Nickelodeon announced today that they have formed a new content division with the specific purpose of expanding the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. The aptly named Avatar Studios will create new, original animated series and movies, with the first animated theatrical film set to begin production this year.
Projects produced under the new Avatar Studios banner will debut on a variety of platforms, including the new Paramount streaming service Paramount Plus, Nickelodeon’s cable, and digital platforms, on non-specified third-party platforms, and in theaters.
According to Variety, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators and executive producers of both Avatar and Korra, will serve as co-chief creative officers of Avatar Studios. They will report to Ramsey Naito, President of Nickelodeon Animation.
“Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra have grown at least ten-fold in popularity since their original hit runs on Nickelodeon, and Ramsey Naito and I are incredibly excited to have Mike and Bryan’s genius talent on board to helm a studio devoted to expanding their characters and world into new content and formats for fans everywhere,” said Brian Robbins, president, ViacomCBS Kids & Family. “Creator-driven stories and characters have long been the hallmarks of Nickelodeon, and Avatar Studios is a way to give Mike and Bryan the resources and runway to open up their imaginations even more and dive deeper into the action and mythology of Avatar as we simultaneously expand upon that world and the world of content available on Paramount+ and Nickelodeon.”
This is great news for fans who were dismayed to learn that they were no longer attached to the live-action adaptation in production at Netflix. I was excited about the Netflix show when I first heard about it, because I knew that with DiMartino and Konietzko attached, it stood a chance of being a good adaptation.
Their abrupt departure from the Netflix show was over creative differences, which makes fans anxious and calls to mind the disastrous film version that we do not talk about, which was a creative and box office disaster. It’s not so difficult to understand why DiMartino and Konietzko left, when there are changes like swapping Katara and Sokka’s ages for seemingly no reason. (This is one thing I was concerned about when news broke that they had left Netflix.)
Some people theorize that they made Katara older to pave the way for “Zutara” (Zuko and Katara), which makes no sense from a story standpoint because Aang and Katara ending up together is canon (they get married and have children, it’s kind of an important part of the plot of Korra), and making her that much older than Aang makes that dynamic a lot more creepy. There is enough drama in the series – what with the whole Fire Lord Ozai wanting to take over the world thing – without unnecessary romantic tension.
I think that they made Katara older in order to sexualize the character, because heaven forbid a female character exists and not be designed for the male gaze.
Anyway, I am really very excited about this development. Avatar Studios has a bevy of existing content to adapt, as Aang and Korra continued their adventures in comic book form. Not to mention, Avatar Kyoshi got her chance to shine in a young adult duology. We can only hope that existing under its own banner will allow DiMartino and Konietzko to allow for queer representation the way they weren’t when Korra was originally airing – Korra and Asami are canonically bisexual, but this was only hinted at on the series. (Kyoshi is bisexual as well.) I’d like to think that they wouldn’t have signed on for this job without a certain amount of creative control.
Even without the established stories from the comics (but no seriously, please adapt the arc where Zuko learns about his mother), there is a huge amount of material to draw inspiration from. There are a ridiculous amount of side characters whose stories can be explored, even without the endless history of Avatars about whom we know little. Personally, I would love to see some of what happened in the 100 years that Aang was frozen.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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