Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar-TLAlogo.jpg
Also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang
Avatar: The Bender of the Four Elements (Bulgarian title)
Genre Action/Adventure
Fantasy
Comedy-drama
Format Cartoon series
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Written by Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Aaron Ehasz
Tim Hedrick
Nick Malis
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Dave Filoni
Giancarlo Volpe
Ethan Spaulding
Joaquim Dos Santos
Voices of Zach Tyler Eisen
Mae Whitman
Jack DeSena
Jessie Flower (Seasons 2 & 3)
Dee Bradley Baker
Dante Basco
Grey DeLisle
Mark Hamill
Mako (Seasons 1 & 2)
Greg Baldwin (Season 3)
Jason Isaacs
Composer(s) Jeremy Zuckerman
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 61 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Aaron Ehasz
Running time 23 minutes
Production company(s) Nickelodeon Animation Studios
Broadcast
Original channel Nickelodeon
Picture format NTSC 4:3 (480i)
Original run February 21, 2005 (2005-02-21) – July 19, 2008 (2008-07-19)
Chronology
Followed by The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an American animated television series that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The series was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who served as executive producers along with Aaron Ehasz. Avatar is set in an Asian-influenced world[1] wherein some are able to manipulate the classical elements by use of Chinese martial arts. The show combined the styles of anime and American cartoons, and relied for imagery upon various East-Asian, Inuit, and South-American societies, with a brief reference to the Indic.[2]

The series follows the adventures of protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating the evil Fire Lord and ending his destructive war against the three other nations.[3] The pilot episode first aired on February 21, 2005[4] and the series concluded with a widely praised two-hour episode on July 19, 2008.[5] The show is obtainable from various sources, including on DVD, the iTunes Store, the Zune Marketplace, the Xbox Live Marketplace, the PlayStation Store, Netflix Instant Play, and on the Nicktoons Network.[6]

Avatar: The Last Airbender was popular with both audiences and critics,[7] garnering 5.6 million viewers on its best-rated showing and receiving high ratings in the Nicktoons lineup, even outside its 6–11-year-old demographic.[3][8] Avatar: The Last Airbender has been nominated for and won awards from the Annual Annie Awards, the Genesis Awards, the primetime Emmy awards and a Peabody Award among others. The first season's success prompted Nickelodeon to order second[9] and third[10] seasons. In other media, the series has spawned a live-action film, titled The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, scaled action figures,[11] a trading card game,[12][13] three video games based on the first,[14] second,[15][16] and third seasons, stuffed animals distributed by Paramount Parks, and two LEGO sets.[17] An art book was also released in mid-2010.[18] Furthermore, the president of Nickelodeon announced on July 21, 2010 that a Spin-off called The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra will premiere in 2012.[19]

Contents

Series overview

A map of the four nations. The characters at the top, 群雄四分, mean "the superheroes [the world or the country or the land] in four". The characters of the four lands are 水善 (Water Peaceful), 土強 (Earth Strong), 火烈 (Fire Fierce), and 气和 (Air Harmony). The phrase at the bottom, 天下一匡, reads "correct all things under heaven".

Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world home to humans, fantastic animals, and spirits. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each nation has its own natural element, on which it bases its society, wherein people known as Benders have the ability to manipulate the eponymous element of their nation using the physical motions of martial arts. The show's creators based each Bending style on an existing martial art, leading to visual differences in the techniques used by Waterbenders (T'ai chi ch'uan), Earthbenders (Hung Ga kung fu, for the most part), Firebenders (Northern Shaolin kung fu) and Airbenders (Baguazhang).[20]

At any given time, there is only one person alive in the story's world capable of 'bending' all four elements: the show's eponymous Avatar, the spirit of the planet in human form. When an Avatar dies, this spirit is reincarnated into the next nation in the Avatar Cycle, in the order of the seasons, and must master each bending art in seasonal order, starting with the native element. Additionally, the Avatar possesses a unique ability called the Avatar State, which briefly endows it with the knowledge and abilities of all past Avatars as a self-triggering defense mechanism, which can be made subject to the will of the user by extensive trial and training.[21] If an Avatar is killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle is broken, and the Avatar status will cease to exist.[22] Through the ages, the succeeding Avatars have served to keep the four nations in harmony, and maintain world order.[20] The Avatar serves as the bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World, allowing each to solve problems that normal benders cannot.[23]

Backstory

The events one hundred years before the beginning of the show are revealed gradually and out of order throughout the series.

One hundred years before the start of the series, a twelve-year-old Airbender named Aang learns he is the new Avatar. Fearful of the heavy responsibilities of the position, and being separated from his beloved mentor Monk Gyatso, Aang flees from home on his animal guide, a giant six-legged flying bison named Appa. During their flight, they become caught in a fierce storm and crash into the ocean, whereupon Aang's protective Avatar State encases the pair in an iceberg, in suspended animation. Fire Lord Sozin, who killed the previous Avatar to stop the latter's aversion of his war plans, begins a genocide of the Air Nomads to whom Aang belongs; but fails to kill Aang.

Season One (Book One: Water)

One hundred years after Sozin's time, Katara, a fourteen-year-old Waterbender girl, and her brother the fifteen-year-old Sokka, free Aang and Appa from the iceberg. After Aang is revealed to be the Avatar, the three travel to the Northern Water Tribe from whom Aang and Katara can learn Waterbending. En route Aang and friends visit the Southern Air Temple where Aang discovers that the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads, and encounters his predecessor Avatar Roku. Throughout their journey, the trio are pursued by Prince Zuko, the exiled son of Fire Lord Ozai, who seeks to reclaim his honor and throne by capturing the Avatar. Zuko travels with his uncle Iroh, a legendary Fire Nation general and the older brother of Ozai. Competing with Zuko for the Avatar is Admiral Zhao, who leads an attack on the Northern Water Tribe. The attack is repelled by Aang and his friends; but the Fire Lord orders his daughter Azula to capture Zuko and Iroh, who are now considered traitors to the Fire Nation.

Season Two (Book Two: Earth)

After leaving the Northern Water Tribe, Aang masters Waterbending under Katara's tutelage. Searching for an Earthbending teacher, the group meets Toph, a blind Earthbending prodigy, and recruit her as such. Zuko and Iroh, now fugitives from the Fire Nation, attempt to lead new lives in the Earth Kingdom, where Zuko, with the help of his uncle, tries to come to terms with his troubled past and his obsession with capturing the Avatar. Aang and his friends discover that an upcoming solar eclipse will deprive Firebenders of their eponymous ability, leaving them open to invasion and giving Aang his chance to defeat the Fire Lord; but in learning this Aang's Sky Bison is lost to a group of Sandbenders. Azula and her two friends Mai and Ty Lee pursue the protagonists, who struggle to reach Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom's capital, and tell the Earth King of the eclipse. Disguised as the Kyoshi Island Warriors (disciples of a previous Avatar), Azula persuades an elite group of Earthbenders called the Dai Li to instigate a coup d'état, allowing the Fire Nation to capture Ba Sing Se. In a final confrontation, Zuko sides with his sister, who promises to restore his honor. Iroh helps Aang and Katara to escape after Zuko betrays him, and is imprisoned by the Dai Li. Aang attempts to activate the Avatar State; but is hit by Azula's lightning and dies. He is later brought back to life by Katara.

Season Three (Book Three: Fire)

Aang recovers from his injuries to find his allies disguised as Fire Nation soldiers heading West on a Fire Nation ship, while Zuko has been restored to his position of crown prince and Iroh is imprisoned as a traitor. Sokka has planned a small-scale invasion of the Fire Nation to capture the Fire Lord's palace and defeat Fire Lord Ozai, taking advantage of the solar eclipse, staged by various allies encountered in previous episodes. After initial success, the invasion ultimately fails, and only Aang, Sokka, Katara, and Toph escape. Zuko, in a change of heart, defies his father and offers to teach Aang Firebending; later to be accepted as a teammate.

In the four-part series finale, Aang and his friends confront Fire Lord Ozai, who plans to use the power of Sozin's Comet to destroy the other nations and rule the world as the Phoenix King. Iroh, after breaking himself out of prison, leads the Order of the White Lotus (an international society of martial-arts masters, including himself and Aang's allies King Bumi, Master Pakku, Master Piando, and Jeong Jeong) to liberate Ba Sing Se. Sokka, Toph, and Kyoshi Warrior Suki disable the Fire Nation's airships, preventing them from burning down the Earth Kingdom, while Zuko challenges Azula. Zuko seems to have the upper hand due to Azula's deteriorating mental state; but when Azula fires a lightning bolt at Katara, who is watching the duel, Zuko intercepts the bolt to save her, injuring himself in the process. Katara then restrains Azula and heals Zuko. Aang, contending with Ozai, is reluctant to kill him; but eventually overcomes him by depriving him of the ability to manipulate fire. Zuko is crowned the new Fire Lord and, with the help of the Avatar and his friends, begins rebuilding the four nations. After Zuko is crowned he goes to confront his father in prison and demands the location of his banished mother, while the other protagonists enjoy their victory at Ba Sing Se.

Characters

  • Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) is the 12-year-old, fun-loving, airbending protagonist of the series. Although averse to fighting, Aang is fiercely protective of the people he cares about, particularly Katara and Appa. He is the current incarnation of the planet's psyche, and is therefore required to act as arbiter among the various peoples. [24] According to the show's creators, the arrowlike tattoos on his brow and arms mark Aang as an airbending master, whereas he is the youngest airbender in history to earn them.
  • Katara (Mae Whitman) is a 14-year-old Waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe. With her brother Sokka, she accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord and, eventually, becomes his Waterbending master. Katara is the only surviving waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe and one of only two Waterbenders able to control human bodies by bending the water therein; but she only uses this ability twice in the series. Katara is usually kind-hearted and generous, but is deeply hurt and often angered by treachery. In an earlier version of the pilot episode, Katara's name was Kya; this later is stated to be her mother's name.
  • Sokka (Jack DeSena) is a 15-year-old warrior of the Southern Water Tribe. With his sister, Katara, he accompanies Aang on his quest to defeat the Fire Lord. Sokka describes himself as "meat-loving" and "sarcastic"[25], and is often a source of comic relief. At the end of Season 1, Sokka was in love with Yue, the princess of the Northern Water Tribe; and later shifted his affections to Suki, leader of the Kyoshi Island Warriors. Unlike his companions, Sokka does not have any bending ability; his skill lies largely in mechanics, and his chief weapons are a metallic boomerang and a black jian created from the metals of a meteorite.
  • Toph Bei Fong (Jessie Flower) is a blind female Earthbender [20] who first appears in the second season of the show, in which she is Aang's Earthbending instructor. Though blind, Toph "sees" by feeling vibrations in the ground through her feet, and can use this ability to discern the emotions of those around her. She is later shown developing a method of 'Metal-bending' by detecting impurities in the metal.
  • Momo (Dee Bradley Baker in both the animated series and the live-action film)[26] is an intelligent and curious winged lemur, discovered by Aang at the Southern Air Temple [27]. He often picks fights with other winged and smaller creatures and with Appa over food. He is capable of understanding Aang's speech; but less so of understanding others. In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", Momo’s name was written as 模模 (mó mó).
  • Appa (Dee Bradley Baker in both the animated series and the live-action film)[26][28] is Aang's flying bison, who serves as the protagonists' mode of transport around the world. He remains in suspended animation with Aang for 100 years, and shares a very strong bond with him.[29] He possesses the ability to fly and can use his tail to create powerful gusts of air. According to Aang, flying bison were the first Airbenders.[27]
  • Zuko (Dante Basco) is the 16-year-old exiled prince of the Fire Nation and original antagonist of the series. He is determined, strong-willed, and rarely shows compassion until the third season. Over time, Zuko struggles to deal with his anger, self-pity, and complex familial relationships, as well as the choice between good and evil. He takes on the vigilante identity of "the Blue Spirit" at the end of season one and beginning of season two. In season three, he defects from the Fire Nation to join the Avatar. At the end of the series, he is crowned ruler of the Fire Nation, in which position he ends the war and promises to aid in rebuilding the other nations.
  • Azula (Grey DeLisle) is the 14-year-old princess of the Fire Nation. She is Zuko's younger sister and one of the major antagonists of the series. Azula is a Firebending prodigy and is one of the few living Firebenders capable of casting lightning. She uses fear to control her relatives and friends Mai and Ty Lee, reserving her family loyalty for her father alone. At the end of season three, she loses her sanity altogether and is defeated by Zuko and Katara.
  • Suki (Jennie Kwan) is the leader of the young (and exclusively female) Kyoshi Island Warriors, a sect established by Aang's predecessor-once-removed. She is an exceptionally skilled fighter and staunch ally of the protagonists. She was imprisoned by the Fire Nation after the Kyoshi Warriors were defeated by Azula, but was ultimately released by Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, and Chit-Sang. She remained with the protagonists thereafter and fought with Toph and Sokka to disable the Fire Nation's air force. She was Sokka's love interest during the time immediately following the end of the War.
  • Iroh (Mako Iwamatsu in season one and two; Greg Baldwin in season three) is a retired Fire Nation general, known as the Dragon of the West, and Prince Zuko's paternal uncle and mentor. Iroh was the original heir to the Fire Nation throne until his brother usurped the throne after Fire Lord Azulon's death.[30] On the surface, Iroh is a cheerful, kind, optimistic, eccentric old man; but remains a powerful warrior and a devoted surrogate parent to Zuko. Iroh is a Grand Master of the Order of the White Lotus, a secret society of men from all nations. Unlike most Firebenders, Iroh does not use anger as the source of his strength, relying instead on Firebending secrets learned from the Dragons.
  • Mai (Cricket Leigh)[31] is Zuko's love interest and the friend of Ty Lee. Mai herself lacks bending, but is agile, swift, and skilled in dart-throwing and knife-throwing. She assists Azula throughout most of her role; but later abandons Azula and re-appears only later as Zuko's bride.
  • Ty Lee (Olivia Hack)[28] is an acrobat hired by Azula against the protagonists, notable for her appearance of vivacity, innocence, and youth and for her ability to disable element-benders by obstructing the chi from their limbs. Having abandoned Azula, she joins the Kyoshi Island Warriors, whom she had earlier impersonated.
  • Ozai (Mark Hamill) is the father of Zuko and Azula, younger brother of Iroh, and ruler of the Fire Nation. Although he is the primary antagonist for the series, he does not appear until its third season, in which he is defeated by Aang.

Production

Michael DiMartino, one of the co-creators of the show, at the 2008 New York Comic Con.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was co-created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, California. Animation work was mostly done by three animation studios in South Korea: JM Animation, DR Movie, and Moi Animation. According to Bryan Konietzko, the program was conceived in the spring of 2001 when he took an old sketch of a balding, middle-aged man and re-imagined the character as a child.[1] Konietzko drew the character herding bison in the sky, and showed the sketch to Mike DiMartino. At the time, DiMartino was studying a documentary about explorers trapped in the South Pole. Konietzko described their early development of the concept:

We thought, "There's an air guy along with these water people trapped in a snowy wasteland... and maybe some fire people are pressing down on them..."

The co-creators successfully pitched the idea to Nickelodeon vice president and executive producer Eric Coleman just two weeks later.[32]

The series was first revealed to the public in a teaser reel at Comic-Con 2004,[33] and aired February 21, 2005. In the United States, first two episodes of the series were shown together in a one-hour premiere event. A second twenty-episode season ran from March 17, 2006 through December 1.[9] A third and final season, beginning September 21, 2007, featured twenty-one episodes rather than the usual twenty.[10] The final four episodes were packaged as a two-hour movie.

Avatar is notable for borrowing extensively from Asian art and mythology to create its universe. The series' character designs are heavily influenced by anime as well as Chinese art and history, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism,[34] and Yoga.[2] Traditional East Asian calligraphy styles represent nearly all the writing in the series. For each instance of calligraphy, an appropriate style is used, ranging from seal script (more archaic) to clerical script.[35] The show employed a cultural consultant, Edwin Zane, and calligrapher Siu-Leung Lee as consultants for the series' cultural influences.[2][36] The choreographed martial art bending moves were profoundly affected by Asian cinema.[1] In an interview, Bryan revealed that, "Mike and I were really interested in other epic 'Legends & Lore' properties, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but we knew that we wanted to take a different approach to that type of genre. Our love for Japanese anime, Hong Kong action and kung fu cinema, yoga, and Eastern philosophies led us to the initial inspiration for Avatar."[37] The show's character designs are heavily influenced by anime; the show, however, is not considered an example of such.

All music and sound used in the series was done by Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn, who formed The Track Team. They experimented with use of a wide range of different instruments, such as the guzheng, pipa, and duduk, to compose background music.[38]

The term "Avatar" comes from Sanskrit (अवतार), wherein means "descent"; its roots are ava, "down," and tri, "to pass". In the Hindu scriptures, avatar signifies the mortal incarnation of a god (usually Vishnu). The Chinese characters apparent at the top of the show's title card mean "the divine medium who has descended upon the mortal world".[35] According to the plot, Aang unknowingly revealed he was the Avatar when by choosing four toys out of thousands, each of which were the childhood toys of previous Avatars. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a similar test for reincarnations of a Tulku Lama. In Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel writes that "a number of objects such as rosaries, ritualistic implements, books, tea-cups, etc., are placed together, and the child must pick out those which belonged to the late tulku, thus showing that he recognizes the things which were theirs in their previous life"[39]. Each successor is expected to show signs of continuity with the previous Avatar, such as being born within a week of the death.

Avatar: The Last Airbender draws on the four classical elements for its bending arts: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. Although each has its own variation, most ancient philosophies incorporate these four elements: examples include the classical Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek elemental traditions. In the show’s opening, each element is accompanied by two Chinese characters: an ancient Chinese seal script character on the left representing the element being shown and a modern Chinese character on the right describing some feature of the element. The character 水 (pinyin: shui), which stands for water, is shown with 善 (pinyin: shan), which means benevolence and adaptivity. The character 土 (pinyin: tu), which stands for earth, is shown with 強 (pinyin: qiang), which means strength and stability. The character 火 (pinyin: huo), which stands for fire, is shown with 烈 (pinyin: lie), which means intensity and passion. Finally, the character 气 (pinyin: qi), which stands for air, is shown with 和 (pinyin: he), which means peace and harmony.[40]

In addition to the use of four classical elements in the series, the fighting styles associated with each element are derived from different styles of Chinese martial arts. The series employed Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association as a martial arts consultant.[41] Each fighting style was chosen to represent the element it projected. T'ai chi was used for "Waterbending" in the series, which focuses on alignment, body structure, breath, and visualization. Hung Gar was used for "Earthbending" in the series, and was chosen for its firmly rooted stances and powerful strikes to present the solid nature of earth. Northern Shaolin, which uses strong arm and leg movements was used to represent "Firebending". Ba Gua, which uses dynamic circular movements and quick directional changes, was used for "Airbending".[20][42][43] The only exception to these styles is Toph, who can be seen practicing a Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis style.[44]

Themes

Duality

Duality, especially between good and evil, plays a large role in the series. For instance, half of Zuko’s face is scarred, which is more prominent when Zuko is angry or tempted to commit misdeed, whereas the undamaged half of his face is more prominent when he shows compassion. This is further developed when it is revealed that his two great-grandfathers are Fire Lord Sozin (responsible for starting the war) and Avatar Roku (who tried to stop the war), representing the conflict between good and evil in Zuko. This theme is often symbolized by the colors blue and orange (or occasionally blue and red).

Destiny and Free Will

Many of the characters in the show have a “destiny” to which they are born, or which they themselves believe incorrectly. Aang, as the Avatar, must end the war by defeating the Fire Lord; Zuko believes it his destiny to regain his honor by capturing the Avatar and bringing him to his father; Iroh believed it to be his destiny to conquer Ba Sing Se.

Throughout the show, it is revealed that Aang initially rejected his Avatar status; but learns to embrace his destiny, whereas Zuko is eventually able to disregard the search for Aang and act in accordance to his own need. As a young man, Iroh led a siege on Ba Sing Se for 600 days, breaking through the outer wall but abandoning the field when his son was killed in battle; whereas later Iroh lives cheerfully in Ba Sing Se among the people of the Earth Kingdom, and conquers it only against the side he had formerly led.

Other Themes

Many of the characters depicted as morally ambiguous, such as Jet and Long Feng, in that while their actions are often immoral, their intentions are understandable. In the third season, it is shown that the Fire Nation encourages intense nationalism, by way of explaining its characters.

Throughout the series, many survivors and refugees whose lives have been upset by the Fire Nation are found trying to rebuild their lives.

Reception

When the series debuted, it was rated the best animated television series in its demographic;[45] new episodes averaged 3.1 million viewers each.[45] A one-hour special showing of "The Secret of the Fire Nation" which aired on September 15, 2006, consisting of "The Serpent's Pass" and "The Drill", gathered an audience of 5.1 million viewers. According to the Nielsen Media Research, the special was the best performing cable television show airing in that week.[46] In 2007, Avatar was syndicated to more than 105 countries worldwide, and was one of Nickelodeon's top rated programs. The series was ranked first on Nickelodeon in Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, and Colombia.[47]

The series finale, Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle, received the highest ratings of the series. Its premiere averaged 5.6 million viewers, 95% more viewers than Nickelodeon had received in mid-July 2007.[48] During the week of July 14, it ranked as the most-viewed program for the under-14 demographic.[49][50] Sozin's Comet also appeared on iTunes' top ten list of best-selling television episodes during that same week.[51] Sozin's Comet's popularity affected online media as well; "Rise of the Phoenix King", a Nick.com online game based on Sozin's Comet, generated almost 815,000 game plays within three days.[52] IGN listed the complete series as 35th in its list of Top 100 Animated TV Shows.[53]

Awards and nominations

Awards Outcome
2005 Pulcinella Awards:[54]
Best Action/Adventure TV Series Won
Best TV Series Won
33rd Annie Awards:[55]
Best Animated Television Production Nominated
Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production (The Deserter) Won
Writing for an Animated Television Production (The Fortuneteller) Nominated
34th Annie Awards:[56]
Character Animation in a Television Production (The Blind Bandit) Won
Directing in an Animated Television Production (The Drill) Won
36th Annie Awards:[57]
Best Animated Television Production for Children Won
Directing in an Animated Television Production (Joaquim Dos Santos for Into the Inferno) Won
2007 Genesis Awards:
Outstanding Children's Programming (Appa's Lost Days) Won
Primetime Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Animated Program (City of Walls and Secrets) Nominated
Individual Achievement Award (Sang-Jin Kim for Lake Laogai) Won
Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards 2008:
Favorite Cartoon[58] Won
Annecy 2008:
TV series (Joaquim Dos Santos for The Day of Black Sun Part 2: The Eclipse)[59] Nominated
56th Golden Reel Awards:
Best Sound Editing in a Television Animation (Avatar Aang)[60] Nominated
2008 Peabody Awards:
"Unusually complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare"[61] Won

Other media

Literature

Dark Horse Comics released an art book titled Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Art of the Animated Series, on June 2, 2010 which contains 184 pages of the original art and creation behind the Avatar animated series.[62] Several comic book short stories were published in Nickelodeon Magazine, and on June 15, 2011 Dark Horse Comics released a collection of these and new comics in a single volume called Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures.[63] Dark Horse Comics has an "ongoing partnership" with Nickelodeon to publish books related to the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender.[63]

Promotion and merchandising

The two Lego sets: a Fire Nation ship and an Air Temple

Avatar's success has led to some promotional advertising with third-party companies, such as Burger King and Upper Deck Entertainment. Avatar-themed roller coasters at Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America and one formerly at Kings Island also appeared. During the show's runtime, Nickelodeon published two special issues of Nick Mag Presents dedicated entirely to the show. Various members of the Avatar staff and cast appeared at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International convention, while Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko appeared with Martial Arts Consultant Sifu Kisu at the Pacific Media Expo on October 28, 2006. Avatar also has its own line of t-shirts, LEGO playsets, toys, a trading card game,[64] a cine-manga, and three video games, as well as an MMO.[65]

The Fisher-Price-produced action figure toy line generated some controversy with its exclusion of any female characters.[66] Mattel came to release information stating that they have taken account of Katara's increased role within the program, and that she would be included in the figure assortment for a mid 2007 release.[67] The figure ultimately went unreleased, however, as the entire line was canceled before she could be produced.

Nickelodeon executives have since released optimistic plans for upcoming marketing strategies in regards to Avatar. Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami openly stated her belief that the franchise "could become their Harry Potter".[68] They expect consumers to spend about $121 million in 2007, rising to $254 million by 2009.[68] The marketing plans are to be coincided with the release of the first live-action film based on the series in 2010, which will be the first film in a trilogy.[68]

Video games

A video game trilogy about Avatar: The Last Airbender has been created. Avatar: The Last Airbender, the video game, was released on October 10, 2006. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth was released on October 16, 2007. Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno was released on October 13, 2008. The three games were loosely based on seasons one, two and three, respectively. Players can select characters and complete quests to gain experience and advance the storyline. Despite lackluster critical reviews, the games did extremely well commercially; for example, Avatar: The Last Airbender was THQ's top selling Nickelodeon game in 2006 and even reached Sony CEA's "Greatest Hits" status.[69]

Avatar: Legends of the Arena, a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows, was launched on September 25, 2008 by Nickelodeon.[70] Each user is able to create their own character, choose a nation, and to interact with others across the globe.[70][71][72]

Film adaptation

The first season of the show became the basis for the 2010 live-action film The Last Airbender, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It is claimed to be the first movie of a planned trilogy from each of the television 3 seasons. Critical reception was overwhelmingly negative from both critics and fans alike, earning the film a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and five Razzies in 2010. The film originally shared the title of the television series, but it was changed to The Last Airbender because the producers were worried it would be confused with the James Cameron film Avatar. The film version stars Noah Ringer as Aang, Dev Patel as Zuko, Jackson Rathbone as Sokka, and Nicola Peltz as Katara. Iroh is played by Shaun Toub and Fire Lord Ozai by Cliff Curtis.

Spin-off

It was announced at the annual Comic-Con in San Diego on July 22, 2010 that a series based on Avatar: The Last Airbender is currently in development at Nickelodeon and due for release sometime in 2012.[73][74] It will involve Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators and producers of the original series.[75] Tentatively titled The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra (originally titled Avatar: Legend of Korra), it will be a twenty-six episodes[76] mini series that takes place in the same fictional universe as the original show,[74] except seventy years later.[77] It has also been confirmed that the first twelve episodes will be in the first season and the other fourteen in the second season.

The series will focus on Korra, a teenage female protagonist from the Southern Water Tribe and the current reincarnation of the Avatar.[74] The character was partly inspired by Avatar Kyoshi of the original series, whom the creators say was very popular among fans. In order to avoid repetition of Aang's adventures, the creators wanted to root the show in one place, called Republic City. A concept drawing of the city, released with the announcement of the series, shows the city's design as inspired by Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, Hong Kong, Manhattan, and Vancouver. In the show, Korra will have to learn Airbending from master Tenzin, son of Aang and Katara, and contend with an anti-bender revolution taking place in the city.[78]

References

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