Avatar: The Unaired Airbender Pilot

by GuestPoster on December 23, 2010

Despite its popularity among anime fans, Avatar: The Last Airbender is not actually a Japanese production. While the creators are American, the majority of the animation was actually conducted in Korea. This gave the show an interesting feel that showed clear influence not only from Japanese and Korean animation styles, but also from classical Oriental life. There are also strong connections to Tao, Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions, as well as yoga.  Watching avatar the last airbender episodes is a treat on all levels.

In fact, the term Avatar is a reference to Hindu doctrines in some ways. The Sanskrit term avatara refers to the aspect of divinity as flesh. In many ways, this is an excellent explanation of the main character of Aang, who is seemingly a divine individual, though he does not seem to take this aspect of his craft very seriously. It is this wide variety of influences that make the series so appealing.

However, one of the more interesting episodes of the series has not been seen widely outside of DVD extra commentary. The unaired Avatar pilot is fascinating, especially when compared to other works in the series. Some of the names were ultimately changed. For instance, Katara’s name in this production is actually Kya. However, Sokka’s name is still the same.

Among other things, Prince Zuko’s character is slightly different. In this pilot rendering, Prince Zuko has an animal familiar. The relationship between Zuko and his bird of prey actually rather mirrors the relationship between Aang and Momo. In fact, the two creatures do battle with one another.

There are other changes too. Aang wears a more complex costume in this version, which was simplified to help with the process of animation. Moreover, the animation itself is quite different in certain parts. As well as the differences in character design, there is at least one sequence that is significantly different from the series in terms of the actual style of animation. It relies much more heavily on CG animation than later examples ever would.

While this places the unaired pilot episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender in what might seem like a category fit only for minor curiosities, the genius of Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino still shines through. So does the creative expertise of the Korean animators that Konietzko and DiMartino so often called upon. Even with some of the voice actors having been changed out later, this episode is hardly a minor curiosity, and truly demands some real respect.

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