Avatar: The Last Airbender is coming back in a big way, after ViacomCBS announced that original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino were returning to Nickelodeon to helm the new Avatar Studios. That team will be creating a range of new animated content in the universe of Avatar and The Legend of Korra, including new TV series and feature-length movies. Some of those will inevitably be entirely new stories, but others will likely adapt and expand on existing stories from the Avatar world.
Between Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, and the various spinoff novels and comics, there’s plenty of material already in the franchise canon that could be ripe for expansion. Konietzko and DiMartino have expressed interest in exploring new, untapped eras of the Avatar universe, which could yield exciting and entirely original stories. However, the current canon also has plenty to flesh out, from written stories that could be brought to full animation, to minor characters who fans have always wanted to see more from.
With luck, all those stories and more will eventually come out from the new Avatar studios. During the early days, however, there are a few particular pieces of lore and past publications that could make for excellent animated content. Here are some of the best stories Avatar Studios could adapt for its new TV series and films.
Let’s start with the most obvious choice – new stories from the original Avatar: The Last Airbender crew, all grown up. Aang, Zuko, Katara, Sokka, and Toph all appeared in one form or another during The Legend of Korra, generally with new adult voice actors for flashback scenes and older versions of the characters. The Avatar fan base has wanted more stories about the grown-up Gaang for years, and now Avatar Studios can finally deliver. Creating new content set directly after season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender would be tricky, as several of the characters would need to be recast and many of the events following the war have already been shown in the comics. By jumping a bit further into the future, however, and potentially using flashbacks to show important moments from the comics, the franchise could go in a number of different directions.
It’s been announced that the first project from Avatar Studios will be an animated theatrical film, set to begin production later in 2021. If it’s truly aiming for a theatrical release – or at the very least, a high-budget streaming release – that film will most likely focus on the original Team Avatar characters as adults. It’s a perfect opportunity to get the whole fan base excited, show the potential of the new studio, and kickoff the future of Avatar content.
As for specific stories, the possibilities with a grown-up Gaang are numerous. Aang’s Avatar career focused largely on the aftermath of the war and the early days of Republic City, which he was responsible for in many ways. Korra gave glimpses at some of the other threats he and his friends faced, but there are certainly more stories that could be created from scratch. It would be fun to learn what happened to Avatar characters like Suki and Mai, or to see young versions of Korra leads like Tenzin and Lin. A film starring Aang, Zuko, Katara, Sokka, and Toph as adults could effectively tie Korra and Avatar together, while also giving an explanation for recasting roles. Just as long as Dante Basco returns to voice Zuko, of course.
Since the end of The Legend of Korra, Avatar has expanded into novels and comics with notable success. The recent book series about Avatar Kyoshi, which began with The Rise of Kyoshi in 2019 and continued with The Shadow of Kyoshi in 2020, has been particularly popular, with both novels quickly becoming New York Times bestsellers. Kyoshi is a beloved character despite having a very small role in the shows, and she’d be the perfect subject for new material from Avatar Studios.
Since the beginning of Kyoshi’s Avatar journey has already been told in the novels, her story seems best suited to a mid-life animated series. Flashbacks could explain her origin for those unfamiliar with the books, pulling from the existing stories and adding new ones. Kyoshi lived for a whopping 230 years, stopped tyrannical dictators and civil wars, created islands by breaking landmasses into pieces, and was also casually one of the most physically imposing Avatars ever. There’s so much material from her life that’s just waiting to be told, and now it finally can be.
While the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics present numerous difficulties for adaptation (primarily tied to how many there are and the availability of the original voice cast), the comics set after The Legend of Korra might make more sense. For starters, there are fewer of them, leaving a lot unknown about the events following season 4. Secondly, Korra ended with some unfortunate ambiguity, particularly for Korra and Asami’s relationship. Due to restrictions from Nickelodeon, the romance plotline between the two women wasn’t allowed to be confirmed on screen, though it was explored fully in the comics. Budget cuts during Korra’s final season also led to a conclusion that some saw as rushed, leaving lots of exciting material to explore if it were returned to.
Since most of the main characters in The Legend of Korra were adults when the show ended, a large portion of the voice cast could also easily return. Of course, that could present its own set of unique challenges. Despite the Avatar universe being largely inspired by east Asian cultures and mythologies, the voice cast of both cartoons was almost entirely white. That unfortunately wasn’t uncommon even when Korra was being produced, but the world of animation has thankfully started prioritizing racially appropriate voice actors more in recent years. Hopefully the new Avatar Studios can address the franchise’s past lack of voice cast diversity as new content begins to be developed.
The Legend of Korra season 2 introduced the very first Avatar in a lauded two-part special titled “Beginnings.” Steven Yeun voiced Avatar Wan, who fused with the light spirit Raava to wield all four elements and bridge the physical world and the Spirit World. Wan’s death is shown on screen, but the majority of his life as the first Avatar is uncharted territory. If Avatar Studios could bring Yeun back, a full film or miniseries for Avatar Wan could be a great addition to the franchise.
Not only is Wan one of the most popular known Avatars among fans, his life is also set during one of the most pivotal points in time in the entire Avatar universe. “Beginnings” was a hit largely because of the insight it gave into the spirits, the Spirit World, the lion turtles, bending, and other pieces of Avatar lore. Creating more content centered around Wan would give fans new stories for an already popular character, while also building out the Avatar: The Last Airbender mythos in meaningful ways.
One of the most requested projects from Avatar fans (after the grown-up Gaang of course) has always been short-form content exploring different past Avatars. Since Avatar Studios has declared its intentions to produce new material of different types and lengths, that could be a great fit. Whether it would be an American Horror Story structure focusing on a different Avatar each season, a series of one-shot episodes showing different Avatars, or something else entirely, an anthology model of some sort would be perfect to flesh out unseen eras of the Avatar universe.
Previously known Avatars like Yangchen or Kuruk could appear, but there would also be huge potential to create a whole range of canonical Avatar’s of different identities and backgrounds. With so many places and time periods of the franchise untapped, an anthology structure would provide varied content that could all be connected through the reincarnation cycle and relationships between past lives. Whatever Avatar Studios decides to produce first, the future of Avatar: The Last Airbender looks very, very bright.