In a surprising turn of events, it seems we will soon be having competing Avatar: The Last Airbender projects. The critically acclaimed, widely beloved animated series aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon and led to a whole franchise of spin-offs and reimaginings, but it has been a while since we got anything new from it. According to Variety, Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation are jointly working on three animated films set in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Meanwhile, Netflix has been working on its own Avatar series since 2018: a live-action remake of the show.
While there are few details of the stories of these new Avatar: The Last Airbender movies from Paramount and Nickelodeon, they apparently will be standalone films and not necessarily a connected trilogy. Lauren Montgomery will direct at least the first installment of the films; Montgomery worked on the third season of the original show and was a producer and storyboard artist for The Legend of Korra, the animated sequel series. The Paramount/Nickelodeon productions also have a major get with the involvement of Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino as producers. Paramount and Nickelodeon have also set up a division called Avatar Studios specifically to develop more content based on the franchise, so it is all but certain we will be getting a whole lot more on the way.
Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino were initially attached to work on the Netflix live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender remake, as was original series composer Jeremy Zuckerman. The announcement of the series creators returning for a long-awaited live-action remake spurred much excitement in the fanbase, which made it all the more disappointing when Konietzko and DiMartino revealed via social media that they had left the project over the ever-useful and vague “creative disagreements.” Netflix soldiered on with the Avatar: The Last Airbender remake, announcing that Albert Kim had been brought on as showrunner.
It does seem like there will be a plentitude of Avatar: The Last Airbender content coming out in the near future, but perhaps more than most franchises, fans of the series know to be cautious. After the initial excitement, Avatar fans were greatly disappointed by the 2010 live-action film adaptation, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan to widespread critical derision. It currently holds a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and has become shorthand for a certain kind of poorly adapted, whitewashed film.
However, it is likely that both the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action remake from Netflix and the new animated films from Paramount/Nickelodeon will be able to avoid some of the mistakes of the 2010 film. Fans will no doubt be excited for some of the first new on-screen content from the franchise since the conclusion of The Legend of Korra in 2014, and a little competition between platforms may even drive them both to greater heights. At the very least, it would be nice for Avatar fans to forget M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender for a while. As would he, probably.