Uh-oh, another live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender might be in trouble. In 2018, Netflix and the creators of the beloved animated series announced a “retelling” of the Nickelodeon show that promised both to act as a corrective to the reviled, whitewashed M. Night Shyamalan movie and to delve “even deeper into the characters, stories, and world-building” of the original. But in an open letter to fans on Wednesday, co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino wrote that he and Bryan Konietzko “made the difficult decision to leave the production” in June after working on developing the series for two years.
In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.
I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded. So, I chose to leave the project. It was the hardest professional decision I’ve ever had to make, and certainly not one that I took lightly, but it was necessary for my happiness and creative integrity.
And who knows? Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good. 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.
DiMartino clarified that the decision does not mean he and Konietzko are leaving the world of Avatar behind. In a similar statement, Konietzko wrote that while he supports some of the people who remain on the project, Netflix’s overall handling created a “negative and unsupportive environment.”
In its own statement, Netflix said: “We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series. Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation.” The project does not yet have a release date. The news of DiMartino and Konietzko’s departure comes as Avatar: The Legend of Korra is scheduled to arrive on Netflix on Aug. 14. The original Avatar: The Last Airbender became available to stream on Netflix in May and had a record-setting run in the streamer’s Top 10.
Update, Aug. 12, 2020: This post has been updated with Netflix’s statement.