MD: The wealth disparity between the rich and the poor in Ba Sing Se has become much worse since Aang first visited the city. Episodes like this one are very taxing for the entire design team, as there are many different locations and so many background characters that need to be fleshed out to make Ba Sing Se feel like a real, lived-in city.
BK: Seeing all of these Lower Ring character designs imbued with so much personality makes me wish that every one of them somehow could have a spotlight moment on-screen. You can tell by these designs the middle Ring denizens are privileged to have more fortunate, less back-breaking lives than those in the severely oppressed Lower Ring. Finally, we have the elite Upper Ring citizens, people descended from families that have been wealthy for so long very few of them know what it means to actually do a day’s worth of honest work.
Lower Ring residents by Christie Tseng. Middle and Upper Ring residents by Angela Song Mueller. Cleanup by Evon Freeman. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
A litte “girl” time : Little joke between Giancarlo and myself. Right at the end of season 1 of Avatar, we started to wonder what the girls were doing, since they were MIA at one point in the story. This was where my mind went….
BK: In the middle of the season, the kids come out of hiding and lead a daring invasion. This gave us the opportunity to return them to their iconic looks while updating them with a heroic flair. The armor for Appa and Sokka and the Water Tribe men came from unused toy-idea submissions I did for the consumer products department. Aang’s asymmetrical outfit for the end of the series was inspired by Shaolin monk garb. I wanted him to look like a simple, humble warrior-monk like the great performers in Shaolin: Wheel of Live - vulnerable but strong. Concepts by Bryan Konietzko. Designs by Angela Song Mueller and Jae Woo Kim. Color by Hye Jung Kim.
Joaquim Dos Santos: This production has more costume changes than any other show I’ve ever worked on! But how fun is it to see the characters we all know and love in their party duds?
Michael Dante DiMartino: When I was writing this episode, I knew I wanted the score to feature some of composer Jeremy Zuckerman’s jazzy tunes, so I asked him what instruments made up his ensemble and called them out in the script. And rather than have band members be generic musicians, we thought this was a funny way to bring back some of our old characters. It’s probably not the most epic return for Tahno, but it turns out he’s one heck of a trombonist!
Character designs from “The Last Stand” by Angela Song Mueller, Bryan Konietzko, Christie Tseng; instrument designs by Joseph Aguilar (The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series, Book 4: Balance, pp. 162-163).
MD: The Airbenders are back! When Bryan, the writers, and I began discussing Book Three, one of the first ideas was to give Jinora her airbending tattoos. It’s the perfect symbol for the return of the Airbenders, and she had shown a lot of airbending and spiritual prowess. But we wanted to wait until the end of the season to do it, so we let her be the one who rallies the Airbenders to help save Korra, proving to her father that she has become a true master and leader. Designs by Angela Song Mueller and Christie Tseng. Cleanup by Steve Hirt. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
BK: Villains are always fun to create and write for, so Book Three was a blast in this regard. Mike, Tim, Josh and I got to dream up a team of baddies who represented each of the four elements, but with rare and deadly skills. The designers and I hastily cranked out concept designs so the storyboard artists would have at least rough materials to work with at the start of the new season.
Designs by Bryan Konietzko, Christie Tseng, Angela Song Mueller, and Ki-Hyun Ryu. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
MD: For our fourth and final antagonist, we were looking to have a female character who was physically similar to korra. We wanted our hero to have to face the shadow version of herself-a woman who was fierce, uncompromising, and a bending heavyweight. Kuvira brought a lot of new story and character possibilities to the table, and I really enjoyed writing the female hero/villain dynamic. There was a lot of talk in the first storyboard meeting about how Kuvira’s metal armor could be used in battle. To give her lots of ammo, we decided she should have thin strips of metal stacked on her back and upper arms. As she bends one piece of metal, another strip is revealed, ready for the next strike. I cannot remember if it was written into the script, but Kuvira’s arm blade and whip seemed to be natural extensions of her impressive ability to manipulate metal.
BK: Above is one of the first concepts I did of Kuvira, back during Book Three when we knew we were going to weave her into the story as a background character. I had been wanting to do a military dictator as a villain for a long time, so it was fun to finally play around with what the uniform motifs would be. When we were casting the character, we had a couple of pieces of concept art to show the actors. Zelda Williams, who ended up getting the part and played it wonderfully, said, “Hey she looks like me!” I thought the exact same thing when she walked into the studio. Later she told me her mother even has the same beauty mark under her eye. I really liked how Kuvira looked with her hair down, and it helped to sell this hallucination where Korra once again sees the “Dark Avatar” version of herself in her opponent. Kuvira expressions and concepts by Ki-Hyun Ryu, Lauren Montgomery, and Bryan Konietzko. Designs by Angela Song Mueller and Joseph Aguilar. Cleanup by Steve Hirt. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf. [x]
MD: When I was writing this episode, I knew I wanted the score to feature some of composer Jeremy Zuckerman’s jazzy tunes, so I asked him what instruments made up his ensemble and called them out in the script. And rather than have the band members be generic musicians, we thought this was a funny way to bring some of our old characters. It’s probably not the most epic return for Tahno, but it turns out he’s one heck of a trombonist! Tahno, council page, Gang, and instrument designs by Angela Song Mueller. Wolfbats, Hasook, Lu, and wedding server Nuktuk designs by Christie Tseng. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf. [x]
BK: This wonderfully crafted family photo conveys so much about the individual characters. Wing and Wei as their own unit; Opal looking eager to please; Su radiating confidence and a hint of mischief; Baatar Sr. leaning on the strength of his wife; Huan enveloped in ennui and Baatar Jr. standing in the shadow of his father.
MD: One of the best parts about creating Book Three was developing Su Beifong and her family. In the early development of Korra, Bryan and I had the idea of an elite Metal Clan, which evolved into Su’s family. We wanted Su to be very different from her half-sister, Lin, so we gave her a more outgoing personality and five children. In order to tie the Beifongs to the main story line of rebuilding the Air Nation, we decided that Su’s daughter, Opal, should be one of the new Airbenders. Twins seems to be an ongoing theme in the Avatar world. We had the elderly Lo and Li in the original series, fraternal twins Eska and Desna in Book Two, and now we have identical twins Wing and Wei, the jocks of the Beifong family.
Original storyboard sketch by William Ruzicka. Finished design by Angela Song Mueller. Character tones by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf. Background painting by Emily Tetri. Su concepts by Bryan Konietzko. Su designs by Bryan Konietzko and Christie Tseng. Beifong family designs and expressions by Bryan Konietzko, Angela Song Mueller and Christie Tseng. Cleanup by Evon Freeman. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
WOW! Happy 10th Anniversary to AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER!!
(I’m a day late, it was actually yesterday)
Just found this scan of a PENCIL sketch I did waaayyyyyyyy back on season 3, hence the fire nation outfits (2007?) I can’t believe its been 10 years already! I have so many great memories from my time working on this show! :)
BK: Can you imagine having a parent like Suyin, who makes sure she and her sons have matching ninja outfits ready at a moment’s notice? Wing and Wei are ready for battle in armor similar to their mother’s. Suyin, Wei, and Wing designs by Angela Song Mueller and Christie Tseng. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf. [x]
JDS: This production has more costume changes than any other show I’ve ever worked on! But how fun is it to see the characters we all know and love in their party duds? Designs by Bryan Konietzko, Angela Song Mueller, and Christie Tseng. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf and Bryan Konietzko. [x]
MD: Zuko’s conflict with his siter came to a head during the finale, when they fought each other in an almost-deadly Agni Kai. This emotionally charged duel was the highlight of the finale for us. Azula vs. Zuko key animation by Jung Hye Young and Yu Jae Myung. Designs by Angela Song Mueller.
BK: Here we see an example of the everyday citizen from different classes of the Fire Nation. The women and a small percentage of men from the Fire Nation’s warrior class form the military branch known as the Domestic Forces. They have three main purposes: to defend the homeland from invasions, to train Fire Lord’s forces, and to police the Fire nation. As a result, most of the forces are trained by high-level female Firebenders. Aang’s classmates are some of our favorite character designs from season three. Designs by Seung Hyun Oh, Bryan Konietzko, and Angela Song Mueller. Color by Hye Jung Kim.