Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Art of the Animated Series (ISBN 978-1-59582-504-9) is an artbook based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The book contains concept art, design works, behind-the-scenes commentary by series founders Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and other pieces of production artwork.
The book was released in stores on June 2, 2010. Written and illustrated by Konietzko and DiMartino, it consists of 184 pages, split into five chapters, of the aforementioned material, most of which had never been revealed to the public before.
The book contains five chapters:
- Early development (pages eight through 37)
- Season One: Water (pages 38 through 83)
- Season Two: Earth (pages 84 through 129)
- Season Three: Fire (pages 130 through 172)
- Ancillary art (pages 172 through 183)
The book explains how the series was created and gives one an idea of the efforts that went into such an endeavor. Thanks to the many beautiful illustrations, the book also lets the reader go a step further into the deep World of Avatar.
Chapter one: Early Development Edit
The very beginning of Avatar was quite different from what it turned into later on. The two creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, brainstorming ideas on how to make an animation series, not only made incredible progress with their dream to make a television show, but also began a journey that would lead them to a lifelong friendship. In the beginning, the show had a futuristic setting, and Aang was not an Air Nomad from a hundred years ago, but a boy from a lost civilization from over a thousand years ago. He also had a robotic sidekick named Momo-3 (who later became Aang's lemur Momo) and a bear-dog that while not making it into the series' cut, became the inspiration for Avatar Korra's animal companion. Aang was also originally intended to be the shepherd of around twenty flying bison. This idea was later dropped much to Bryan Konietzko's dislike, as there was no place for all of them in every episode. Nevertheless, they too played their part in the series, having inspired the idea of Appa.
As soon as the series had progressed to the point where Aang was going to be a child frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years, and the last hope for world peace, the characters of Katara and Sokka were developed. Even though their designs at the time were still quite different, Bryan and Mike both knew that Katara and Sokka were going to become a major part of the show.
According to the two co-creators, in the very beginning the Fire Lord was the only villain planned for the show. Soon however, Eric Coleman, one of the members of the Avatar team, suggested an idea which gave birth to Zuko, the banished prince. With their idea finally ready, Bryan and Mike decided that it was time to make the Pilot.
Chapter two: Book One: Water Edit
After the pilot and the series were accepted by Nickelodeon, Bryan and Mike started recruiting a larger team to make the series. After succeeding in finding a studio in South Korea, the team started work on the two-episode season premiere. Iroh was added while making the first episode; he was at first going to be Zuko's sifu (or teacher), but later on became his uncle to make the story more personal. According to Bryan, Mako made Iroh's character complete by adding a sense of humor to the character.
At first only thirteen episodes were scheduled by Nickelodeon, thus making "The Blue Spirit" possibly the last episode in the show. Fortunately, Nickelodeon's reaction to the thirteen episodes made was great, and they let the show continue/expand. By the end of the first season, the series had connected with a very big audience, both male and female; the creators themselves admitted that they had never expected such a positive reaction and such a large audience.
Chapter three: Book Two: Earth Edit
To make the second season, the creators journeyed to China, and the book features some pictures from their trip. It also shows how these pictures influenced well known buildings in the Earth Kingdom, like the Earth King's Palace in Ba Sing Se. The third chapter also explains some of the designs of newly introduced characters, such as Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee.
Chapter four: Book Three: Fire Edit
The fourth chapter explains in detail the inspiration for some of the new characters (including Combustion Man and Hama amongst others). It also shows how much the series had improved over the years. The chapter features many sketches and paintings of beautiful backgrounds, examples including Piandao's castle, the Western Air Temple, Sozin's Comet and sunset over Ba Sing Se (where Aang and Katara shared their romantic kiss). This chapter also details some drawings of Fire Lord Ozai, fully shown for the first time in the first episode of Book Three. But possibly the most extraordinary parts of this chapter are those explaining how the four part finale was made. It features sketches of the lion turtle, paintings of the comet, sketches of the airship, the full sequence of Aang energybending and more.
Chapter five: Ancillary art Edit
The last chapter features some fabulous poster drawings, the DVD covers, a birthday card, and even some caricatures. It also explains how the first SD (Super Deformed) version of the characters came to be. At the end of the chapter is another personal letter from the two creators, giving thanks to both their team and the reader.