Disney Animation Rival May Steal Audiences After Recent Announcement

Recently, Avatar Studios, spun off from the massively popular franchise of Disney rival Nickelodeon, Avatar: The Last Airbender (no, not James Cameron’s Blue Aliens) made an announcement that could threaten Disney’s majority hold on the entertainment industry.

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The Avatar the franchise began with Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, an anime-influenced television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which took place from 2005 to 2008. The last air Master (also known as The Legend of Aang in some areas) was aimed at children, but also had its fair share of adult fans.

Avatar the Last Airbender Fire Lord Ozai in Flames
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Avatar was critically acclaimed amid explosive popularity in the early 2000s – even getting a bit of a ‘second wind’ during the COVID-19 pandemic when the series arrived on Netflix, where it started gaining a whole new audience of adults re-watching the show or even just watching it for the first time – none of them were intimidated by the original’s 4:3 ratio Avatar series.

Avatar Studios logo
Credit: Nickelodeon/Paramount+

So it was in February last year that Paramount+ announced production company Avatar Studios, launched by Nickelodeon, which would focus on making more stories set in the world of Avatar – all led by original creators Konietzko and DiMartino:

The launch of Avatar Studios means the fantastical universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender will expand to new series, short-form content, spin-offs and theatrical movies on #ParamountPlus.

Recently, Nickelodeon announced that the Avatar Studios movie would focus on slightly more mature young adult versions of Avatar Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) and the rest of his “Gaang”:

I just received HUGE NEWS from @janetvarney to our #NickSDCC Avatar: Braving the Elements – LIVE! panel, Avatar Studios’ first feature film will focus on Avatar Aang and his friends! 💨💦🍃🔥

Fans are extremely excited, as previously Avatar Studios planned to first produce a feature film following a brand new story with Avatar Kyoshi – a former Avatar in the Avatar reincarnation cycle, born from the Earth Kingdom – yes, the Avatar is essentially the same soul that can bend all four elements, reincarnated in a different body the moment the previous avatar dies. But now, it looks like a return to Avatar Aang’s story is on the cards instead.

Konietzko and DiMartino created another series in this franchise – Avatar: Legend of Korrawhich followed the exploits of teenage Korra, the Avatar who was born into a rapidly modernizing world right after Aang’s death.

legend of korra, korra standing above republic city
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What Avatar: The Last Airbender was on point, and why their next movie could be big

Avatar: The Last Airbender followed the story of war – and a group of children living in a world inspired by Asian, Indigenous and Inuit mythology and cultures, where “Benders” with the ability to manipulate the four elements of water, of earth, fire and air at their will walked among the people.

The show featured these kids growing up in a time of war between the four elemental nations, depicting a big arc where they finally turned the tide of the war – after young Waterbender Katara (Mae Whitman) and the un- Bender Sokka (Jack DeSena) discovered the last airbender, Aang, frozen in ice after a hundred years, who was left behind after an air nomad genocide. Aang turned out to be the Avatar, a being who could bend all four elements, prophesied to end the terrible Fire Nation conquest – but the catch was that he was a twelve-year-old child without training.

Legend of Korra All Avatars with Aang in the middle, Kyoshi (left) and Roku (right)
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Along the way, more and more young Benders joined their “Gaang” – Toph (Jessie Flower), a genie, a blind Earthbender from the Earth Kingdom, Suki (Jenna Kwan), a non-Bender Kyoshi Warrior and metal fan, and even Prince Zuko (Dante Basco) of the Fire Nation – Aang’s main antagonist in the first season, First Book: Waterwho went through an entire arc of redemption with the help of Uncle Iroh (Mako), helping plot against his father, fire lord Ozai (Mark Hamill) and scheming sister and blue flame master Azula (Grey DeLisle).

    (right) Iroh giving a talk (left) Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender
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fans of Avatar are faithful and numerous, and were waiting for a long duration for new content – and the perfect storm of Avatar’s kid-friendly yet mature themes in a fantasy world is powerful enough to rival the likes of the Harry Potter or even star wars franchisees.

Zuko's Lightning Bends Ozai in Avatar the Last Airbender
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Now these 2000s kids and teens have grown up – into spendthrift adults – and the promise of more animation and global expansion featuring their beloved childhood favorites returning to the flesh (animated) on the big screen. is exactly the kind of nostalgia-focused content that recent Disney “reboots” have explicitly targeted (and tried to make money from). Think Lion King (2019), or The beauty and the Beast (2017) – even recently planned Disney+ deals Santa Clauses series this holiday season and the next national treasure series.

The first sight of Santas
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Conversely, however, with this Avatar a film circling the young adult years of its fan-favorite heroes, it could enter a part of the entertainment market that Disney has avoided; that is, the exploration of adolescence. Of course, The Walt Disney Company looked into this with people like Big Hero 6 (2014) and most recent turn red (2022) from Disney and Pixar, but with growing backlash over its inclusion of growth themes and stories – the highly controversial period scene in turn redfor example – Avatar Studios will likely exploit this unexplored gap, partly created by the studio with the largest market share, in cinematic animation.

It’s very possible that Avatar Studios and this new movie will get big – maybe it’ll even rain enough on Disney’s parade to spark a similar “All Grown Up” attempt with one of their own classic series?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Team Avatar sepia banner, (left to right) Sokka, Suki, Toph, Katara, Zuko, Aang
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What do you think of this announcement from Avatar Studios? Are you excited to watch the new movie starring Avatar Aang and Friends? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

Herman C. Harkins