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Avatar: The Last Airbender showrunner explains how Netflix's live-action series differs from the cartoon

Plenty of reasons to remain hopeful about this one.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Netflix) - Aang
Image credit: Netflix

As Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series nears its February debut, we're starting to learn more juicy details about the creative process behind it.

Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive, as the reporters had to opportunity to sit down in December with showrunner Albert Kim and discuss how he and his team approached the long-gestating (and slightly troubled) show, which finally premieres on February 22, 2024. Of course, the first big moment of the interview was addressing the elephant in the room: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino's (the original creators of Avatar) departure due to 'creative differences' back in 2020. Kim admits it was a huge blow: "You'd have to be an idiot not to be intimidated a little bit... My first reaction after ‘Hell yeah!’ was ‘Holy s---! Do I really want to do this? Is there a way to improve upon the original?’ Whenever you tackle something that's already beloved by millions of fans, you have to ask yourself those questions."

He eventually moved on from those thoughts and made peace with the idea they were setting out to make their take on The Last Airbender instead of just a live-action photocopy of the original show. Moreover, the idea of making a big fantasy epic rooted in Asian culture felt like a huge opportunity: "That was incredibly rare. It still is... A live-action version meant setting new benchmarks for representation by featuring an all Asian and Indigenous cast."

The most interesting part of the exchange comes when Kim is directly asked about the differences between his version of the story vs. the original in spite of the 'on point' aesthetics seen in the images released so far and the teaser trailer (we should be getting a longer one any moment now). He explained that Konietzko and DiMartino's (who are now busy preparing multiple animated Avatar projects over at Nickelodeon) presence is still felt across the show, but there are big differences such as adapting the entire first season over eight (longer episodes) and remixing storylines in a "new way to make sense for a serialized drama." Moreover, the opening moments will be completely new: "We don't start the show the way the animated series starts... That was a conscious decision to show people this is not the animated series."

We all know fandoms can be hard to please, especially when things are changed around too much, but Netflix recently bagged what once felt like an impossible win with the live-action One Piece series, so there's a renewed interest in seeing if the streamer and the creatives involved can pull off this new take on the modern animated classic.


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