Announced during Nickelodeon parent-company ViacomCBS’ Investor Day presentation on Wednesday, Avatar: The Last Airbender original series creators and executive producers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are to head an entire studio as creative directors that will produce more stories in the world of Avatar. An animated feature film is to begin production this year.
Avatar Studios output will air on ViacomCBS own just-announced subscription service, Paramount+, as well as on their own video-on-demand services, in movie theaters, and, of course, on Nickelodeon’s own networks.
Avatar is set in a world of peoples who have abilities to command (or “bend”) one of each of the four elements – earth, wind, water and fire. The Avatar is a being that reincarnates upon the death of the previous title bearer and has the power to control all of the elements, their role is to bring peace in times of instability. Each series follows the present Avatar as they seek to master each of the four elements and save the world.
Two Avatar series have aired on Nickelodeon, The Last Airbender (also known as The Legend of Aang) between 2005 and 2008; and the story of Aang’s successor The Legend of Korra between 2012 and 2014.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the series creators’ said:
“[W]ith this new Avatar Studios venture we have an unparalleled opportunity to develop our franchise and its storytelling on a vast scale, in myriad exciting ways and mediums.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since we created Avatar: The Last Airbender, but even after all that time, there are still many stories and time periods in Aang’s world that we are eager to bring to life. We are fortunate to have an ever-growing community of passionate fans that enjoys exploring the Avatar-verse as much as we do.”
“We are exceedingly grateful to [Nickelodeon president] Brian Robbins and [president of Nickelodeon Animation] Ramsey Naito for their enthusiasm and respect for the Avatar property and us as its stewards. From the start, they’ve supported our ambitious plans and created a positive, proactive environment for us.”
The Avatar franchise has remained popular and has earned heaps of awards from Annies to Daytime Emmys. Since the conclusion of the TV series, comics and novel tie-ins have carried on the stories – published by Dark Horse Comics and Random House, respectively.
An Avatar graphic novel featuring blind earth-bending butt-kicker Toph was released from Dark Horse this month, written by Faith Erin Hicks and drawn by Peter Wartman.
While the initiative clearly is mostly on the animation side, there is a sense that this could potentially lead to a centralization of all Avatar multimedia content. We will have to wait and see how the popular comic book and novel continuations fare in this new status quo.
Series creators DiMartino and Konietzko had not long ago stepped away from a live action adaptation of the original Avatar series, The Last Airbender for Netflix citing creative differences – in August 2020. That adaptation is seemingly still in the works with Albert Kim now serving as showrunner.
A 2010 live-action movie adaptation of the first series of Aang’s adventures was made, directed by M Night Shyamalan, with limited involvement by series creators. It released to unsavoury reviews.