You may have heard that the Avatar: The Last Airbender animation series creators are not attached to the live-action Netflix version. This news comes to us through Michael Dante DiMartino’s personal website. Here’s everything we know so far (and perhaps more crucially what we don’t know) about the departure.
DiMartino states that both he and co-creator Bryan Konietzko exited out of the project due to Netflix’s failure to uphold their promise of honoring DiMartino and Konietzko’s vision of the adaptation:
“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.– Michael Dante DiMartino
Look, things happen. Productions are challenging. Unforeseen events arise. Plans have to change. And when those things have happened at other points during my career, I try to be like an Air Nomad and adapt. I do my best to go with the flow, no matter what obstacle is put in my way. But even an Air Nomad knows when it’s time to cut their losses and move on.”
This opinion piece will discuss what happened to me and how it might not have been a negative thing.
It is obvious that this series does not intend to be a low-budget soap opera made by unrecognized writers and actors that Netflix (and all others) will forget about after one season. Netflix will adapt the animated Avatar: The Last Airbender series to a live action series. This is not an affordable project, and Netflix understands that. It’s also worth noting that Netflix has bought the distribution rights to both the original Avatar cartoon and the Legend of Korra sequel series. The original creators of Avatar have been hired by Netflix to serve as showrunners for this adaptation. Netflix clearly believes this series will succeed and is going all out. Both the Netflix and showrunners have expressed their desire for the series to succeed, despite some differences.
Before I continue, let me mention FandomWire's article. FandomWire published an article recently in which they share their experiences with this topic. They claim that the showrunners wanted a bigger budget and that Netflix did not agree with the showrunner’s vision on a diverse cast. Netflix also wanted to change the tone of the show by “creating a darker, mature tone with more romance, sex, and blood.” Based on our knowledge, this is not the case. Netflix did not oppose a diverse cast. They were also never trying to force the showrunners into a darker tone.
After doing some research, I found this information about the live action adaptation. It was supposed to be scene-by-scene. According to some reports, Konietzko and DiMartino wanted new characters in the series. This is where some of the creative differences could’ve started and been the breaking point neither sides could agree to budge on.
We believe that DiMartino and Konietzko tried to make their cartoon more live-action and expanded on, but Netflix was unwilling to risk. Netflix was clearly determined to take the animated series and make it live-action. Can you blame them? We all know that would still be extremely profitable for Netflix, even if it doesn’t add anything creatively.
This theory explains why Netflix hired the creators for the original cartoon. Instead of having to adapt a cartoon from another source, they know the way to do it well. In my opinion, I think that DiMartino and Konietzko were frustrated about the fact that they weren’t allowed to take much if any, creative liberties on their project. Netflix was trying to be safe, and DiMartino and Konietzko were not happy with that. They had been promised something else when they signed up.
Miscommunication was also a factor in this. This is a quote from DiMartino’s original statement on why they left the project:
“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.”– Michael Dante DiMartino
This could’ve easily be interpreted in multiple ways. That’s especially true when you circle back to what we heard about how Netflix wanted to adapt the series initially.
Netflix believed that the original vision was the best. The creators of the original cartoon had stated that they wouldn't interfere with their vision. Netflix stated that it would not allow corporate concepts to be introduced into its series that are not in line with their original vision. A darker, more whitewashed ensemble. DiMartino and Konietzko, however, had another vision and Netflix was willing to help them. They wanted to create new characters and possibly change how certain stories were told.
Remember that the article contains both my opinion and insider information. Perhaps something completely different happened. It is possible that we will never find out. Personally, I think I do know the truth. With a little miscommunication, creatives and corporate hiccups are common.
Also, I believe that Konietzko and DiMartino's departures will not have a significant impact on the final result. It is meant to be scene-by-scene adaptation, as I mentioned before. The adaptation will likely continue to be scene-by-scene even though the former showrunners are gone and will be replaced by new ones.
However, the departures were unfortunate. Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are incredible storytellers and their exit will certainly affect the future of the show, even if it doesn’t change in quality. You can see why this is especially true considering the negative reaction to the announcement.
This is not the first time that showrunners have left a Netflix project either, as this same situation has happened before with Netflix’s upcoming superhero epic Jupiter’s Legacy. Let’s hope it does not happen again.