Five differences between the original and Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’
(Credits: Netflix)


Five differences between the original and Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

When Netflix announced a live-action adaptation of the beloved animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, fans around the world held their breath in anticipation. However, excitement quickly turned to concern as news broke that the original creators were bowing out.

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko left the project over creative differences. Albert Kim stepped in and brought the first season to a conclusion, with plans for more seasons. But Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender falls short of capturing the magic and depth of its animated counterpart. 

The departure from the original creators’ vision and the inconsistent execution of crucial elements leave much to be desired. However, there are specific changes that have been made in the Netflix series that set it apart from the animated version in storytelling and character development. While some of these changes are indeed for the better, some pull it down.

Here are five of the most notable differences between the animated and live-action versions of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Five differences between Avatar: The Last Airbender animation vs live-action:

Aang & Katara’s relationship

In the original series, Aang and Katara’s budding relationship is a central subplot, with hints of Aang’s crush on Katara sprinkled throughout. However, Netflix’s adaptation removes this subplot from the first season entirely, focusing solely on their friendship. 

While this change may disappoint fans familiar with the original dynamic, it also avoids the potential pitfalls of portraying a romantic relationship between actors of young age. While Gordon Cormier plays a 12-year-old Aang (well, 112 if you count how long he has been frozen in ice) in the first season, Kiawentiio’s Katara is 15 years old.

The Air Nomads genocide sets the stage

Netflix’s adaptation opens with a much darker tone, depicting the Fire Nation’s genocide of the Air Nomads, setting the stage for the Hundred Year War. This addition provides key lore and establishes a more sombre atmosphere, deviating from the lighter tone of the original series. 

The original series had shorter episodes but had enough filler episodes that we could enjoy the young characters more joyous and silly moments. However, the live-action series, even with almost hour-long eight episodes, rushes through plenty.

Azula’s early introduction 

Princess Azula (Elizabeth Yu), a fan-favourite character, makes her debut in Netflix’s adaptation during season one. In contrast, she originally appeared in season two of the animated series. This alteration expands her storyline, offering viewers a deeper understanding of her character and sibling rivalry with Zuko. By introducing Azula sooner, the Netflix adaptation also ensures Zuko is not vilified as much as he was in the early episodes of the animated version.

Jet and King Bumi

The encounter between Aang and King Bumi undergoes significant changes in the Netflix version as well. Bumi is portrayed as more serious in the live-action adaptation. While this aligns with the darker tone of the series, it deviates from the eccentric and playful nature of the original character.

Additionally, the introduction of Jet in episode three, which merges multiple storylines, happens way sooner than in the animation. Jet is from the Earth Kingdom’s biggest city, Ba Sing Se, which hasn’t even been introduced in the live-action series yet. 

Altered storylines and timelines

Netflix’s adaptation remixes multiple story elements, such as the inclusion of ‘The Cave of Two Lovers’ subplot in season one, which originally appeared in season two of the animated series. In the cartoon, Aang is there in the cave with Katara and Sokka, but not in the live-action. While this changes things up, it sacrifices crucial plot details and character interactions found in the original. 

You can now stream Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix and catch the trailer here: