Avatar: The Last Airbender may have ended its run on Nickelodeon in 2008, but the series still lives on in the memories of the anime fans it inspired. While Avatar: The Last Airbender isn't 100% anime, its world and art style are greatly influenced by legendary anime creators such as Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli.
While the show was a beautiful visual tribute to Japanese animation, Avatar: The Last Airbender also had is own distinct charm through its artistry. Just by looking through these selections of official concept art for the show, it's clear the creative team behind Avatar: The Last Airbender knew how to channel their passion to create something truly inspiring. Here are 10 official concept art pictures from Avatar: The Last Airbender that must be seen to be believed.
10 Sailing The Skies
One of the earliest concept art created for Avatar: The Last Airbender was one by Bryan Konietzko, an animation director and co-creator of the series. In the image, a young Aang is herding a flock of bison in the sky.
According to a 2006 winter release of Nickelodeon Magazine, the image was born out of a brainstorming session involving Knietzko and fellow co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino. As Konietzko explained:
"We thought, 'There's an air guy along with these water people trapped in a snowy wasteland ... and maybe some fire people are pressing down on them ...'"
9 The Lion Turtle
Among the many majestic animal amalgams in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the great lion turtle takes the cake. It's not only the largest animal in the world of Avatar, but their strong connection to the spirit world makes them a privileged to view.
Unfortunately, these ancient creatures are nearly instinct. However, die-hard fans are aware that Aang encounters an Ancient One in the four-part series finale. Pictured here is concept art of the lion turtle found in Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Art of the Animated Series.
8 Zuko Fired Up
While Avatar: The Last Airbender is celebrated for its wide range of well-developed characters, the disgraced prince Zuko is easily the show's most complex hero. His initial quest of capturing the Avatar to win back the love and respect of his father slowly morphed into a journey of self-discovery that ended with him teaming up with the Avatar instead.
Still, there's no denying that Zuko was a formidable foe during the early chapters of the show, as demonstrated by this unused promo by Konietzko. Who can resist a bad boy that can breathe fire out of their nostrils?
7 Icy Slumber
According to DiMartino in the 2006 Nickelodeon Magazine, one of the main inspirations behind Avatar: The Last Airbender was a documentary about explorers trapped in the South Pole. This not only explains the South Pole backdrop for Season 1 but also why the series opens with Aang and Appa in suspended animation within a tremendous iceberg.
The concept art of their icy slumber captures the cool and calming beauty of the wondrous sight. Again, this picture is courtesy of Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Art of the Animated Series.
6 Gliding Into Danger
Another spectacular piece of concept art by Konietzko, this one has Aang air gliding above a Fire Nation ship, as a fireball is launched in his direction.
On his blog, Konietzko said the concept art was among the three initial colored illustrations used to pitch the Avatar: The Last Airbender to Nickelodeon. This, after spending two weeks coming up with the idea for the show. As Konietzko puts it, it was a "crazy" two weeks for everyone on staff, but it all thankfully worked out in the end.
5 Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Promise
Even though Avatar: The Last Airbender officially went off the air in 2008, that wasn't the last of Aang and his friends. Thanks to Dark Horse Comics, Avatar continued on through a series of comics and graphic novels. The first graphic novel, Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Promise, was written by Gene Yang (American Born Chinese) and illustrated by Gurihiru.
While the jump from animation to comics may seem like an easy transition, there were still a few obstacles to overcome in perfectly capturing the art style of the show. As this marked concept art showed, Gurihiru didn't exactly nail everything about Aang and Momo on their first go, but they were pretty damn close.
4 Sokka In Action
Sokka may play the fool one too many times on Avatar: The Last Airbender, but he's still the brains, brawn, and heart of the show. As episodes like "Sokka's Master" show, he's a valuable part of Team Avatar.
This concept art for the home media release for Avatar: The Last Airbender shows Sokka at his finest: A skilled and agile warrior of the Southern Water Tribe. In the final version, Sokka is shown tossing his boomerang towards the right instead of left.
3 Avatar State
Among the many awesome moments in Avatar: The Last Airbender, nothing was cooler than Aang achieving his completed Avatar State during his final battle with Fire Lord Ozai.
Commissioned for the final DVD release of the series, this rough concept art by Konietzko captures the raw intensity of the Avatar State. This isn't the goofy Aang that everyone knows and loves. Nope, this Aang means serious business.
2 Aang & Fire Lord Ozai
As impressive as the rough sketch of Aang in his Avatar State was, there was an even cooler final DVD design planned for Avatar: The Last Airbender. According to Konietzko, the final promo for the home media release was pitched as Aang in the forefront releasing fire from his fingertips, while the evil Fire Lord Ozai goes all out on his firebending in the background.
No reason was given as to why the proposed DVD cover was rejected. At least this treasured concept art wasn't lost to the ages, thanks to Konietzko's preservation.
The disastrous M. Night Shyamalan movie may have ended the theatrical dreams of Avatar: The Last Airbender, however, the series still has its sights set on telling its story through a live-action medium. Announced in 2018, Netflix and Nickelodeon are working together to produce a live-action TV series of Avatar: The Last Airbender. With the original creators on board, there's no way the forthcoming Netflix series will make the numerous mistakes (like whitewashing the cast) that plagued the 2010 movie.
While a lot is still unknown about the Netflix Avatar series, an impressive illustration of Aang and Appa at the South Pole was made public. John Staub's art is not only beautiful to look at, but it harkens back to the original show's initial concept art too.