Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation loses its original creators

(Image credit: Nickelodeon)

Netflix has been working on a live-action adaptation of popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender since 2018. Now, though, the show has been dealt a blow, as original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have left the series after two years of involvement. 

It doesn't sound like the happiest split, either. DiMartino wrote an open letter to fans about what happened with the Netflix series. 

"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." DiMartino explains how he tried to "go with the flow" on the production, but it ultimately didn't work out. "Even an Air Nomad knows when it’s time to cut their losses and move on."

"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."

DiMartino and Konietzko cut ties with the show back in June. This part of the statement was the most damning: "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."

It doesn't sound particularly cheerful as an end point for their participation, then. Netflix did respond to the news in a statement captured by Variety, which suggests the future of the TV show is still intact.

“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.”

Why this is a blow for the series

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a pretty evergreen animated series, with new fans discovering the show all of the time, partly because it's available on Netflix in countries like the US and UK. The show originally released from 2005-2008.

The show has been adapted before, too, into a critically-slated live-action film by M Night Shyamalan back in 2010. Netflix no doubt wants to do everything to avoid a similarly negative reaction from fans – and having the original creators on-board would've been an easy way to keep fans on-side.

Samuel Roberts

Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.