Avatar: The Last Airbender creators cut ties with Netflix adaptation
Co-creators say they left the adaptation due to lack of creative control
Co-creators of the popular cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender have cut ties with Netflix and are no longer involved with the streaming giant's planned live-action adaptation of the series.
Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who produced the original show through Nickelodeon Animation Studios, each announced their departure on Wednesday morning — Konietzko in an Instagram post, and DiMartino through an open letter on his website.
"Many of you have been asking me for updates about the Avatar live-action Netflix series," DiMartino wrote. "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."
In the letter, DiMartino said that he and Konietzko signed on to the project in 2018 as executive producers and showrunners, though said they were not given the freedom to guide the show as they saw fit. Konietzko echoed that statement, saying that — though Netflix promised to support their vision — "there was no follow-through on that promise."
"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 to CBC. "Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation."
Avatar has seen a resurgence in popularity since joining Netflix's roster earlier this year. The show, which originally premiered in 2005, takes place in a world where certain people have the ability to manipulate the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. It has for months been among Netflix's top 10 most-watched shows, and has spawned a wave of social media posts discussing, and lauding the fifteen-year-old series.
Netflix announced its intent to produce a live action-adaptation in 2018, with production initially planned to begin in 2019. That was then moved to 2020, though COVID-19 restrictions have pushed the timeline back indefinitely. Jeremy Zuckerman, who scored both the original series and its sequel The Legend of Korra stated he will be returning to compose music for the new show, while Konietzko had previously said he was hoping to involve Dante Basco, who voiced the show's antagonist, Zuko.
The Netflix adaptation would be the show's second live-action remake, following M. Night Shyamalan's widely-panned 2010 version.
In their original press statement discussing their roles in Netflix's new series, DiMartino and Konietzko had said they would have "a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast," something Shyamalan's version was originally derided for. And while they will no longer be involved in the show's creation, both spoke of the new show's potential.
"Netflix's live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good," DiMartino wrote. "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."