When Nickelodeon announced earlier this year that it was in the early stages of building Avatar Studios, a new branch dedicated to crafting new projects meant to continue the larger Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise, one of the questions on many people’s minds was what this new endeavor would mean for Netflix’s previously announced live-action Avatar remake.
Though there hadn’t been much news about Netflix’s project since 2018 when it was first teased, that all changed quite suddenly late last year when Avatar: The Last Airbender’s co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko exited the project over creative differences with Netflix. All of this was further complicated when DiMartino and Konietzko were tapped to head up Avatar Studios, a move that suggested the pair saw something in Nickelodeon’s vision for the future that might not have been present with Netflix.
Nickelodeon’s initial announcement for the Avatar franchise included word of a feature film, but in a new interview with Deadline, ViacomCBS president Brian Robbins explained how, internally, the company sees itself as crafting an entire universe around the Avatar and Airbender brand including multiple series and films.
“Mike and Bryan are hard at work, and I think that universe will encompass definitely a theatrical film, animation, certainly multiple TV series and probably multiple films,” Robbins said. “I think we will be ready very soon to tell the world what is coming first but we are not there yet because we’re in early stages of creative development.”
Deadline also noted that, as of now, Netflix’s Avatar adaptation—executive produced by Dan Lin—is apparently still in pre-production, though Netflix’s press site currently has no mention of the new series at all beyond a single mention of Lin’s name within a larger press release about diversity at the company. Odd as it would be to consider Netflix and Nickelodeon both putting out Avatar projects that weren’t exactly a part of the same larger media initiative, the overall premise of the franchise could lend itself to such a situation, particularly if Avatar Studios’ new series and movies focus on stories set in that universe that are closely tied to the original characters.
Robbins also emphasized that, right now, ViacomCBS is focused on building out its own streaming portfolio for services like the newly rebranded Paramount+, indicating that the network’s not necessarily concerned with what Netflix is doing.
“We are excited about filling our own platforms today,” he said. “We will strategically license context to other places for different reasons but mostly our focus is on filling our own platforms starting with linear TV.”
It’ll be interesting to see how all of this shakes out going forward, especially once Avatar Studios has more to offer to the public than promises of what might come. After all of the drama around trying to transform the original series into anything more than what it was, it’s worth wondering what either Netflix or Nickelodeon might come up with that would actually capture audiences’ minds the way the original series did, and if that’s something the public’s really interested in.
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