Nickelodeons new Asian-inspired Nicktoons series, AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, premieres with a one-hour special on Feb. 21, 2005 at 7:00 pm, featuring Aang (Zachery Tyler), a fun-loving 12-year-old who must forgo a normal life as the Avatar in order to master his latent powers over the four elements to restore world order. Following the special broadcast, the Avatar series will air in its regular time period, Fridays at 8:00 pm.
Creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino conjured up their own anime-influenced adventure, sneak pre-viewed at Comic-Con in July 2004, rich with myths, colorful settings, graphic art, reverence for Asian culture and a western comedic sense for kids.
In this epic, the world is divided into four nations: Water, Earth, Air and Fire. Within each nation is an order of masters possessing the ability to manipulate their native element who call themselves Waterbenders, Earthbenders, Airbenders and Firebenders. The most powerful bender in the world, and the only one who can master all four elements, is the Avatar a reincarnated being that is born into each nation in a cycle.
Aang, the long-awaited Avatar, is called upon to lead the fight against the vicious Fire Nation to restore balance in his war-torn world. Aided by his flying white bison, a protective teenage Waterbender named Katara (Mae Whitman) and her bull-headed warrior brother Sokka (Jack DeSena), Aang proceeds on a perilous journey to save the world while sometimes shaking off his heavy responsibilities so that he can enjoy being a kid.
In the hour-long series premiere titled, The Avatar Returns, Katara and Sokka discover and free Aang from a cavernous iceberg where he had been trapped for 100 years. Prince Zuko (Dante Basco), a teenage Firebender bent on capturing the Avatar, attacks the Water Tribe village where Katara had been restoring Aang from his deep freeze. Aang must face his destiny as he fights Prince Zuko to ensure the Water Tribes safety as well as protecting his own life. Katara and Sokka help in the fight and set off to visit tribes in distant places to help Aang master his powers for the ultimate struggle and catch a few moments of play along the way.
The art design has its heavy anime influence and the color palette is not your typical bright Nick colors. Some of the critter designs are quite original, including penguins with weal-like whiskers. The action is often done time-lapse frozen frame one often sees in anime and the pacing seems a bit slow.
In conjunction with the series premiere, Nick.com recently launched its biggest online game to date. In AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, AUTUMN TWILIGHT, kids will be able to explore a 3D world with a character theyve created, unlocking new abilities and increasing various skills as they progress through the game. This is the first role-playing game on Nick.com.
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, is a truly unique comic adventure with rich animation and incredible martial-arts choreography, said Marjorie Cohn, evp, development and original programming, Nickelodeon. Creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino designed a fantastical Asian world with compelling characters and interesting creatures that will capture kids imaginations and spirit.
DiMartino and Konietzko serve as exec producers of the series produced at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California. An award-winning filmmaker, DiMartino has been a director at Film Roman for six years, working on the primetime animated series KING OF THE HILL, FAMILY GUY AND MISSION HILL. He animated and directed the animated short, ATOMIC LOVE, which has gone on to screen at many festivals including Sundance and the Los Angeles Film Festival. It also recently aired as part of the NICKTOONS FILM FESTIVAL on the Nicktoons Channel.
Konietzko began his career in animation as a character designer at Film Roman on FAMILY GUY. He was assistant director for two more Film Roman shows, MISSION HILL and KING OF THE HILL, working beside animation director DiMartino. Konietzko then became a storyboard artist and later an art director for the Nickelodeons INVADER ZIM.
Konietzko handles the art direction & original character design. Background design and color is by Will Weston, prop design is by Paul Briggs and color stylist is Hye-Jung Kim. Producer/story editor is Aaron Ehasz while line producer is Miken Wong. Animation directors are David Filoni, Anthony Lioi, Lauren MacMulland and Giancarlo Volpe.
Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Assoc. provides martial arts consultation, Edwin Zane is a cultural consultant and Siu-Leung Lee, PhD., advises on Chinese calligraphy & translation.
Voice direction is by Andrea Romano plus additional voices are Dee Bradley Baker (Appa), Make (Uncle) and Melendy Britt (Gran Gran).
DiMartino and Konietzko did the main title design which is animated by Andy Dill at Titmouse Inc.
Supervising picture editor is Jeff Adams, director of post-production is Jason Stiff and Lisa Yang is post-production supervisor. Encore Video provides post-production services while Salami Studios does post production sound services. Music and sound design by Ben Wynn and Jeremy Zuckerman from The Track Team.
Animation production services are provided by JM Animation Co. Ltd. with Joung Mee as production executive. Eric Coleman and Jenna Luttrell are execs in charge for Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon, which now enters its 26th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books, magazines and feature films. Nickelodeons U.S. television network is seen in 88 million households.