Following several big-budget live-action adaptations, Netflix is now about to take a stab at Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Enthusiasm is high for the streamer's take on the hit Airbender animated series, especially given its recent success working on its smash-hit One Piece series.
This is not the first time Avatar will make the jump to live-action after previously being made into an M. Night Shamalayan big-screen blockbuster.
Fans hope the Netflix series will fare better than the film adaptation, as the movie is widely considered one of the most critically maligned movies of all time (currently sitting at 5% on Rotten Tomatoes).
Here is everything we know about the upcoming Avatar: The Last Airbender show:
When Will Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Release?
Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender series is currently set to hit the streamer sometime in 2024.
This comes after more than a half-decade of development, with Netflix first officially announcing its "reimaging" of the beloved animated series back in 2018.
The series was revealed as a part of an effort from Avatar rightsholders Nickelodeon and Viacom to "tap into [the] enormous library of culturally resonant properties to produce new interpretations" (per The Hollywood Reporter):
“This partnership with Netflix is part of our broader efforts at Nick and Viacom to tap into our enormous library of culturally resonant properties to produce new interpretations, and we can’t wait for people to see Netflix’s live-action version of 'Avatar.'”
At the time, the project was set to go into production in 2019, but it was pushed back due to a bumpy ride in its development.
Filming finally commenced in November 2021 in Vancouver, Canada, wrapping seven months later in June 2022, as reported by Collider.
According to Avatar insider AvatarNews, Netflix's take on the hit series will arrive in "February 2024," but nothing has been confirmed by the streaming giant.
The title was initially expected to come out sometime in summer 2023 but was reportedly delayed to sometime in Q1 2024, which a February release falls into perfectly.
Who Is Cast in the Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Show?
Avatar: The Last Airbender features a stacked cast of young talent, rounded out with some familiar faces from across Hollywood.
Coming off the controversial 'white-washing' of the M. Night Shamalayan Avatar films, it was revealed in a January 2019 statement by The Last Airbender co-creator and former showrunner of the live-action show Bryan Konietzko that the Netflix series was committed to "culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed casting:"
"We greatly appreciate your interest and enthusiasm, but we are not yet at that stage in the production.
There will be an OPEN CASTING CALL, likely sometime later this year. When that happens, we will publicly share the information for how to *officially* apply.
Until then, please refrain from tagging, commenting, DMing, etc. your auditions — I don’t check that stuff and no one else at Netflix does either. We’re not casting via social media and I don’t want anyone wasting their time and energy. Put it towards working on your audition instead. Good luck!
Current Airbender showrunner Albert Kim reiterated this in a blog post on Netflix's official blog, sharing his hopes to "establish a new benchmark in representation" with the series:
“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.”
Ahead is a look at the cast for Netflix's live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series:
Gordon Cormier - Aang
Canadian actor Gordon Cormier will take on the role of the titular last airbender, Aang, in Netflix's reinterpretation of the fan-favorite animated series. Aang is a free-spirited 12-year-old who is found entombed in ice after hundreds of years. After realizing he is the last of his kind, Aang realizes he needs to bring peace to the land and end the war with the Fire Nation as the next Avatar (an individual who can harness the power of air, fire, earth, and water).
Ian Ousley - Sokka
Joining Aang on his mission for peace is Sokka (played by Ian Ousley). Sokka is the 16-year-old brother of Katara, who has to take care of his sister after their father heads off to war. The young teen does not have any bending abilities, but he makes up for it with his enterprising intelligence and resourcefulness.
Kiawentiio - Katara
The younger sister of Ian Ousley's Sokka is the 14-year-old waterbender Katara. Early in the series, it is Katara who finds Aang frozen in ice, freeing him from his frozen tomb. This starts the central journey of the show, as the trio of Aang, Katara, and Sokka fight to bring peace to the land. On their journey, she also becomes somewhat of a protege to Aang, as he teaches her to harness her abilities.
Dallas Liu - Prince Zuko
Serving as the central antagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender is Dallas Liu's Prince Zuko. Zuko is the teenage heir to the Fire Nation throne hellbent on capturing the Avatar, thus bringing an end to the only real threat the Fire Nation has faced in years. Like many of the people he rules over, Zuko can wield the power of fire with his firebending abilities.
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee - Uncle Iroh
Kim's Convenience and The Mandalorian star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee plays Netflix's version of the secondary Airbender antagonist Uncle Iroh. The brother of Fire Lord Ozai, Iroh is a retired Fire Nation general who has become the mentor of his nephew, Prince Zuko.
The rest of the Avatar cast can be seen below:
- Ken Leung - Commander Zhao
- Maria Zhang - Suki
- Tamlyn Tomita - Yukari
- Elizabeth Yu - Azula
- Daniel Dae Kim - Fire Lord Ozai
- Yvonne Chapman - Kyoshi
- Casey Camp-Horinek - Gran Gran
- Ruy Iskandar - Lieutenant Jee
- Kay Siu Lim - Gyatso
- C.S. Lee - Avatar Roku
- Amber Midthunder - Princess Yue
- A Martinez - Master Pakku
- Irene Bedard - Yagoda
- Joel Oulette - Hahn
- Nathaniel Arcand - Chief Arnook
- Meegwun Fairbrother - Avatar Kuruk
- Arden Cho - June
- Utkarsh Ambudkar - King Bumi
- Danny Pudi - The Mechanist
- Lucian-River Chauhan - Teo
- James Sie - Cabbage Merchant
- Momona Tamada - Ty Lee
- Thalia Tran - Mai
- Hiro Kanagawa - Fire Lord Sozin
- François Chau - The Great Sage
- Ryan Mah - Lt. Dang
- George Takei - Koh (Voice Only)
- Randall Duk Kim - Wan Shi Tong (Voice Only)
What Is the Live-Action Avatar: The Last Airbender About?
While plot specifics for Netflix's The Last Airbender series have not yet been confirmed, one can imagine the live-action reinterpretation will closely follow the animated source material.
Star of the series Gordon Cormier previously told Netflix that he thinks the series "is going to bring everything you know and love about the original series back to life," further hinting at the live-action show sticking to the story of the original series:
“'Avatar: The Last Airbender' live action I feel like is going to bring everything you know and love about the original series back to life. And hopefully [it will] just bring a bunch of new fans who have never heard [of] the show before into this universe, and to me that’s pretty exciting. I’m a fan of the show personally, and I’m just excited for this as you guys are.”
That means the show will tell the story of Aang, the last airbender and latest Avatar, who - along with some friends - goes on a journey across a fictitious Asiatic nation to bring peace and end the rule of the tyrannical Fire Nation.
Of course, all that will be complemented by the series' signature bending of elements where people possess the power to wield air, water, earth, or fire as a weapon.
Are the Original Avatar: The Last Airbender Creators Involved in the Live-Action Show?
While Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were initially announced as being a part of Netflix's live-action reimagining of the series, the pair are no longer involved.
After more than two years of development, DiMartino and Konietzko departed the project in June 2020, citing creative differences.
In a statement released on DiMartino's personal blog, the former showrunner said that he could not move forward with the live-action series as "[he] realized he couldn't control the creative direction of the series:"
"I also sought wisdom from stoic philosophers who were big on differentiating between what is within our control and what isn’t. 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."
Konietzko elaborated in a post on his Instagram, pointing to a "negative and unsupportive environment" working with Netflix on the title:
"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. 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."
Despite departing, the duo will still receive writing credits on the first and sixth episodes of the series.
Following DiMartino and Konietzko parting ways with Netflix, it was announced that Sleepy Hollow showrunner Albert Kim had been brought on as writer, producer, and showrunner of Netflix's Avatar series (via Observer).
The original series creators have since gone on to sign a new deal with Paramount, establishing an animation studio and a renewed effort to "develop [the] franchise and its storytelling on a vast scale:"
"And with this new Avatar Studios venture we have an unparalleled opportunity to develop our franchise and its storytelling on a vast scale, in myriad exciting ways and mediums. We are exceedingly grateful to Brian Robbins and Ramsey Naito for their enthusiasm and respect for the Avatar property and us as its stewards.
The pair harkened back to their split with Netflix, complimenting Paramount and Nickelodeon on creating a "positive, proactive environment" for its creatives:
From the start, they’ve supported our ambitious plans and created a positive, proactive environment for us. We’re excited to be back at Nickelodeon where 'Avatar' began, doing what we do best in the biggest way possible. We can’t wait to build the great teams and productions to make all of this fantasy a reality,”
Is Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Trailer Out Yet?
An official trailer for Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender series has not been released, but a short first look has made its way out to fans.
Revealed as a part of the streaming giant's Tudum 2023 festivities, this early tease, featured short glimpses at logos for the series' four nations and nothing more.
Seeing as Netflix traditionally likes to hold its cards close to this chest when it comes to trailers, it still could be quite some time before the first Avatar trailer officially debuts.
For comparison, the streamer released the first trailer for its live-action One Piece series roughly two months before the show hit the platform.
So, if The Last Airbender were to hit that reported February 2024 release date, then fans should expect a first look at the series to come sometime in December 2023 (two months out).
The live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender show is expected to release some time in 2024.