Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are two of my all time favorite animated shows. In fact, The Last Airbender series actually inspired me to write my very first middle grade fantasy novel. Sufficed to say I was pretty stoked to meet the amazing team behind these series in person.
My good friend (and book signing buddy) Tiffani and I headed out to Barnes & Noble at the Grove last August 15th, 2013 to listen to a panel with series Creators Michael DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos and Ryo Ki Hun.
The Legend of Korra Creators: Ryo Ki Hun, Joaquim Dos Santos Michael DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko
The four were on hand to talk about their show and to sign their book called The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book One-Air.
Knowing there would be a long line of fans at the event, I dropped by Barnes & Noble at the Grove the night before to purchase the books I wanted signed. However, they wouldn’t give out tickets for the event until the next day. So I made sure to get to the Grove around 8am ( a full hour before the store opened) so I could be one of the first people in line. When the store finally opened, I just presented my receipt from the night before, got my two tickets and drove 15 minutes to work.
My gamble definitely paid off as there was a huge crowd already gathered by the time I got to the bookstore at 5:30 PM. Being a Barnes & Noble member, and having gotten one of the early tickets, I was able to reserve two seats at the limited seating area for the event.
Legend of Korra Panel Audience
I had fun listening to the panel talk about their individual creative processes and the stories of what goes on behind the scenes.
Here are some of the things about Legend of Korra/Avatar the Last Airbender which I learned from the Panel:
Ryo Ki Hun, Joaquim Dos Santos Michael DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko
* The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book One-Air is the first of four books in the series with Dark Horse Publishing. Each book will feature artwork, notes and behind the scenes info for each season of the series.
* There were only the four of them working as the entire crew when the show started in 2010.
* Nickelodeon invited Michael Dante Dimartino and Brian Konietzko back to work on another animated series that would feature the same world of bending as the Avatar. Ryu Ki Hun and Joaqim Dos Santos left their jobs in Warner Brothers to help out with the show when they were invited by Michael and Brian.
* The idea behindKorra’s character came was for a snowboarder in the Avatar universe–hence the baggy jeans.
* Brian and Mike have worked together for 11 years.
* Joaqim would come up with these interesting concepts and character and give the preliminary drawings to Ryu, who would always turn them into something more wonderful.
* According to Joaqim, Ryu did a lot of weird drawings, including a clown version of Bolin.
*Joaqim likes to add the word “theory” to everything, so they would always talk about things like the ear theory.
* Brian, Joaqim and Ryu would always have a debate about how to draw an ear.
Joaquim Dos Santos
* There were 37,000 items in their database which a friend helped them sort out. Only 20% or less of their material actually made it to the book.
* In Legend of Korra book 2, Lin fans might be disappointed as she isn’t heavily featured there. But in Book 3, fans will get to learn more about Lin and her family.
* Book 3 has already been written and is currently being animated.
* Mike and Brian are already working on writing and storyboarding Book 4.
Ryo Ki Hun
* The team wanted more of a 20’s feel for Book 1, so it had more of a noir, sepia tone to its illustrations.
* The Spirit World in Legend of Korra has more color than Book 1.
* Bolin is the Sokka of Legend of Korra. The guy who is funny, and has a lot of girls hanging around him.
* Ideally it should take 10 months to make a season, but realistically it takes about a year.
* The team works on 10 episodes at a time, so every episode overlaps.
* There is so much overlap in working on the series. Currently they are working on post production on Book 2, they are in the thick of production on Book 3 and in Pre-production on Book 4. It is a blur of work and like a punch in the face all day long.
* In the long run the whole series is going to take 5 years to produce.
The audience members also got to ask the panel some questions. When asked who their favorite character to draw/work on was, they all gave different answers:
* Ryu’s favorite is Milo , whose character was inspired by Brian’s friend’s son. Brian said Milo was supposed to be cute but Ryu insisted the character was supposed to be ugly. They would go back and forth and Brian would try to tweak the final drawings to make Milo look cuter.
* Joaqim’s favorite in Avatar the Last Airbender was Sokka. In Legend of Korra, his favorite is Bolin as his character is funnest to draw.
* Michael’s favorite is Tano, who is the bully that everyone eventually learns to love.
* Brian’s favorite character is Naga. Mike and Brian have dogs who are brothers and Naga was one of the original characters from 2002 that they had designed. The first drawing of Naga they ever had was of a polar bear dog standing on two feet. Naga was there even before Appa so Brian was very happy to have been able to use Naga as a character in Legend of Korra.
After entertaining several questions from the audience, the panel began their book signing.
Legend of Korra Panel Book Signing
The panelists were kind enough to pose for pictures with me and other fans. I was so thrilled to have my picture taken with some of my favorite creative persons!
Ryu even personalized my book by drawing a caricature of myself!
I was so thankful Tiffani was there to keep me company and take my pictures with the panelists.
Since we were in the seated area, Tiffani and I were one of the first ones who had our book signed. We were out of there by 8:10 PM so we decided to celebrate by grabbing some dinner at Umami Burger.
This was definitely one of my favorite book signings ever, more so because it was the last one Tiffani and I would attend together. (She’s moved to Salt Lake City ) The two of us made a vow that we would one day get published and have a joint book signing at the Grove. Here’s to hoping that dream will come true!
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