How Netflix determined the perfect size for Appa in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Apparently, in the original animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the size of Aang's flying bison Appa changes from scene to scene. The Netflix remake had to nail that down.
Appa takes flight through couldy skies with passengers Aang (Gordon Cormier), Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ousley) on his back.
Appa takes flight through couldy skies with passengers Aang (Gordon Cormier), Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ousley) on his back. /

Netflix's remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender premieres in just a couple weeks, and although the trailers look pretty good, right now a lot of fans seem concerned that the story will lose something as it makes the jump from animation to live-action. A lot of people love the original show, so this Netflix remake is getting a lot of scrutiny.

I'll hold final judgment until I see the finished show, but showrunner Albert Kim has been up front that things will be changed for the new series. "I've used the term that this is a remix, not a cover, in that you've got to hit a lot of familiar notes, but you can't forget that this is supposed to be a new song," he told IGN. "So obviously, there are story points and characters that you have to do fairly faithfully from the original. But at the same time, you're literally translating something from 2D to 3D, and that meant dimensionalizing the story, taking it into new places, filling in some of the gaps."

And in some cases, it meant finding visual consistency where there was none in the original show. Take Appa, the furry flying bison who ferries our heroes around this fantasy world. Appa is basically the mascot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so it's important to get him right. But apparently in the original show, Appa would change sizes from scene to scene. The new show had to make sure he stayed consistent.

"I remember early on, one of the big things we had to decide was, how big is Appa?" Kim explained. "And you think that's an easy question, but like [producer Jabbar Raisani] says, when you go back to the animated series, he varies in size throughout the episodes. If you really pay attention, you go, 'Oh, wow, there's not really a set size for Appa.' So we had to do this process, where it was done with virtual reality goggles. I put them on, and we just looked up at our different models, and we had different sizes of Appas. And you just had to decide, 'That's too small, and that's too big. That feels just about right.' So it was kind of that process."

"But yeah, you'd be surprised that there's no one set size for Appa. We just had to figure that out on our own. Those VR sessions were really interesting because we'd put the Oculus on, and then you'd be looking up this massive creature, and you're like, "Wow, that's a little scary. Can we bring him down a little bit?" It was that kind of process."

I'm surprised to learn that Appa changed sizes from scene to scene in the original show, but I wasn't really looking. Raisani reminds us that "Appa is still huge, but he's only one size in our show."

Again, Appa is just one of many tweaks the team behind the new show is making. Kim also talked about changing the rules of the Avatar state, which is when lead character Aang goes into a sort of super-saiyan trance mode where he can use the abilities of all the past Avatars at will. "Narratively speaking, the Avatar state, like Appa in a way, kind of has somewhat fluid rules in the animated series," Kim said. "And when you take a look really closely at when and how can Aang go into the Avatar state, it changes a little bit throughout. So we were very cautious about seeing that too much in the first season. And in fact, we ended up tweaking the rules a little bit for our story purposes. And it'll be interesting to see whether fans pick up on that and what they think of that. But we kind of streamlined a lot of those rules, and came up with something I worked across on it."

Will making things more consistent make this world more believable, or take away from its magic? Again, we'll see what happens when the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender drops on Netflix on February 22. I think the success or failure of the show will come down to how well it tells the story, rather than how consistent it makes the metaphysical rules regarding made-up animals and elemental powers. Those things were consistent enough in the original show that people still love it years later. Now it's time to see if lightning can strike twice.

Next. atla got. Producers want Game of Thrones fans to enjoy Avatar: The Last Airbender remake. dark

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