Thursday, August 13, 2020

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko Depart Netflix's Live-Action 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Adaptation

Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have announced in separate open letters to fans that they are no longer involved with Netflix's live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation, citing creative differences. The creators left the production in June 2020. Both DiMartino and Konietzko will remain deepy involved in the Avatar universe.

In his open letter, DiMartino said:

"An open letter to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans

Many of you have been asking me for updates about the Avatar live-action Netflix series. I can finally tell you that I am no longer involved with the project. In June of this year, after two years of development work, Bryan Konietzko and I made the difficult decision to leave the production.

When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners. 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.

Look, things happen. Productions are challenging. Unforeseen events arise. Plans have to change. And when those things have happened at other points during my career, I try to be like an Air Nomad and adapt. I do my best to go with the flow, no matter what obstacle is put in my way. But even an Air Nomad knows when it's time to cut their losses and move on.

I started to reevaluate what is truly important in my life and what I wanted to do with what's left of it. I took some advice from Uncle Iroh. I looked inward and started asking myself the big question: "Who are you and what do you want?"

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.

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.

I also want to be clear that this doesn't mean the end of my involvement in the Avatar universe. These stories and characters are important to me and the renewed interest and excitement in Avatar and Korra has been inspiring to see.

Writing this letter has left me with a very heavy heart. I know many of you will be disappointed and frustrated by this news. I get it. I share your disappointment and frustration. I also recognize this creative setback is small compared to the problems we're all facing as a society right now.

Thankfully, Iroh shared some wisdom for that, too: "Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place."

May we all keep moving and come to a better place.

Thanks for reading and for your continued enthusiasm for the Avatar universe.

With gratitude,
Michael Dante DiMartino"

In a separate statement, Konietzko said:

"Before I get to the crux of this statement, I would like to make it clear that I am very aware and appreciate of the fact that I am in an exceedingly fortunate position, and that the following issues are indeed good problems to have - even more so now that we are in the grips of a global pandemic and a cratering economy which have left millions unemployed. With that crucial context, here is the big news from my little world.

Michael DiMartino and I recently chose to leave Netflix's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the series he and I created together in 2002. We will have no involvement in the project moving forward.

This is probably the most difficult decision I have ever made. But there is no doubt in my mind it was absolutely the right choice.

When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago, they made a very public promise to support out vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. Thought I got to work with some great individuals, both on Netflix's side and on our own small production team, the general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and supportive environment.

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.

Though I am profoundly disappointed by how things turned out, there are wonderfully talented people who are still working on the series, some of whom Mike and I personally hired and got to know well during our time on the project. We worked very hard together towards a shared dream of how special this adaptation could be. I want to see them employed, and I hope they get the chance to do their best work on the series. Perhaps the team that remains might still be able to make something fans of the original and an entirely new audience can enjoy.

By and large, I have an incredibly charmed career and I am very grateful for it. And I am enormously lucky for the amazing global community of fans that has grown around the shows Mike and I have created and run together. I will continue to be deeply involved in the Avatar universe, telling the stories my partner and I want to tell in the way we want to tell them. I will put my time, energy, and talents towards the projects that give me the most fulfilment, and where I am afforded trust and respect.

Life is too short to do otherwise.

- Bryan Konietzko"

View this post on Instagram

Well, friends... there you have it. Big sigh. 💔⬇️💔 I’m sure many of you will understandably want to know more and will ask me questions in the comments, here and on subsequent posts and live-streams and in-person encounters and everywhere else ad infinitum. I wish I could explain things in greater detail, but the above statement is really all I can say about the matter so I won’t be answering any of those. I encourage you to head over to my partner Michael DiMartino’s account to get his take on our departure too: @mike_dante_d Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, and I’m sorry our involvement in the live-action project did not work out. Time to get on with my life. Onward and upward. 💙 Love, Bryan #avatarthelastairbender #cocreators #michaeldimatino #bryankonietzko #bryke #atla #liveactionseries #netflix

A post shared by Bryan Konietzko (@bryankonietzko) on

In September 2018, Netflix and the creators of the beloved animated series announced a “retelling” of the Nickelodeon show that promised both to act as a corrective to the reviled, whitewashed M. Night Shyamalan movie and to delve “even deeper into the characters, stories, and world-building” of the original.

Update: An individual with knowledge of the situation told Variety that the project is still moving forward at Netflix with Nickelodeon, Dan Lin, and Lin’s company Rideback still attached.

“We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. “Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation.”

Avatar: The Last Airbender follows the journey of Aang, a 12-year-old boy torn between fulfilling his fate as the long-awaited Avatar, who can master all four elements - Earth, Water, Fire, and Air - and bring balance to the world, and just wanting to be a regular kid.

Launched in February 2005, Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender ran for 61 episodes over three seasons (or "Books") and emerged as one of the most beloved animated properties in history, drawing 5.6 million viewers during its series finale. Created and executive produced by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the series is translated in 32 languages.

The property has translated into a successful ongoing graphic novel series, which includes 25 volumes and counting, continuing the story of the Avatar. A combination of the titles has spent 70 cumulative weeks on the New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller list since 2012. The DVD and Blu-rays are a successful consumer products business, with the Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series generating nearly $5MM since its 2018 release. Additional consumer products include toys and video games.

Its success led to the creation of a follow-up series, The Legend of Korra, that returned to the world of Avatar years after Aang’s death to follow Korra, his successor as Avatar. That series ran between 2012-2014. In 2010, the series got its first feature-length film, the live-action The Last Airbender.

The news comes as Avatar: The Last Airbender, currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, is seeing significant success on Netflix. Re-added to the streamer's programming library in mid-May, it quickly became the most watched title on service, and has since smashed the record for being on Netflix’s daily Top 10 lists the most amount of times in a row. The series is also available in HD on the platform. The follow-up series, The Legend of Korra will also be joining the Netflix library in the U.S. on Friday, August 14!

As of now, fans are left to react with heartbreak over the shocking announcement. At this time, there is no word on where Avatar: The Last Airbender is with development, and netizens hope to get an update on the project before long.

Avatar fans, how are you feeling about Netflix’s live-action project now that DiMartino and Konietzko are gone? Tell me in the comments below.

Originally published: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 18:43 BST.

H/T: Anime Superhero Forum /@SweetShop209; Additional source: Digital Trends, Slate, ComicBook, TVLine.
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