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Bad news, benders.
Netflix's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender will no longer have any involvement from the property's original creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. DiMartino revealed the news to fans via a blog post on his website, writing that he and Konietzko have made the difficult decision to exit the project as executive producers and showrunners after two years of development. The letter leaves no doubt that the duo left over that bane of Hollywood's existence: creative differences. Nevertheless, SYFY WIRE has learned that the live-action series is still moving forward with Nickelodeon, Dan Lin, and Rideback staying attached.
"I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded," wrote DiMartino, who cited the wisdom of Uncle Iroh twice. "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."
"To be clear, this was not a simple matter of us not getting our way," added Konietzko in a lengthy Instagram post (see below). "Mike and I are collaborative people; we did not need all of the ideas to come from us. As long as we felt those ideas were in line with the spirit and integrity of Avatar, we would have happily embraced them. However, we ultimately came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series."
"We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series," Netflix said in a statement provided to SYFY WIRE. "Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation."
While DiMartino is cautiously optimistic that the show can still turn out well, he stressed that the finished product won't be the version he dreamed up with Konietzko.
"Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good," he said. "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."
"There are wonderfully talented people who are still working on the series, some of whom Mike and I personally hired and got to know during our time on the project," Konietzko said. "We worked very hard together towards a shared dream of how special this adaptation could be. I want to see them employed, and I hope they get their chance to do their best work on the series. Perhaps the team that remains might still be able to make something fans of the original and an entirely new audience can enjoy."
SYFY WIRE has also learned that DiMartino and Konietzko supposedly clashed with Netflix and the other creatives throughout the last two years of development on how to best adapt the show into a live-action format. After reaching an impasse, they ultimately decided to call it quits.
This isn't the first live-action translation of the beloved series. M. Night Shyamalan previously adapted it into a feature film in 2010, but the movie was pretty much panned across the board.
As news of this latest development filtered down, fans quickly took to social media to voice their displeasure. Even Greg Baldwin, the voice actor for Iroh, registered his surprise on Twitter:
Near the end of his letter, DiMartino emphasized the fact that this major setback does not mean he's done with the multimedia franchise:
"I also want to be clear that this doesn’t mean the end of my involvement in the Avatar universe. These stories and characters are important to me and the renewed interest and excitement in Avatar and [Legend of Korra] has been inspiring to see."
All three seasons of the original animated series, Shyamalan's movie version, and all four seasons of The Legend of Korra are currently available to stream on Netflix.