Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender has been off the air since 2008, but its’s endured and grown in popularity ever since, thanks to a well-acclaimed spinoff The Legend of Korra, and stings on various streaming services.
Earlier this year, Nickelodeon announced that it was opening up Avatar Studios, a new outfit run by the show’s original creators, to develop new projects for the franchise. Deadline reports that its first project will be an animated theatrical film slated to begin production later this year.
The studio has big plans for the animated fantasy franchise: During a recent interview with Deadline during its upfronts presentation, network president Brian Robbins said that they’re currently working to develop a massive franchise set in the world that they’re calling the Avatar Airbender universe. “I think that universe will encompass definitely a theatrical film, animation, certainly multiple TV series and probably multiple films,” he explained.
The first series, which ran for three seasons, was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who now head up the studio. It’s set in a world where people are able to manipulate four elements: air, earth, fire, and water, with an “Avatar” who can bend all four, and create harmony between the world’s various nations. The show follows Aang, a 12-year-old and last survivor from the Air Nomads, who is forced to stop the Fire Nation from trying to take over the rest of the world.
There have been efforts to adapt the franchise as a live-action production: M. Night Shyamalan helmed a 2010 film that was widely maligned, and Netflix is currently working on a live-action series, although both DiMartino and Konietzko have dropped out, citing creative differences.
The move to expand the Avatar franchise comes as Viacom (which owns Nickelodeon) works to expand its streaming service, Paramount+, which has its own share of growing franchises, such as Star Trek and Halo. Robbins noted that while Netflix has its own version coming, these new projects will likely live within Viacom’s ecosystem.