Albert Kim, the showrunner of the upcoming live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series on Netflix, recently penned an article detailing why he decided to adapt the show to live action and promised that the show will be authentic to the original animated series.
Sharing his thoughts on Netflix’s website, Kim first detailed that he didn’t feel like he had anything to add to Avatar with a live-action remake.
He explained, “Netflix offers me the opportunity to develop a live-action remake of Avatar. My first thought was, “Why? What is there I could do or say with the story that wasn’t done or said in the original?” A:TLA had only grown in popularity and acclaim over the last decade and a half, which is a testament to how complete and resonant a narrative experience it had been. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
However, he is indeed doing a live-action adaptation so he listed off the reasons why he’s doing it.
Kim stated, “But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. VFX technology has advanced to the point where a live-action version can not only faithfully translate what had been done in animation — it can bring a rich new visual dimension to a fantastic world. We’ll be able to see bending in a real and visceral way we’ve never seen before.”
He then asserted, “Also, Netflix’s format meant we had an opportunity to reimagine a story that had originally been told in self-contained half-hour episodes as an ongoing serialized narrative. That meant story points and emotional arcs we’d loved in the original could be given even more room to breathe and grow. ”
“Finally, a live-action version would establish a new benchmark in representation and bring in a whole new generation of fans. This was a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people. Not just in a cartoon, but in a world that truly exists, very similar to the one we live in,” he declared.
Kim would then declare that he has no intentions of changing things from the animated series to the live-action show “for the sake of change.”
He specifically stated, “I didn’t want to modernize the story, or twist it to fit current trends. Aang is not going to be a gritty antihero. Katara is not going to get curtain bangs. (I was briefly tempted to give Sokka a TikTok account though. Think of the possibilities.)”
However, just after writing that he also noted, “Don’t get me wrong. We’ll be expanding and growing the world, and there will be surprises for existing fans and those new to the tale.”
Kim then detailed the goal of the show is to be authentic, “But throughout this process, our byword has been “authenticity.” To the story. To the characters. To the cultural influences.”
“Authenticity is what keeps us going, both in front of the camera and behind it, which is why we’ve assembled a team unlike any seen before—a group of talented and passionate artists who are working around the clock to bring this rich and incredibly beautiful world to life,” he concluded.
Interestingly enough the original creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koneitzko exited the project back in August 2020.
In a letter explaining his exit, DiMartino wrote, “In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”
He further elaborated, “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.”
“And who knows? 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 asserted.
Konietzko issued his own explanation on Instagram writing, “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.”
He added, “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.”
Countering Kim’s most recent claims, Konietzko stated, “To be clear, this was not a simple matter of us not getting our way. Mike and I are collaborative people; we did not need all of 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.”
“However, we ultimately came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series,” he posited.
Avatar: The Last Airbender will star Gordon Cormier as Aang, Kiawentiio is Katara, Ian Ousley will play Sokka, and Dalls Liu will play Zuko.
Kim is not only the showrunner, but he is an executive producer and writer as well. Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore and Michael Goi are also executive producers. The show will be directed by Michael Goi, Roseanne Liang, and Jabbar Raisiani.
Netflix echoed Kim’s statements declaring, “The series will be an authentic adaptation of the award-winning and beloved Nickelodeon animated series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER reimagined as a live-action adventure.”
What do you make of Kim’s comments regarding the show’s authenticity and how they contrast with the statements given by the show’s original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koneitzko?