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Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender have been feverishly looking forward to this weekend: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko continue the mythology of their Airbender series with Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, which premieres Saturday at 11 a.m.
The new series picks up 70 years after the events of The Last Airbender with 17-year-old Korra, a bender with just one more element to go before becoming a full Avatar. But, she lives in a time when her kind is under attack.
DiMartino and Konietzko give The Hollywood Reporter’s readers a behind-the-scenes peek into creating Legend of Korra with a guest blog. Here are five things you didn’t know about their new Nickelodeon series.
1. Making The Legend of Korra requires hundreds of artists in three different countries. In addition to the artists at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., we collaborated with Studio Mir in South Korea. They handled designing characters and backgrounds as well as all the animation and compositing for the first season. We also worked with a studio in India called Technicolor. It handled the CG vehicle models — all the cars, airships, and other CG vehicles. But even though we use computers to help us make the show, all the animation of the characters and bending effects are still hand-drawn.
2. The character of Korra’s polar bear-dog, Naga, was actually created ten years ago. When we were developing the original series back in 2002, Bryan had done a sketch of a bipedal polar bear-dog creature. We never found a place for it in Avatar: The Last Airbender. But when we came up with Korra’s character, we wanted her to have an animal mode of transport and revisited that old drawing. The new model of Naga is modeled after our dogs, who are brothers.
3. Dee Bradley Baker is a voice acting virtuoso! Not only does he play Councilman Tarrlok in The Legend of Korra, he is also the voice of Naga, Pabu and Oogi. It’s amazing to watch him work as he transitions between the human and animal realms. Dee also performed as Appa and Momo in the original series.
4. We had created the character of the next Avatar after Aang in late November of 2009, but we had a hard time settling on a name for her. And this proved to be a really tough one. We already had a certain sound to the Water Tribe names, like Katara and Sokka, lots of “a” and “k” sounds, but we just couldn’t find something that we both agreed upon. Mike and I went on a landscape photography trip in February of 2010, right before we moved back into the Nickelodeon studios to begin working on the new series in earnest, and we still didn’t have a name. We arrived at the eco-lodge where we would be taking the photo workshop all week, and the owner showed us inside and introduced us to his dog, Cora. My ears perked up and I immediately said to Mike, “That’s the name!” Thankfully, Mike thought so too. It is nice and simple, has the benefit of being a “real world” name, and with a spelling tweak, Korra fits right in with our established Water Tribe culture.
5. The idea for Pro Bending developed even before we came up with the character of Korra. Between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, we had an idea for an Avatar story that took place prior to the Hundred Year War where the best of the world’s benders of all four elements competed against each other in an arena setting. Once we got into developing the 1920s vibe of Republic City in Korra, that old idea resurfaced and evolved into Pro Bending, a boxing-like spectacle that would be the most popular sport of the era. Instead of having benders of individual elements versus each other, we thought having teams of water, earth, and fire would be a great way to illustrate that the United Republic is a melting pot compared to how divided the cultures were in Aang’s time. And the sporting aspect provided us a way to evolve and modernize the styles of bending for some fun variations on the concept in this new series.
By Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
Watch a preview of Legend of Korra below.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro