Netflix to make live-action version of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' series

Emily Shugerman

Netflix is producing a live-action version of the popular, early-2000s cartoon 'Avatar: The Last Airbender,' the streaming service has announced.

Original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino will return for the project, which will be created in collaboration with Nickelodeon. Production is slated to start next year.

The original cartoon followed the journey of Aang, a 12-year-old with special powers who is charged with keeping peace between the show’s four fictional nations. It was wildly popular for its three-season run between 2005 and 2008, winning both an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

An earlier attempt to adapt the cartoon into a live-action movie was commercially successful, but critically disastrous. The film won five Golden Raspberry awards, including worst picture, worst director, worst screenplay, and worst supporting actor. Several critics called it the worst movie they had ever seen.

Critics took particular issue with the decision to cast white actors as the main characters in a world based on Asian and Inuit cultures – something the producers aim to avoid this time around.

"We can't wait to realise Aang's world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast," Mr Konietzko and Mr DiMartino said in a joint statement through Netflix.

They added: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone's great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building."

Melissa Cobb, Netflix vice president for kids and family content, said the studio was “committed to honouring Bryan and Mike’s vision”.

“This partnership with Netflix is part of our broader efforts at Nick and Viacom to tap into our enormous library of culturally resonant properties to produce new interpretations, and we can’t wait for people to see Netflix’s live-action version of Avatar,” added Chris Viscardi, Nickelodeon’s senior vice president of animation production and development.

Netflix recently produced an animated series written by 'Avatar' screenwriter Aaron Ehasz. The show, called 'The Dragon Prince', premiered on Netflix last week, to largely positive reviews.