured. But maybe after years of dormancy, that’s just what this still-mature series needs. Aang brought the Four Nations together to achieve harmony. Surely he can direct a blockbuster-sized series and an animated tentpole at the same time? We’ll have to wait to really find out – for now, all the hype is limited to a few cast photos and a bunch of familiar emblems.

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