Avatar: The Last Airbender Hitting Netflix Helped Bring the Universe Back to Life at Nick

Avatar: The Last Airbender Hitting Netflix Helped Bring the Universe Back to Life at Nick
Netflix is like the Ember Island Players — eventually, they will only have a pantomime of the real thing. (Screenshot: Nickelodeon)

Avatar: The Last Airbender has had a complicated relationship with Netflix. The animated show’s creators left the much-hyped live-action remake last year, citing problems with the streaming network. But that doesn’t change the fact that without Netflix, Nickelodeon’s Avatar Studios may have never happened.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins cited Avatar: The Last Airbender’s popularity on Netflix as part of the reason why Nickelodeon chose to recruit creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino to launch their own franchise through Avatar Studios. According to Robbins, the show wasn’t a big hit for Nickelodeon when it first aired (even though it had a dedicated fanbase), but when it arrived on Netflix it “exploded,” becoming one of the biggest shows on the streaming service.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a series that ran for three seasons on Nickelodeon and was never a huge show, but had an amazing following. We licensed that show to Netflix and it exploded. Then we put this spinoff of Avatar, The Legend of Korra, on Paramount+, and it crushed it. That led us to our new relationship and bringing the creators of Avatar back to Nickelodeon to form Avatar Studios. We are now on our way to a full-fledged franchise strategy, creating films and spinoffs out of Avatar,” he said.

It’s kind of ironic that Netflix helped bring about Avatar Studios — a new franchise launching a waterbender-sized wave of Avatar: The Last Airbender shows and films — because the original plan was for Avatar’s revival to happen on Netflix. The company announced a live-action remake all the way back in 2018, with Konietzko and DiMartino returning to helm the series they loved so much. However, just a few months after the animated Avatar series debuted on Netflix, Konietzko and DiMartino left the live-action series. In a pair of scathing statements, the creators said Netflix failed to follow through on a promise to support their creative plans, with Konietzko noting that Netflix’s vision wasn’t “in line with the spirit and integrity of Avatar.”

Konietzko and DiMartino are currently busy working on an Avatar movie along with a series of shows, graphic novels, and other products to capitalise on the show’s newfound popularity. Robbins also confirmed that Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra will eventually leave Netflix to become Paramount+ exclusives, though he didn’t say when that would happen. But don’t count Netflix out yet. Apparently, their live-action Avatar show is still happening…eventually. Reports from What’s On Netflix and Avatar News suggest that filming will start in November, with Albert Kim (Nikita) serving as showrunner.

We’ll bring you more as we know it.