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Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Series Loses Original Creators Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko

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BY August 13, 2020
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Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated show that is, simply put, awesome. Not to be confused with the multiple unreleased-movie franchise of James Cameron’s alien-cat version of Fern Gully. The fans of the Avatar consider it one of the best-animated shows. It transcends typical cartoon demographics. A fantasy series about the mythical four elements, the show takes inspiration from various cultures to create an intriguing world. After the disastrous live-action movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Netflix announced their live-action series back in 2018. To differentiate itself from the film, the original creators joined the series, reassuring many bitter fans. Unfortunately, according to a statement Tuesday, Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko quit the Netflix Avatar series.

Original Avatar Animated Series Is Critically Acclaimed

Dimartino and Konietzko quit Netflix Avatar series Aang Image via Nickolodeon.

Avatar is one of those shows that is more than what it looks like on paper. Airing on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008, it looks like a kids show at first glance. Silly jokes, slapstick humor, and childish characters, it’s totally a kids’ show. Yet, subtly, this series becomes a story of redemption, destiny, and themes that anyone can relate to. It’s no wonder that the show is critically acclaimed and winner of multiple awards such as a Primetime Emmy and even a Peabody Award. 

The story of Avatar: The Last Airbender is all about a chosen one who keeps the harmony between all the nations of the world. However, due to an accident, the current Avatar, a twelve-year-old boy, goes missing for a hundred years. During his absence, one nation begins a war that topples the status quo, plunging the world into darkness. When the boy returns, he must face the new and unrecognizable world he left behind. He must deal with the burden now of his destiny to win the war and restore balance. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender Worked On So Many Levels

Dimartino and Konietzko quit Netflix Avatar series cast. Image via Nickolodeon.

The animated series was an original by creators Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko. Even though it may look like an anime, it is an American animated show with influences from all over. Avatar: The Last Airbender creates a fictional world, with influences from many real-world cultures and philosophies. The style of animation definitely has roots in anime, while the story takes its inspiration from other places. The Martial Arts style of ‘bending’, along with the reincarnation of the Avatar for every generation, is very much from Eastern Philosophies. However, the depiction of the Water Tribe is clearly influenced by the Inuit culture. 

Despite supposedly being for kids, Avatar’s storylines are incredibly mature, with a lot of depth. Along with the major themes of destiny and redemption, the individual episodes deal with sacrifice, loss, grief, love, duty, and honor. They’re depicted in the simplest of ways for younger audiences, with enough substance for mature audiences to enjoy. 

The Dimartino and Konietzko Netflix Avatar Series Meant to Redeem the Franchise

An open letter to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans: Many of you have been asking me for updates about the Avatar…

Posted by Michael Dante DiMartino on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The animated Avatar’s success resulted a spin-off series in Legend Of Korra. Yet the first foray into live action almost “killed” the potential franchise. Shyalaman’s The Last Airbender currently holds a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while all 3 seasons of the animated series has a rating of 100%. So when Netflix ordered a live-action series adaptation, involving the original creators of the series, fans rejoiced! But now we have direct confirmation that Dimartino and Konietzko quit the Netflix Avatar series. The news comes directly from Dimartino, as he cites a difference of creative vision as the result of his departure from the Netflix Avatar series. 

“I can finally tell you that I am no longer involved with the project. In June of this year, after two years of development work, Bryan Konietzko and I made the difficult decision to leave the production”

—Michael Dante Dimartino

Dimartino’s Announcement Was Full Of Hope

Similar to his Avatar series, Dimartino’s letter, also released on his Facebook page, was full of optimism and sadness. His announcement focused more on what was the best decision for him, and less on the actual issues with Netflix that resulted in his departure. Originally hired as showrunner, Netflix promised to honor Dimartino and Konietzko’s vision for the live-action series. As Dimartino mentions, something changed, and he could no longer guarantee that his original vision was going to serve the project. 

“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded. So, I chose to leave the project. It was the hardest professional decision I’ve ever had to make, and certainly not one that I took lightly, but it was necessary for my happiness and creative integrity.”

—Michael Dante Dimartino

Why Dimartino And Konietzko’s Exit From Netflix Avatar Series Is Alarming

the movie. Paramount Pictures.

The fiasco of the live-action Avatar movie caused many fans to turn away from franchise. It also dashed any hopes of future live-action franchises. The only way to get fans back was to ensure that any future iteration included the original creators. Which was exactly the case when Dimartino and Konietzko boarded the Netflix Avatar series. However, it’s difficult to say how fans will now react to the new show after their departure. Dimartino did his best not to talk disparagingly about the new show, but I’m sure that many will still see the situation as Netflix not holding up their end. Which gives the new series a disadvantage right off the bat, at least for some.

Yet, other adaptations like HBO’s Watchmen did not involve the original creators in any meaningful way, and it was fantastic. Sometimes, for an adaptation to work, the people adapting it need only understand the story while they bring in new elements to keep it fresh. Let’s hope for all Avatar fans’ sake, the people still working on the show are those type of fans.

What do you think about Dimartino and Konietzko’s exit from the Netflix Avatar series? Let us know win the comments below. 

Pop CultureTV ShowsAnimatedavatarKorraNetflix SeriesThe Last Airbender

Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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