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.
Mike and I received an advance copy of the first Korra art book from Dark Horse today! Looks great. There’s Ryu flipping through the pages, walking down memory lane. It is breaking my heart that this won’t be available until something like *one week* after this year’s San Diego Comic Con. ARGH!
BK: Noatak and Tarrlok at their different young ages. I was expecting the task of designing young Noatak at all of these ages to be a real challenge, but Il-Kwang and Jin-Sun hit the nail on the head from the get-go. I was so relieved that I happily approved the designs and moved on to the next task, never noticing until the animation came back that he had the exact same hairstyle as our hero, Korra! I decided it was a kind of interesting and unexpected connection between Korra and Noatak/Amon, showing that despite how different they are in the present, the come from very similar cultural backgrounds. Tarrlok apparently sprouted an additional ponytail every few years. Expressions by Ki-Hyun Ryu and Il-Kwang Kim. Designs by Il-Kwang Kim and Jin-Sun Kim. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
A few preemptive words about Episode 408, “Remembrances”…
In a couple hours the eighth chapter of Korra Book 4 will be released online, and I suppose, if you are none the wiser, a few minutes into it you will feel duped and yell at your screen, “Hey! This is a crummy clips episode!” And that is (almost) exactly what it is––except we all worked really hard to make sure at the very least it isn’t crummy. I’m here to explain why we ended up having to do one. Sometime around a year and a half ago we were similarly duped on a large scale. We got the news from the higher-ups that our Book 4 budget was getting slashed, almost to the tune of an entire episode’s budget. We had two options: 1) let go a significant number of crew members several weeks early, or 2) make a clips episode. We never considered the first option. We weren’t going to do that to our crew, and even if we were callous enough to do so, we never would have been able to finish the season without them. But having grown up on TV in the ‘80s and '90s, we all dread clips episodes, where characters sit around saying, “Remember that time when…” and leftover footage is reheated for no one’s enjoyment. Anyone who suffered through TNG’s “Shades of Gray” knows what I’m talking about.
Anime fans know this is a common occurrence in Japanese series as well. In fact, as Mike hung his head in disappointment at our fate, I remembered how one of my favorite anime series, Samurai Champloo, made what I thought was a really awesome and clever clips episode. They mixed about 5 minutes of new footage in with the old, and set up a context where the characters would be reflecting on past events while narrating over them, offering new insights or at least providing some humor. I pitched this angle to Mike and he agreed this was the best way to turn this big old lemon into some lemonade.
Back on Avatar, we had something that functioned as a sort of clips episode, though it was all new animation and really hard to make, Episode 317, “The Ember Island Players.” Our heroes went to a play where they saw themselves and their tales performed by actors on stage. It was simultaneously a reckoning for the characters before they headed into the denouement, and a lighthearted romp where we got to poke fun at our own show before things got really serious in the remaining episodes. Korra’s “Remembrances” ended up serving the same function, albeit with old footage instead of a newly animated play. There is about 5 minutes of new footage, wonderfully animated by Studio Mir, and a bunch of funny and touching narration from the characters. There are also some fun chibi heads and other treats in there to spice up the old footage.
What started out as a reluctant chore ended up being a really fun episode to make, and in the end I truly love it. Mike did an awesome job directing it and storyboarding all the chibi hilarity, as well as overseeing the wonderful script by Josh Hamilton, Katie Mattila, and Tim Hedrick. Joaquim Dos Santos, Ryu Ki Hyun, and Lauren Montgomery drew fantastic storyboards for the new footage (particularly Lauren’s insane Varrick posing). Lots of other folks worked their tails off on this one, namely Amaris Calvin, our animatics editor; Christie Tseng, our character designer who drew and colored all of the final chibi art; Matt Gadbois, our After Effects artist; and Chris Hink, our final picture editor. Last but not least, Aran Tanchum and Vinny Guisetti on foley, Benjamin Wynn on sound design, and a stellar new score with all your favorite hits by Jeremy Zuckerman. And plenty of other fine folks I’m forgetting!
So now you know what it is and why it happened. I hope you do end up enjoying it after all, especially as a last lighthearted, nostalgic romp before POOP. GETS. REAL. And then the series is done.
P.S. I forgot to mention our cast’s amazing performances, especially John Michael Higgins’ million words a minute as Varrick in act three!
Here it is, my new blog. Hopefully all, or most, or at least some… or a few of you will migrate with me over here and click “follow.” Much obliged! It looks like a lot of you out there in Tumblrland are experiencing the same blog loss I am. I feel your frustration!
I finally got a reply from Tumblr Support, but despite my efforts to verify my easily verifiable identity, they just reiterated their initial message of, “Sorry! Start a new blog.” So here it is.
As luck would have it, my phone’s charging port just died today (for the second time). It’s an easy enough fix but it’s possible the repair will end up logging me out of my Tumblr app. So I better use the 20% battery juice I have left to reblog this to let you all know where I am.
I’ve tried to resurrect my dead email a few times, but to no avail. (And to those who kindly suggested that I change the email within the Tumblr app, unfortunately it just sends a password reset link to your registered email; so a dead email account equals a dead Tumblr blog.) Maybe in a few days/weeks/months its little bit of code will be regurgitated out of the email host’s system and I will be able to make a new account with the same address. If and when that happens, I should be able to get back into my original Tumblr account. But I honestly doubt I’ll ever get it back. Time will tell.
Hope you join me over here!
(Above is a doodle of me I borrowed from caricature master Ryu Ki Hyun.)
Bryan Konietzko: Mike and I had the idea for Korra’s character, but we really wanted Joaquim to be in on the ground floor when it came to her design. We had a phone call with him where we described her as being a Water Tribe version of a snowboarder or an MMA fighter. Joaquim went right to work and about an hour later, he e-mailed us the drawing on the upper left which is very close to how Korra ended up looking.
MD: Ryu’s fantastic homage to Henry Rollin’s punk days as part of Black Flag. I would love to rock out to the Red Lotus band! Zaheer probably sings about freedom, heartbreak, and tearing down the establishment, like most punk singers. Illustrations by Ki-Hyun Ryu.
Michael Dante DiMartino: Because the finale had some tremendously challenging staging in it, we relied heavily on Ryu, Lauren, Joaquim to help with the most difficult and important sequences. These panels are primarily Ryu’s drawings, with a few panels of Lauren’s and Joaquim’s interspersed, showing just how collaborative some of these difficult storyboards can be.
Joaquim Dos Santos: This sequence was revised a number of times before we got it right. We knew this was it, the big finale, so we wanted to make sure we all did our part and put our best foot–or in this case feet–forward.
Storyboards by Ki-Hyun Ryu, Lauren Montgomery, and Joaquim Dos Santos (The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series, Book 4: Balance, pp. 156-157).