Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are no longer working on the live-action series adaptation set for Netflix.
The creators announced their departure on Wednesday, sparking concern among fans. DiMartino’s lengthy blog post only confirmed those concerns, as the writer and executive producer noted that “whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make.” Both DiMartino and Konietzko cited creative differences with Netflix over the direction of the project. The news may have come as a shock to Avatar fans, considering that when Netflix announced the project in 2018, both DiMartino and Konietzko’s involvement was heavily promoted.
“When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners,” DiMartino wrote. “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.”
Adaptations often move forward with different creative teams, but DiMartino’s and Konietzko’s statements will feel familiar to Percy Jackson fans. Back in 2018, Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan published his own lengthy blog post about the issues he faced early in production of the first live-action film, which was released in 2010. Riordan wrote that once he “saw the final script and saw what they were doing on the set, I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind.”
Other creatives like Alan Moore (Watchmen, Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta) have completely disavowed adaptations of their work. DiMartino recognized that while he “couldn’t control the creative direction of the series,” he could control his reaction and decided to leave. “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 wrote.
“We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Verge. “Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation.”
Konietzko added to DiMartino’s frustrations and wrote on Instagram that it wasn’t about them having full control over the series. They were perfectly fine with collaborating “as long as we felt those ideas were in line with the spirit and integrity of Avatar,” he wrote. As things progressed, both Konietzko and DiMartino “came to the belief that we would not be able to meaningfully guide the direction of the series.” The project is moving forward with Nickelodeon and producer Dan Lin.
Fans do have a right to be concerned: the last time a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender was attempted without DiMartino and Konietzko, it didn’t exactly go well. Sorry, M. Night Shyamalan.
Update (August 12th, 4:50pm ET): The story has been updated to include a statement from Netflix.