Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender is getting new life through a "reimagined" live-action TV show on Netflix, and the very first series concept art has been released. Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered on Nickelodeon in 2005 and ran for three seasons through 2008. The stories of the characters continued on in comic book form as well as in the spinoff series The Legend of Korra - the latter of which ran on Nickelodeon from 2012 to 2014. The original animated show was also adapted to live-action in 2010 for the much maligned The Last Airbender movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
For its part, the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV show is set in a world divided into four nations, each populated by different kinds of elemental "benders": Earthbenders, Waterbenders, Firebenders and Airbenders. The series focuses on a young Airbender named Aang, who becomes the Avatar, a one in a generation bender who can master all four elements. Over the course of three seasons, Aang masters the other elements all while a war wages in the world, with the Fire Nation looking to conquer the other nations. Since its debut in 2003, Avatar: The Last Airbender has inspired an enduringly devoted fan base, and now the series will make a return in a new live-action show.
Netflix announced today that a "reimagined" live-action take on Avatar: The Last Airbender is in the works for the streaming service, with Konietzko and DiMartino returning as showrunners. Production on the show will start next year, with Nickelodeon co-producing the series. Further, Netflix released early concept art created John Staub, which can be seen below.
Konietzko and DiMartino released a statement on the project, assuring fans the characters won't be whitewashed and praising Netflix for the streamer's support in the live-action show. Read the statement in full below.
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.
The animated show's original creators being involved with Netflix's new take on the property will no doubt go a long way in quelling fans' fears. The Last Airbender left a bad taste in the mouth of many, and even Konietzko and DiMartino have distanced themselves from it as much as possible. So the Netflix series gives both the creators and fans another chance to see Aang's story play out in live-action - and perhaps if the show does well for the streaming service, they'll adapt The Legend of Korra as well.
Further, it's unclear as of now how much of a reimagining this new Avatar: The Last Airbender project will be, if it will change major events from the original show or age up the content at all. Although the show depicts war and tackles serious subjects, it does so through a child-friendly lens, often tempering violence and death - sometimes to the point of being confusing (as with a certain character death in season 2). That's not to say the new show should or will become as violent as Game of Thrones, but the live-action medium and Netflix home allows for more creative freedom even if the show stays completely kid-friendly.
For now, fans will have to wait and see what Konietzko, DiMartino and Netflix have planned. With no release date or even release window revealed, it's unclear when viewers will get to see the new show. But, considering Avatar: The Last Airbender still has a massive and devoted fan base, they'll surely be waiting eagerly for updates on the upcoming live-action project.