With its final season streaming online, The Legend of Korra made a huge splash at New York Comic Con 2014, with a panel featuring special guests including co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino as well as voice actors Janet Varney (Korra), David Faustino (Mako) and P.J. Byrne (Bolin) as well as a screening of a never-before-seen episode from Book 4.
The panel started off with introductions of the co-creators and cast before launching into “what will probably be the last panel for Korra,” according to Konietzko. The panel screened the second episode of Book 4, which DiMartino said was “really near and dear to our hearts.”
“We’ve done more serious episodes throughout Avatar and Korra before, and this is the crowning achievement of those stories,” said DiMartino. “We wanted to give it the proper weight and time. This episode is dedicated to Korra.”
After the screening, the co-creators and cast headed back to the stage. “We were a little disappointed at first that we weren’t screening the first one for you guys, but I think that was the best one to screen,” said DiMartino.
Varney, Faustino and Byrne prepared a special video for the panel, speaking directly to the fans in attendance. “We wanted to thank you guys so much for sticking with us these past four season,” said Varney in the video. After thanking Konietzko and DiMartino, the actors set up some footage of them getting ready to record their dialogue. What followed was a hilarious montage of different vocal exercises, eating ramen and Byrne taking off his shirt.
“Bryan and I — it always starts with me and Bryan in the room, and over the years we add more and more people,” said DiMartino. “It’s not until you hear actors do their thing — you can say, ‘That’s what’s totally in my head!'”
The duo had one more video surprise for the fans — audio from the very early days of Legend of Korra with Varney, Byrne and Faustino recording together for the first time for a ‘chemistry’ audition. The cast and creators smiled and laughed as the audio played from an early scene in the series where Korra first meets Mako and Bolin behind the scenes of pro-bending.
Since NYCC 2014 is the farewell con for Korra, all three actors discussed.
“When we found out we were going to have a little time to talk to you guys, I don’t think we could put into words what this experience has been like,” said Varney. “When I got the role, Sarah Noonan at Nickelodeon — I ran into her and the show was about to premiere and she said, ‘Are you ready for your life to change?’ It was like my first job — she seriously grabbed my arm and said, ‘I’m not kidding. This will change your life.’ And it has. Getting to watch the episodes when we come to these cons with you guys really fleshes it out.” Varney said she gets really emotional watching the show and said, “I have never worked on anything better than this show. I can never imagine working on anything better than this show. I am so honored to be a part of it.”
“To me, this is not the end. You guys taught me that,” she said. “I believe in this show the way I believe in ‘Avatar.’ It’s going to live forever because it is just that god damn good.”
Faustino said the experience has been “tremendous,” but he had no idea what he was getting into when he first auditioned. “I’m just so glad to be a part of this show; I had a tremendous time,” he said. “I just so appreciate all the love on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, so much love from you guys and all the support.”
Byrne was next, following suit and thanking the creators, saying the series will “stand the test of time.”
The three actors have become good friends, and Byrne truly believes “we have the best fans of any show,” a sentiment with which the others concurred.
“Even in the video you saw, I brought as much fan art and stuff as I could for the video,” said Varney. “I have my little Korra doll that someone gave me — she was in a deleted scene where P.J. was moving it and it was manipulating me.” The actress called the fan art “inspiring,” saying it makes it feel like the fans “are very much a part of the experience” as a result.
“The final thing that makes this okay is that we’ve got two creators over there who are some of the best creative minds alive,” said Byrne. “We’re given a finite amount of time to exist, but what I’m so excited about is I can’t wait for the next project that’s hiding in the deep dark crevices of their brain. We’re so lucky that we got to be a part of this — I think the world is going to be so lucky to see what comes from those two guys’ heads.”
Konietzko said it’s been “awesome” and that they consider themselves lucky to get such good artists and actors and producers on the project. “It’s a huge, huge effort from a lot of people. It’s great when people care as much as we do about the work, and they’re generous with their gifts,” said Konietzko.
“You guys are part of the Avatar family now, and you’re stuck with us,” said DiMartino.
DiMartino showed off the updated designs for Book 4, which he called fun, but taxing. Kuvira, the main antagonist of Book 4, was up first. Konietzko said he knew early that she would be a “kickass metal bender,” but he was worried the initial design would be too superhero-y. The long braid in development had to go because “it would drive the animators crazy.” Konietzko gave Kuvira a bun, and had help redesigning shoulder pads and tapering the metal plates in the back.
“Once I had this outfit, it helped set the look for her army,” said Konietzko. Kuvira ended up still as a “really complex model” for the animators.
DiMartino also showed off a few background designs for Kuvira’s army, including the top command, the sergeant, the corporal, the regular standard metal bender, the private and the MechaPilot. There are also designs for Kuvira supporters. Other designs shown off are the high-speed train, the mech suits — which also have ranking indicators.
The Airbender wing suits were an attempt to modernize the Air Nation. “One thing about these suits is that Asami designed these,” said Konietzko. “These are Future Industries’ cutting-edge fabrics — I wouldn’t have wanted to be a test pilot.” During the course of designing the suits, he was trying to hold on to the original Air Nation look. He took the base concept from his initial sketch, but as he started to figure out what it would look like when they were flying, that’s when it all came together. “It’s this folding wing system that just tucks,” he said. “When Kai and Opal showed up in [the suits], I was like, ‘Yeah!'”
Korra’s new Book 4 design made the character taller, and changed the character to her current Earth Kingdom look. “You’ve seen it in the trailer, but it hasn’t shown up in the episodes yet, but this is Korra’s final Avatar look.”
“This is a really big deal for us. It’s been 12 years since we came up with this whole Avatar universe to us. Avatar means so many things to so many different people. When I think of the creation of it, I think of me and Mike at the computer in a little apartment in Burbank. In a series of two weeks we cracked open this whole universe together. It’s just blossomed in to something so huge — it’s such a big part of our lives and so many people over the world. These characters are real to us — not in a delusional way, in an emotional way. They really mean a lot to me, and I know to Mike as well. We just want to say thanks.”
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