There is one (1) original Netflix series I have been looking forward to for almost two years: the live-action adaptation of hugely beloved animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender.
Avatar takes place during a time of great war. Four nations, or societies, stand on edge as the Fire Nation seeks to take over the world. Enter Aang, a “bender” who is able to manipulate the elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air. He’s the Avatar, but he’s also a 12-year-old boy struggling to understand his destiny.
The series is not just smart and funny, it’s also compelling and emotional. And it’s not just for children either. The older you become, the more you realise how packed Avatar is with critical world commentary.
Put simply, it’s excellent viewing at any age. It was also recently added to Netflix, which has seen its popularity renewed by fans new and old.
The streaming giant announced it would be giving the series a crack in September 2018. It was a bold move, considering whatever the heck the 2010 attempt at an adaptation was (read: a fucking whitewashed failure).
A reimagined, live-action “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series is coming to Netflix!
(ᴄᴏɴᴄᴇᴘᴛ ᴀʀᴛ ʙʏ Jᴏʜɴ Sᴛᴀᴜʙ) pic.twitter.com/YsMoE4UguV
— Netflix Queue (@netflixqueue) September 18, 2018
In a joint announcement, Avatar‘s original creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, said they had signed on as executive producers and showrunners.
“We can’t wait to realise Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast,” the creators said at the time.
All was well… until today.
Taking to their respective social media accounts, DiMartino and Konietzko announced their departure from the series.
In an open letter to fans, the pair said they chose to leave the series in June.
Look, there’s only so much they could say without, well, getting shat on by Netflix, but it sounds like it came down to creative differences.
“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago, they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. 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,” Konietzko said.
In DiMartino’s statement, things just got more grim.
“Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good. It might turn out to be a show many of you end up enjoying. But what I can be certain about is that whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make,” he said.
Konietzko made it clear that this wasn’t a simple matter of “not getting our way.”
“Mike and I are collaborative people; we did not need all the ideas to come from us. As long as we felt those ideas were in line with the spirit and integrity of Avatar, we would have happily embraced them,” he said.
“However, we ultimately came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series.”
But, Konietzko said there are still very talented people working on the series, some of whom he personally hired.
“I hope they get the chance to do their best work on the series,” he said.
“Perhaps the team that remains might still be able to make something fans of the original and an entirely new audiences can enjoy.”
On one hand, I’m not going to comment on the live-action series until I’ve seen it. But on the other, seeing what the creators have had to say about their exit and reading between the lines isn’t exactly encouraging.
You can read their full statements below.
View this post on Instagram
Well, friends… there you have it. Big sigh. ????⬇️???? I’m sure many of you will understandably want to know more and will ask me questions in the comments, here and on subsequent posts and live-streams and in-person encounters and everywhere else ad infinitum. I wish I could explain things in greater detail, but the above statement is really all I can say about the matter so I won’t be answering any of those. I encourage you to head over to my partner Michael DiMartino’s account to get his take on our departure too: @mike_dante_d Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, and I’m sorry our involvement in the live-action project did not work out. Time to get on with my life. Onward and upward. ???? Love, Bryan #avatarthelastairbender #cocreators #michaeldimatino #bryankonietzko #bryke #atla #liveactionseries #netflix
Meanwhile, on Twitter.
bryke: we will be working with netflix to make a live action adaptation of avatar: the last airbender!
— incorrect atla (@incorrectatIa) August 12, 2020
Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino have left the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender remake series made for Netflix. Honestly, I don't think Avatar should be remade again in live-action. The original animated series is a masterpeice and a remake won't even come close. pic.twitter.com/x3zVEM7lwI
— Animated Antic (@Animated_Antic) August 12, 2020
And, one for the fans.
Image: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Instagram / @bryankonietzko
There is no Netflix adaptation of Avatar the last airbender in Ba Sing Se.
— Roger Witt (@rogerwitt_) August 12, 2020