Legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s commitment to creating stunning hand-drawn animations in his Studio Ghibli films influenced the creators of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Avatar Studios co-head Bryan Konietzko shared in a recent interview how Japanese animation inspired the critically-acclaimed Nickelodeon series.
I’ve always described Avatar as an homage, a love letter to Japanese anime. But we were always conscious that we weren’t trying to pass it off as a counterfeit. I didn’t want to, like, just copy what we were seeing and what we thought was cool. How could we make something from the heart that was authentic, but was also wearing our inspiration on our sleeve? We all deserve a little rest and relaxation after all this craziness.
Konietzko further explained how Miyazaki‘s rule of using a handmade piece of art to start a project influenced the show’s overall aesthetic.
There’s this great Miyazaki rule: everything you do at Studio Ghibli, even if it’s going to end up 3D, has to start as a handmade piece of art. And for me, I mostly did landscape oil painting. I love that stuff. So one of the biggest reasons for co-creating Avatar was a chance to do cool background paintings. Epic landscapes. Actually, all of Avatar, almost all the storyboards, were drawn on paper.
The team’s passion for traditional artistry is evident in the breathtaking settings seen in the original series, which feature vibrant colors and intricate details. The show’s focus on hand-drawn art has made each location throughout the series feel distinct and alive.
Konietzko noted that while the creative team began to incorporate more computer-generated imagery in the sequel series, ”Legend of Korra,” their emphasis on traditional artistry remained a cornerstone of its identity.
Last year, Avatar Studios announced three animated films, one of which will center around the original Gaang from “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Netflix is also producing a live-action version of “The Last Airbender,” which is set to feature an Asian and Indigenous cast. No official release date has been announced for the series.