Avatar: The Last Airbender confusion goes back further than fans thought

In an interview with a crew member of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Giancarlo Volpe revealed that the popular animated series had to change its title long before James Cameron’s Avatar hit theaters. The titles of Avatar: The Last Airbender and James Cameron’s Avatar have been a source of confusion among fans, with many referring to the former as simply “Avatar,” leading to misunderstandings online. However, according to Volpe, this confusion goes back much further than fans might realize.

James Cameron’s Avatar was released in 2009 after more than a decade of production. In contrast, Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered on Nickelodeon in 2005 and quickly became one of the network’s most popular shows. Its ensemble of characters has since become iconic, and the show has gained a devoted adult fanbase in addition to its younger viewers. Over the years, it has become an animated classic, and its popularity has only grown since its final episode aired in 2008.

According to Volpe, who served as a director, writer, storyboard artist, and character designer on Avatar: The Last Airbender, the show was initially called simply “Avatar.” However, the title was vetoed in 2004 because James Cameron had secured the rights to the name for his upcoming film. As a result, the show picked up its subtitle and became known as Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Interestingly, Cameron’s Avatar had just been released when Avatar: The Last Airbender’s sequel, The Legend of Korra, came out in 2009. The series was originally announced as Avatar: The Legend of Korra, but the title was ultimately changed to The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra before finally being released under the title The Legend of Korra. Presumably, this was because James Cameron’s Avatar was at the forefront of popular culture at the time, and the creators of The Legend of Korra wanted to avoid any confusion.

Volpe also jokingly referred to the title of the upcoming Avatar sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which he believes evokes one of the central themes of Avatar: The Last Airbender – the four classical elements. In the animated series, characters known as “benders” can control one of the four classical elements, with Waterbenders being able to control water. Volpe quipped that Cameron might call his next film “The Firebending Masters,” an episode title from book 3 of the animated series.

It remains to be seen whether the Avatar film series will have any impact on Avatar: The Last Airbender’s upcoming animated film, which is set to hit theaters in 2025. Meanwhile, Avatar 3 is expected to be released in 2024, with Avatar 4 rumored to follow in 2026. Despite the two franchises’ interwoven fates, it seems that both are still going strong and maintaining their popularity among fans. In fact, Avatar: The Way of Water is set to be released in theaters on December 16, 2022.

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