Netflix’s live-action adaptation series of Avatar: The Last Airbender has now officially wrapped principal photography in Vancouver, Canada. This is our big updated preview with everything we know so far about Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s live-action Netflix series including cast, production updates, what we can expect, and more.
The animated cartoon series, which was co-created and created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, became one of the most beloved cartoons in the 2000s. The animated series was followed by The Legend of Korra in 2012. Both are available on Netflix worldwide, but they are likely to be discontinued.
There’s a lot to get to below but if you’re looking for just the headlines here is the TL;DR:
Live-action will continue the adventures of its animated predecessor.
Four distinct nations are divided in the Avatar world: The Last Airbender civilization. The four nations, named after the elements are called the Air Nomads (Earth Kingdom), Fire Nation and Water Tribes. In each nation, only a select few people known as the “Benders” can use their nation’s element by using the regional martial arts and their telekinetic powers. The only user capable of using all four elements is the “Avatar”.
Aang, the latest Avatar among the air nomads is Aang. After sleeping for 100 years in the ‘Avatar State’, Aang is awoken by Katara and Sokka of the Water Tribe. Aang learns of the fire nation's war on the planet. He must then master the elements to bring peace among the nations.
We’ve had two main waves of cast announcements so far with plenty of extra castings along the way. We’ll cover the main cast below but you’ll want to visit our expanded version of the Netflix Avatar: The Last Airbender cast list here.
In August 2021, the first castings were made. This was when we found out who would be taking the leading roles in the series.
Here’s who will be playing the iconic roles:
Albert Kim also had these words to share:
“We’ll be expanding and growing the world, and there will be surprises for existing fans and those new to the tale. But throughout this process, our byword has been “authenticity.” To the story. To the characters. To the cultural influences. Authenticity is what keeps us going, both in front of the camera and behind it a live-action version would establish a new benchmark in representation and bring in a whole new generation of fans. This was a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people. Not just in a cartoon, but in a world that truly exists, very similar to the one we live in.”
Before their departure from the project, here’s what Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had to say about casting the series:
“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.”
Despite rumors up until the official cast announcement, Dante Basco (who voiced Prince Zuko in the animated series) had been pegged for a role in the upcoming Netflix series but eventually confirmed he wouldn’t be returning as Prince Zuko.
Dallas Liu, ComicBook.com's September 2021 interviewee, spoke out about the stress of the first season.
“… because it is such a beloved show I feel like there is some pressure to do a great job and not that I’m doubting anyone or the project at all, but this is the biggest project and the biggest role that I’ve been able to take part in now, especially leading with a character like Zuko, who’s so complex and one of, if not the favorite, one of the favorites of the show with his fire bending and his history. I mean, he’s such an incredible character and he has one of my favorite character developments in all of the animated series. So, I mean, I’m just as much of a fan of Zuko as everyone else is. So I mean, obviously I’m excited because this is like a dream, but at the same time, it gets a little nerve-wracking. You know? To do a good job, and I mean, at the end of the day I can only do what I’m capable of, but I hope that people enjoy my performance.
Netflix confirmed that three key roles were cast, with Commander Zhao, Uncle Iroh and Gyatso occupied respectively by Ken Leung, Lim Kay Siu and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.
Four more positions were created in December 2021.
We’ve also had a look at the cast at the new state-of-the-art set that Avatar: The Last Airbender will be filmed on courtesy of Netflix.
The best news was to learn that Nickelodeon's original creators would also be participating in this project.
That’s unlike the previous live adaption of Avatar: The Last Airbender that was released in 2010 by Nickelodeon and largely panned.
Unfortunately, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, who had been the showrunners and executive producers of the original project, resigned in the middle 2020.
We'll be back with more information about their departures shortly.
Composer Jeremy Zuckerman was also believed to be returning to compose the music for the live-action remake, however, in an interview, he says he’s not officially signed on for the project saying:
“No, there was never a contract. It was just like “obviously you’re doing the music”, you know, but now that they’re not there, I don’t know what they’re gonna want. I’m not super pumped that they’re not gonna be there, so I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds for that, it’s a big question mark. Yeah, sorry to not have a happier, more straightforward answer.”
He stated that he was not involved with the project in any way on July 21, 2021.
Dan Lin, Rideback's executive producer is also listed. Rideback has produced some major movies (majorly for Warner Brothers), including the Sherlock Holmes films, Lego Movies and IT movies.
Albert Kim is now in charge of Avatar:The Last Airbender's showrunning. Kim is known for working on TNT’s Leverage and Nikita. Additionally, Ryan Halprin is listed as a producer. Rideback Productions was the main production company behind this project. Parallel was recently sold to Netflix by Rideback Productions.
According to IMDBPro, Jang Chol Lee will be the series' concept designer. His previous credits include Big Hero 6, Tangled and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Marc David Alpert produced the series at one time. Marc’s impressive credits span decades with him working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lethal Weapon, and Nikita.
AvatarNews.co announced that Michael Wylie, a production designer, was joining the team. He is known for Pushing Daisies, which was published on Disney+.
In June 2021, we’ve learned that Michael Goi is set to direct in the new Netflix series. The accomplished cinematographer, although not yet confirmed by Netflix, has previously worked on American Horror Story and Swamp Thing. Megan is Missing was also produced by Goi.
Two additional directors for Avatar The Last Airbender were also announced, including Roseanne Liang (director) and Jabbar Haisani (director).
In October 2021, AvatarNews caught wind of a huge recruitment process looking for “Asian & Indigenous performers with martial arts or dance backgrounds” citing that the first book features lots of key battles with heavy choreography.
Now, we return to the original creators. We may have seen in August 2020 that two of the original creators quit the project due to creative differences.
Michael Dante DiMartino wrote an open letter expressing his feelings on the couple's departure.
This is the key paragraph (though you can read the entire letter).
“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 that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”
Bryan Konietzko posted an Instagram statement. Here are some of the key highlights from the statement we’d like to touch upon:
“Though I got to work with some great individuals, both on Netflix’s side and on our own small development team, the general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment. “
Since their departure, the duo has announced they would be helming new animated projects over at Paramount+ within the Avatar universe under a new studio called Avatar Studios.
Since the departing creators, more criticism of Netflix’s vision for the series has materialized. As Winter is Coming reports, Dee Bradley Baker (who voiced Appa and Momo) didn’t mince his words about Netflix’s vision to essentially recreate the Nickelodeon series saying:
“I just don’t know how you fulfill that any better than this show did. I’m open to whatever they do with the live-action series, which I know nothing about, but it’s like, ‘Well, how do you do this better than the way that it was rendered on this show?’ I don’t know how you do that! I hope you can.”
In late 2018, it was reported that production would start in full in 2019. However, two years later that didn’t happen for various reasons (one being the departure of the original creators and the second being COVID-19).
In May 2019, the first production update was made for this series. Bryan Konietzko posted an update about the production of the series:
“We’re moving into a new office space, transitioning into the next phase of production. Our core team is growing. We’re writing, planning, and testing. Though there’s plenty that’s new for us in this live action process, we’ve been on this long rollercoaster ride twice before and a lot of the climbs and twists and turns feel familiar. Right now, everything seems slow, and we’re itching to speed up; before we know it, everything will be moving too fast and happening all at once. For those who are eager to see this new series and are asking if we have a trailer yet: thank you for your enthusiasm, sincerely, but you wouldn’t want to see a version of this series that was made within 9 months. Too much Hollywood fare is fast-tracked and the results speak for themselves. Thankfully for us and this series, Netflix is committed to doing it right.”
Bryan Konietzko posted some storyboard images from the animated series in September 2019. He may have been inspired by them to create the next series.
Jan Chol Lee, who will be working on the series as a concept design engineer is among the others. His previous roles have included working on Disney’s Big Hero 6, 2006’s Beowulf, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Some images were circulated with early filming concepts in September 2019, but these have been discredited.
In October 2019, ProductionWeekly stated that the show was still in active development, and production is scheduled to start in 2020 (it’s unclear as of January 2021 whether this is still the case).
Bryan gave a brief update in March 2020 regarding live-action.
“In other news, sorry for the lack of updates on the live action adaptation of ATLA. It’s been a slow process, slower than expected. But VERY exciting things are in the works on the project… Hang in there. We’ll share some info as soon as we can. ????⬇️???? But there are more important things going on in the world… It is surely going to be a rough ride for the next few months, at least. ???? So, again, let’s all try to take care.”
The series' original creators left the show in August 2020. Production is currently on hold, which can be interpreted as a sign that production is still in its infancy.
Production will go ahead in Vancouver, Canada and although has been listed to get underway multiple times, it’s now believed through multiple sources that production is set to get underway in November 2021 and run through April 2022.
The show is being filmed under the working title of ‘Trade Winds’.
Production of Avatar, The Last Airbender has begun as of 16 November. Further casting news confirms that production is underway. This includes the new roles for Commander Zhao, Uncle Iroh and Gyatso.
In January 2022, journalist Caleb Williams stated that production is currently now set to run through to May 2022 and that they’re seeking extras “for the 2-part finale”.
The series' filming officially ended on June 17, 2022, meaning that it was produced for seven months.
The cast had a “wrap party” on June 18th, 2022 where the animated ATLA was playing on the bar screens.
There is no word yet. Given the fact the show has only just wrapped production as of June 2022, we’re not likely going to see the series until at least 2023 given all the post-production work that will now go into the series.
In case you weren’t aware, the newly created Avatar Studios are working on not one but three animated feature films that are set to release in 2024, 2025, and 2026 respectively.
They are currently being distributed worldwide by Paramount, and will therefore end up on Paramount+. Rumours that Netflix might distribute these movies overseas where Paramount+ does not exist have been heard, but those rumors have yet to be confirmed.
Before we leave you, we’d highly recommend following AvatarNews on Twitter and its website. You can still find the latest news about Avatar from them. They even designed this amazing concept poster for the Netflix series.
Do you look forward to Avatar:The Last Airbender's live action adaptation? Comment below to let us know!
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