My morning in the Land of Avatar began when I arrived at the walled fortress of Nicktoon Studios, cartoon characters guarding the walls. Once ushered in, I was greeted by the Senior Director of Communications for Nick Animation. She spoke with me a bit, sharing some ground rules regarding no pushing for spoilers of Season Three. She also communicated that there is no set date yet for Season Three airing. She said all that is known for now is that it won't air in April, and most certainly will begin airing before the end of 2007. With that, it was up to Mike and Bryan's office.
I was greeted at the office by Mike. We then passed through the Avatar section of Nick Studios where I was able to view some still art from Season Three. Based on what was there, I can confirm their later assurances to me that Season Three will be absolutely awesome! When we got to the conference room where the interview would take place, Bryan joined us and we sat down to talk.
An Avatar Spring Break with Mike and Bryan (Part I of three)
Robert Moscoe (The Unbridled Joy of Flight)
RM: Thank you again both of you for making time to talk with the fans about the Avatar universe and the great work you're doing to tell this cool story. We love Avatar, and love supporting it with the website.
MDD: Thanks for the work you do on the site. It's a great service to the fans...a great place to let them gather together and talk about the show.
RM: Well, I've been told I can't ask when Season Three is supposed to start airing, but if I didn't at least try the members were going to tear me limb from limb.
BK: What you can tell them is that we have nothing to do with it. It's not up to us.
MDD: Just tell them to be patient and that it's really worth the wait.
RM: How do you feel about Avatar's success, both critically and popularly?
MDD: It's great. It's really a treat to see how it's connected with kids and adults...teenagers...across the board. Everyone has responded to it. Not just liked the show but really connected to it.
BK: Our goal was that we just really wanted to tell the story all the way through. We really just wanted to get to the end of the story.
RM: The three seasons?
BK: Yeah. Luckily it's taken off on an even bigger life than that. Keeps growing into other things. So we feel great. Since that was our goal, and it was a pretty high goal, the rest is icing.
RM: Do you pay attention to what goes on on the internet? The fan enthusiasm for the show...that sorta thing?
MDD: A little bit. We get fan art, people will send in mail and we look at some of that. We don't really have a whole lot of time to spend much time on the internet, but it's really cool to see the fan art. There's some cool stuff out there.
BK: Yeah, coming to work late for a meeting, like today, and seeing a new piece of fan art on the wall is usually my exposure to it. It's pretty cool.
RM: I'm not supposed to talk about Season Three but do you have any thoughts as to what the future of Avatar might be other than the live action movie that they're talking about, which will be a little off on its own?
MDD: Well, we'll be pretty involved with that, so that'll keep us very busy the next few years.
RM: So any future for the cartoon?
MDD: Well, we don't know yet. We've got some ideas.
BK: We've always got tricks up our sleeves.
RM: Well I know shows often continue on into OAVs and movie events...that sorta thing.
MDD: We love the avatar universe so we want to keep telling stories in it if we have the outlet for it. We're just not interested in watering this storyline down, or filling it...keeping it dragging on. We try to make it as potent as we can. That's our big priority. Still, we'll do some other things. (laughter) We're not retiring.
RM: Can you talk at all about what you're thinking of in the future?
BOTH: (Laughter) Hush hush...really secret...
RM: Are you going to be at San Diego Comic Con this year?
BK: We're going to try to be there.
MDD: Unfortunately I can't be there, but we will definitely have a panel of some kind. We haven't actually worked out any of the details. Fans should know, Avatar will be there in some form or another.
BK: We were there two years, right? And then couldn't be last year. We love it every time. It's great, and we look forward to it.
RM: I have never seen shipping take on a life of its own as I have with the fans of Avatar. What do you think of all this?
BK: I think it's important to note one thing I have heard from the internet is that some fans have the idea we've put shipping into the show because they've asked for it...requested it. This is totally not the case. Mike and I like to do melodrama stuff and we wanted that in there. Not that it's all cheesy, but we wanted that from the get-go. Five years ago when we were developing this.
MDD: Yeah, Aang-Katara, that romance. Some stuff developed along the way, and we're glad some fans are more receptive to that element of the show, but it was in the DNA of the thing from the start.
BK: I remember until mid-way through first season I never even knew what shipping was, and then suddenly on the internet...
MDD: Suddenly on the internet you had writing about shipping and I was like, "What is this?" What is this phenomenon about?
BK: Yeah. I was all like "they're shipping love to each other"?
BK: So yeah, I definitely didn't understand. But now of course that's our language of love. We're like, "Can we add some shippin' in here?" That was even the name of the short you wrote, right Mike?
RM: Schooltime Shipping?
MDD: Yeah. THAT one was definitely a response to the fans.
BK: They call that fan service, right?
MDD: So THAT was a little nugget of fan service. Otherwise, though, we're just entertaining ourselves.
RM: The Track Team has intimated there may be more of those online shorts coming up. Is that true?
MDD: We made three of them. We just don't know when or where they will air...yet. But they are there.
BK: We love 'em...we're really proud of them. We made three total. They were very fun.
RM: Are the other ones like "Schooltime Shipping", kinda fun and out of continuity?
MDD: Yeah, same kind of thing. Same super-deformed style. Funny little... One's a Sokka-based one...
BK: I thought you were gonna give it away.
MDD: I'm not gonna give it away. So yeah, we had a good time.
BK: Because while Avatar is a really creative project to work on, you know it's a universe and it has rules...boundaries and things...and often Mike and I as we oversee the different processes we're like, "No no they wouldn't do that, no no that wouldn't happen in this world." After years of being a nay sayer it was fun to be able to say, "Yeah go for it!" These rules that we usually have, throwing most of them out the window. And also, we're fans of the crazier manga...and anime stuff as well. Obviously it's nice to pepper that stuff into shows, but it was fun to just dive into that style.
MDD: It's cool to have an alternate version of characters. Really fun. We find that doesn't take away from the main storyline. I think everyone knows they're pretty separate...entities.
RM: There are a lot of things that are related to Avatar on the internet and such that are official from Nick. You have the comics, the Nick.com material, the trading card game. What is canon? Sometimes these things will talk major things. New characters in the game cards. The comics mention Kyoshi died at 230 year old. How much is canon?
MDD: The trading cards cards- no. That was characters they created themselves for the game. We didn't have any input on that.
BK: They needed a lot of content for the trading card game, like hundreds of cards, and there's only so much Mike and I and the people here have to guide that peripheral stuff. And that was during a really busy time.
MDD: But as for the online 'spirit world' thing, I wrote it and we all worked on it so I'd say that is real.
BK: (spooky voice) It's Dogma.
MDD: And yes, the Kyoshi thing is true. We sat down and decided yes, she lived to be a really old lady.
BK: You know Bumi lived over 100 years. We had kind of set it up. It's not so foreign in Chinese mythology to have like the Taoist immortals, these characters or legendary figures who lived 500-600 years. It wasn't one of the earliest ideas we had, but pretty early on Mike and I were of the idea that these people with such enhanced Chi fields might live a longer time. We've shown that Kyoshi was a pretty robust person.
BK: She's a bit of a statuesque giant. We decided it would be kinda cool that she lived for a really long time and could move islands around.
RM: When did you decide Kyoshi was going to be the Avatar before Roku? In "The Southern Air Temple" the statue before Roku doesn't look like the Kyoshi we came to see in just the next episode.
MDD: Yeah it was.
BK: It was like...
MDD: Because Kyoshi was the next episode.
BK: We hadn't finalized her design, so it was kinda reminiscent. The script for "Warriors of Kyoshi" was in the works during that episode and Lauren was still working on the boards. It's kinda like in different countries you'll see statues of the Buddha depending on where you are and they're different. There's a margin for interpretation.
Coming up, Part II- The Avatar world, the basis of bending, and the First Family of Fire!
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