Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra, a sequel series of the animated phenomenon Avatar: The Last Airbender, concluded its first season a few weeks ago and from the get go of the twelve-episode run, solidified itself as one of the best half hour shows on television.
Layered with mythology, real world issues, emotional characters and breathtaking action, Korra was an unexpectedly mature and artistic animated series — even the biggest Avatar fans were shocked by where Korra went and what it pulled off. The show found its audience, The Legend of Korra consistently delivering Saturday morning ratings on par with cable's biggest shows. So it's a no brainer that this week, Nickelodeon announced that The Legend of Korra would produce three more seasons for a total of 52 episodes. That's commitment!
Season One of The Legend of Korra may be in the past, but creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are already hard at work on "Book 2." Appearing alongside a number of the cast, DiMartino and Konietzko were on hand at San Diego Comic-Con to give rabid Korra fans an inside look at the first season and a taste of what's to come. Here's what we saw:
The panel kicked off with a live read of scenes from Book 1, led by series voice director Andrea Romano (a legendary director who also has credits in the DC Animated world). Voice acting often gets brushed off — it's not "real" performance. But the theatrical rendition of The Legend of Korra quickly dispelled the myth, as stars Janet Varney (Korra), P.J. Byrne (Bolin), David Faustino (Mako), and Seychelle Gabriel (Asami) roused the crowd with a mix of Korra's funniest and most dramatic moments. Romano directs them like a conductor, cuing the actors with scene descriptions and hand gestures. "Laugh together!" This is how animated magic is made.
Then DiMartino and Konietzko rattled off tons of Book 2 concept art and facts:
Team Avatar will travel to the Southern Water Tribe. They'll visit a festival with glowing lanterns that warm up the snowscape scenery. Beautiful.Korra will travel through a storm to find a glowing iceberg. Spirit world? The ice cave looks very reminiscent to the iceberg Aang was trapped in.We saw concept art of the Southern Air Temple. Inspired by Chinese art, it's a stone structure enhanced with yellow and orange skies, lush vegetation growing over it.Book 2 will explore the Spirit World and how the "Avatar" lineage began. Korra will travel into the spirit world and Konietzko hints that there may be episodes later in the season dedicated to exploring the bigger landscape of the Spirit World.Then we saw some new costumes. Korra will have new threads inspired by Mandarin, asymmetrical fashion. Mako and Bolin will get big, fluffy coats for the frozen tundra that maintain their color coordination (Mako loves that red scarf).Asami is now the head of her dad's Future Industries, so she's gone corporate! Luckily, she has an alternate costume, an airship look that makes her a double for Amelia Earhart.Book 2 will bump up Bumi, a fan favorite and brother of Tenzin, to a regular character. He's got a big potbelly which fits his wacky personality.His sister Kya will also be a regular player. Dubbed a hippie by "Konietzko," Kya's big into healing.Korra's expanded family will be introduced. The creators mentioned that Korra was inspired by MMA fighter Gina Carano, which explains her build. It also explains why her entire family is ripped.Book 2 called "Spirits" and takes place six months after Book 1.
The panel concluded with first look footage in the form of animatics (early animated storyboards that give you a feel of what to expect from the finished product). First up is a scene in the Pro-Bending arena (it's back!) with Bolin leading the Fire Ferrets into a match with the new team, Lion Elephants. Mako and Korra are off the team — and Bolin is getting his butt kicked playing side-by-side with the newbies.
Next, a big action scene between Mako (now a policeman for Republic City) and a pair of fleeing robbers. They try and waterbend his motorcycle off the road with a sheet of ice, but he's faster than them. He jumps the cycle into the air, spins around, firebends their truck and sends it rolling into a building. "Looks like someone had car trouble." Diss.
Then we see Korra racing Tenzin's kids on airballs around the air temple. It's neck and neck, but Korra jumps into Avatar State for the extra umph to get her across the finish line. Tenzin is not pleased. "The Avatar State is not to be used as a booster rocket!" This moment may speak to the season's larger arc, of Korra learning to master and appreciate her spiritual side.
Finally, we see Korra encounter a spiny spirit in the Southern Water Tribe. He's spiny and wicked, like one of Miyazaki's darker creations. The creature moves with lightning speed, pinning Korra to ice. She enters Avatar State to whip fire and water at the beast, but he tunnels underground and escapes. Conflict with the Spirit World is already shaping up to be the show's big conceit.
And that's it! The panel wrapped with the crowd recording cheers and laughs for the show's Pro-Bending scenes, which kept the energy high to the very end. The Korra crew is clearly dedicated to their creation, but also to their fans. A perfect panel!
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Nickelodeon]