Friday, December 31, 2021

How Uncle Iroh Could Have Been Completely Different In 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'

Avatar: The Last Airbender bid Nickelodeon viewers farewell in July of 2008 after just three seasons, but its legacy endures all these years later. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the series became a hit shortly after its 2005 debut, and any number of factors can take responsibility for its resounding success. Perhaps the smooth animation style and creative aesthetic drew viewers in, or maybe the talented voice cast and unique story worked in tandem to keep fans coming back for more. Of course, there's also a case to be made for the very existence of Uncle Iroh alone.

A former figurehead of the Fire Nation and uncle to the hot-tempered Prince Zuko (Dante Basco), Iroh became a fan-favorite in short order. For much of his run on the program, he's laid-back, wise, and often humorous, making him the perfect foil to the impulsive, inexperienced, vengeful Zuko. When he wasn't advising his nephew during their quest to capture Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), he happily warmed up a pot of tea and sat down for a round of Pai Sho. The late Mako and his successor, Greg Baldwin, always brought their A-game when recording his dialog and made us all forget that Iroh was just a cartoon character.

Iroh is so beloved because he presents himself as a loving, easy-going old man who simply wants the best for his family and all of those he encounters. However, did you know that he almost adopted a very different personality?

Though he continually presents himself as a calm, happy pacifist, once upon a time, Uncle Iroh lived a much different life. When Zuko was merely a child, Iroh commanded great armies of the Fire Nation and was even next in line to the throne once his father, Lord Azulon (Walter Edmiston), passed away. He rarely brings up his past in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but had the original plans for the character made it to the small screen, his military background and the cold demeanor it created would have been front-and-center well into his retirement years.

"I think we had more of a harsh character idea for him. More of a strict kind of kung-fu sifu guy," revealed Bryan Konietzko in a 2008 interview with Toon Zone News, giving head writer Aaron Ehasz and Mako credit for reshaping Iroh into the character we know him as today. "He used to be that really hardcore general and military guy, and now he's sort of in his golden years...I think that Aaron wrote really well for Iroh. And with Mako, you know, it just made him such a lovable character."

With his brother, Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill), Princess Azula (Grey Griffin), and, of course, Zuko, all defined by their stern, angry personalities, making Uncle Iroh the total opposite of his family was certainly the right move. It allowed him to not only turn his nephew away from the generation curses that befell his relatives but become one of the most popular characters ever to appear on Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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Original source: Looper.

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