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NYCC 2008: "Avatar" Full Panel Report

(NOTE: This panel report will present the events out of order to move spoilers for the end of season 3 to the bottom.)

The Avatar Panel audience
The frighteningly large audience for the Avatar panel

A completely packed conference room at the New York Comic Con welcomed Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, co-creators of Nickeloden’s hit show Avatar the Last Airbender. Unfortunately some pretty serious technical difficulties welcomed the pair as well, since the panel was delayed by almost a half-hour because the Javits Center A/V staff couldn’t get Nickelodeon’s computers to project onto the screen. At one point the panel moderator, Nickelodeon’s Megan Casey, joked, “Oh, come on Avatar fans…you love waiting, don’t you?”

Once the difficulties were worked around, Casey introduced the pair to the audience’s thunderous applause, and said that because of the fans, Avatar is one of Nickelodeon’s top shows and one of their top-selling DVDs. She also promised that the Book 3 finale will be worth the wait before turning the panel over to DiMartino and Konietzko.

The pair showed the trailer for the second half of Book 3, which drew numerous gasps and squeals from the audience at the sight of Aang Firebending, assorted pairings between members of the cast, and several returning fan-favorite characters who haven’t been seen in some time. The trailer ended with the words, “The Journey Concludes July 2008,” at which time all remaining new episodes of Avatar will air. Privately, a Nickelodeon PR representative confirmed that the release date for the third DVD of the season will not change from May 6, 2008, meaning that several episodes of the show will be available on DVD well before they air on television.

Konietzko pointed out that this Tuesday will be the 6th year anniversary of when they pitched Avatar to Nickelodeon, and said that there was about 2 weeks worth of work to finish off the season. He jumped into a PowerPoint presentation showing character designs, new hybrid animals, and background artwork that will appear on the show soon, along with special artwork of Aang and Zuko covered in green slime to commemorate Avatar’s win at the Kid’s Choice Awards.

Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, co-creators of Avatar

The first question from the audience revealed that there is no “Air” book, and that the entire series was always designed to be a trilogy. They also stated that the Avatar world is still ripe for exploration, and that even though the story is ending, there are still tales that the two want to tell in the Avatar world. As a result, there may be some questions left unanswered (such as some information about Uncle Iroh’s past), but that they’re not done with the world yet.

One fan asked jokingly why Canada gets new episodes before the US did, to which DiMartino could only respond, “We’d like to know more about that ourselves.” Unfortunately, many other questions about upcoming events were answered with a cryptic “just wait and watch.” One more viewing of the trailer closed out the panel.

The consensus among Avatar fans is that July can’t come fast enough. Don’t forget to check out our interview with Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

SPOILER SECTION FOLLOWS
Several scenes in the season 3 trailer revealed returning characters, such as Suki, the Kyoshi Warrior and potential romantic interest for Sokka, and the mysterious bounty hunter Jun. As expected, Zuko begins to teach Aang the art of Firebending. The trailer seemed to take great glee in tweaking the Avatar “shippers,” showing one scene each suggesting romantic entanglements between Aang, Katara, and Zuko. The trailer should be made available on-line shortly.

While displaying the artwork during the panel, Konietzko and DiMartino revealed character designs for young Sokka and Katara, adding that there will be an episode coming up depicting what happened to their mother. DiMartino described it as “one of the most intense episodes that they’ve done yet,” and that it would be followed by an episode set in the Fire Nation, which he said was “one of the funniest episodes we’ve ever done.” Other upcoming episodes include the sights of the Western Air Temple, where the pagodas were built upside-down; an “origin of Firebending” episode, with characters and architecture that seem like a cross between Aztec and aboriginal Cambodian peoples; and one action-based episode set in a fearsome Fire Nation prison.

The topic of the live-action movie adaptation came up, and the duo mentioned that they were working very closely with director M. Night Shyamalan to design the look of the movies. A slide labeled, “Live-Action Concept Designs” soon gave way to a succession of some hilariously ugly designs. The pair eventually revealed that the designs were actually from “The Ember Island Players,” the episode just prior to the four-part finale and the episode DiMartino referred to as the funniest they had ever done. It will be their version of a “clip show,” as Aang and his friends go to a stage production that sums up their journey, only find that the world’s perception of them may not quite gel with reality (or, in some cases, may gel too well with reality). According to DiMartino, the story was proposed but scuttled, as they said, “That’s a hilarious idea, but we’re never going to do that.” Fortunately, they changed their minds, as the video clip from the episode drew enormous laughter from the crowd.

The remaining video clips/animatics included a scene from “The Western Air Temple,” where Zuko practices his speech to try and join the Avatar, and another from an unnamed episode where Sokka finds Suki in a Fire Nation Prison and begins the jailbreak that will free her. Clips from “The Ember Island Players” show Suki in a Fire Nation disguise, suggesting that she remains with the group after the prison break.

(Return to Toon Zone’s New York Comic Con 2008 Complete Coverage)

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