“Avatar: The Last Airbender” creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino spent two years developing a live-action adaptation of the animated classic for Netflix before they shocked fans by announcing their exit from the project due to creative differences. The decision left Albert Kim, best known as a writer on “Pantheon” and an executive producer on “Sleepy Hollow,” as the live-action series’ showrunner without the support of the franchise’s original visionaries. He recently told Entertainment Weekly that it was “absolutely” daunting to stick with the show without them.
“You’d have to be an idiot not to be intimidated a little bit,” Kim said. “My first reaction after ‘Hell yeah!’ was ‘Holy shit! Do I really want to do this? Is there a way to improve upon the original?’ Whenever you tackle something that’s already beloved by millions of fans, you have to ask yourself those questions.”
When Konietzko and DiMartino left the live-action show, they published an open letter explaining their decision in which DiMartino said they “couldn’t control the creative direction of the series.”
“When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners,” 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.”
DiMartino called exiting the project “the hardest professional decision I’ve ever had to make,” adding: “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.”
Konietzko and DiMartino have since gone on to lead Avatar Studios, where they are developing various new animated “Avatar” projects. An animated feature film is set for release in 2025.
In his Entertainment Weekly interview, Kim said “all of our writers are also fans of the original, so they drew upon their own personal experiences and the things that they love the best” while developing Netflix’s live-action adaptation.
“We don’t start the show the way the animated series starts,” Kim added. “That was a conscious decision to show people this is not the animated series. We had to sometimes unravel storylines and remix them in a new way to make sense for a serialized drama. So I’m very curious to see what’ll happen in terms of reaction to that.”
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is set to stream Feb. 22 on Netflix.