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SDCC2014: The Legend of Korra Panel

This year’s Legend of Korra panel began with show co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino explaining Nickelodeon’s decision to pull Korra from their cable schedule and moving the show exclusively online.  They reassured fans that Korra was definitely NOT canceled but just moving to a different media to reflect changes in the industry.  Nickelodeon noticed that Korra had a larger online presence than what was reflected by its ratings on TV since Book 1 aired.  While TV ratings for Book 2 declined from Book 1‘s, downloads and online streaming for The Legend of Korra increased dramatically.  In fact, the 2-part finale for Book 2 had the largest downloads Nickelodeon had ever seen for any of its shows.  The decision by Nickelodeon to pull it off their cable schedule this week did catch the co-creators by surprise though since no advance notice was given to them about it.

New episodes will premiere online starting Friday, Aug. 1, with new episodes debuting every Friday concluding on Aug. 22, with a 2-part season finale. In terms of production, the team has just finished working on Book 4, which will conclude the series, and they’re currently working on post-production.

After explaining the situation with Nickelodeon, fans then got the chance to watch The Legend of Korra: Book 3 Chapter 8, “The Terror Within,” which was also the last episode to air on TV on the same day as the panel.  Konietzko and DiMartino noted later that watching an episode with a room full of fans is definitely a different experience than watching it alone.

Next, Konietzko and DiMartino asked the panel questions that were posted online from fans for each panel member to answer.  This year’s panel included Janet Varney, the voice of Korra; David Faustino, the voice of Mako; Seychelle Gabriel, the voice of Asami; John Michael Higgins, the voice of Varrick; and Mindy Sterling, the voice of Lin Beifong.  The first question was for Janet Varney about how she felt Korra was doing as the Avatar.  Varney felt that Korra was still on her journey toward becoming the Avatar, and so far, Korra has shown herself to be strong but very human.

The second question was for David Faustino about how he felt about the voice acting process.  Faustino replied that at first, he had only skimmed the script looking for all of Mako’s lines.  As he became a fan of the show, however, he began reading through the entire script.  Faustino said that he had the most fun reading and recording through the script with the rest of the cast whenever that was possible.

The next question was for Seychelle Gabriel about how she felt about Korra and Asami’s friendship.  Gabriel said she was very happy Korra and Asami are now good girl friends without the worry about some guy in between them.  Faustino noted though that there WAS a guy in between them, both in the series and the panel, literally, since he was seated in between Varney and Gabriel!

John Michael Higgins got the next question about what he thought about Varrick’s unique characterization in the Avatar universe.  Before answering the question, Higgins said he thought what he was going to on the day of the panel would be some small press conference with about 5 people in the room total.  He was definitely not expecting the turn out at San Diego!  Higgins said his agent had asked him whether he wanted to be part of the Avatar universe, and he initially had thought he would be bending cars and whatnot all over the place.  Instead, he ended up with a character who was basically a jerk who liked talking too much!  Higgins said he’s been amazed by what he has had to read for Varrick’s lines sometimes.

The final question was for Mindy Sterling about what was her favorite part about playing Lin Beifong and if she has seen parts of herself in the role.  Sterling said it was amazing to play such a powerful, feminine, and direct character.  She loves Lin and wished she were as strong and powerful like her.  Sterling said she already had the feminine part covered though.  Sterling also noted she didn’t think Lin was a mean character, but she was very direct and just wanted to protect everyone.  Sterling said that she, also like Lin, had a lot of old issues that needed dealing with which was also a lot like herself.

Konietzko ended the questions with a request for the entire panel to sing the song, Secret Tunnel, from Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Joining the panel from the audience was Dee Bradley Baker, the voice of Naga, Pabu, and all the other animals for The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The panel along with the audience performed Secret Tunnel via karoke on the TV screens, so it was a bit difficult to hear just the voice cast singing.  Afterward, Baker said he thought the Secret Tunnel singer was a cool guy.

After the sing-a-long, fans were treated to preliminary model sheets drawn for Zaheer and his gang along with Suyin Beifong’s family.  Also, short clips of animated fight sequences with just the pencil drawings were shown alongside the finished sequences showing the work it took to draw the movements of the characters and special effects.

The panel ended on a melancholy note since Konietzko and DiMartino think this was probably their very last The Legend of Korra panel for San Diego since the show will end next year.  They and the rest of the panel thanked all the fans for their love and strong support for the series over the years.  Just before the room exited, they showed a very short preview of scenes from future episodes of Korra.  Most of the scenes were silly, but the ones shown at the end were quite dramatic.  We’ll just have to watch and see what happens to Team Korra!

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