EXCLUSIVE Legend Of Korra Interview

How to follow-up the Avatar that has nothing to do with James Cameron. (And don’t mention M Night Shyamalan…) We speak to the brains behind The Legend Of Korra, the sequel series set 70 years after The Last Airbender.

Who were your inspirations for creating Korra, the hero of the show?
Bryan Konietzko (co-creator): Once we knew we wanted the next Avatar to be a girl, we were inspired by various female mixed martial arts athletes, as well the fearless, tomboy teenage snowboarders I would see on various trips.

How is Korra different from Aang in The Last Airbender?
Mike Dante DiMartino (co-creator): Korra is the complete opposite of Aang.  Aang was a reluctant hero, and being an air nomad, he was very anti-violence. Korra is not reluctant at all. She can’t wait to be the Avatar and is often the first to throw a bending punch in a fight. She is very headstrong and opinionated. And while she may look before she leaps, she’s always trying to do the right thing and she’s wants to help people.

One thing that made Avatar: The Last Airbender interesting was the fact that it was set in an Asian-centric world.  Does The Legend of Korra have a similar feel?
DiMartino: Although this series is set 70 years after A:TLA, the feel of the world and characters will be very familiar to viewers. The main difference is the setting. Book 1 takes place in and around the metropolis of Republic City, which is our fantasy version of New York or Hong Kong in the 1920s.

How did you go about researching the world Korra is set in?
Konietzko: Korra is set in the same world as A:TLA, so there was a lot of building upon the research and development we did over the many years working on the first series, just moving forward in time. We turned to one of my favorite photo blogs, Shorpy.com, which is an incredible collection of old photos from the US Library of Congress where we could reference architecture, vehicles, and costumes from a variety of eras. From there, we fused these American and European historical references with the Asian-influenced aesthetic we had already developed for our imaginary world.

Did the massive Avatar: The Last Airbender fan base influence how you approached writing and creating The Legend of Korra?
DiMartino: We love and appreciate all the fans of A:TLA but we wanted to try something different, so we weren’t influenced by the fan base. In fact, there was a small, but vocal group of fans who didn’t want a new series, but rather more adventures with Aang. Bryan and I always are trying to push ourselves creatively, so it was important to expand upon what we had done in the original series and try new things artistically and story-wise.

Book 1 has an incredible voice cast. What has it been like working with the cast? Was there anyone in particular you were especially excited to work with?
DiMartino: Yes, the cast is fantastic! Janet Varney, PJ Byrne, David Faustino, and Seychelle Gabriel make up our core Team Avatar. They’re such a fun and talented group of actors. I was a fan of JK Simmons, so that was a really great treat to have him voice Tenzin. Also Steve Blum, who voices Amon. He voiced Spike in the English version of Cowboy Bebop, one of our favorite anime shows. I could go on and name every cast member and how perfect they are for the roles they play.

Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender loved the hybrid animals you created for that series. Will Korra feature any of these hybrids? How do you come up with these new animal concepts?
Konietzko: Korra features a few new animal hybrids, like the polar bear-dog Naga, and the ferret-red panda Pabu, but due to the largely urban setting there aren’t as many animals as in A:TLA.

The Legend of Korra feels a little more grown up than the original series. Are you growing up with the audience?
DiMartino: Yes, it’s a little more mature and sophisticated. We have grown and the audience has grown.  But although there are serious moments, we always like to balance it with humour and exciting action.

Will any of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender characters – Aang, Katara, Sokka and Zuko – appear in the new series? Will fans find out what happened to them?
DiMartino: There is a glimpse into Republic City’s history, in which Aang, Toph, and Sokka all played a part.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

Are there any Easter eggs for die hard Avatar fans in The Legend of Korra?
DiMartino:  Keep an eye out for the Cabbage Merchant’s son!

Interview by Tamara Craiu

The Legend Of Korra comes to Nickelodeon (UK) at 9am on Sunday 7 July.