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Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series is an artbook based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The book contains concept art, design works, behind-the-scenes commentary by series founders Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, along with other pieces of production artwork.[2] The book was released in comic book stores on May 19, 2010 and in general bookstores on June 2, 2010. It consists of 184 pages, split into five chapters of the aforementioned material, most of which had never been revealed to the public before.[1][2][4]

A second edition of the artbook was released on November 25, 2020, in a standard and deluxe edition, featuring a new cover by Bryan Konietzko, eight pages of new material and an updated foreword by Gene Luen Yang. The deluxe edition also includes a designed slipcase, an art lithograph, a gilded front cover, and a ribbon marker.[3][5]


The book contains five chapters:

  1. Early Development (pages eight through 37)
  2. Season One: Water (pages 38 through 83)
  3. Season Two: Earth (pages 84 through 129)
  4. Season Three: Fire (pages 130 through 172)
  5. Ancillary Art (pages 172 through 183)

The first edition includes a foreword by the director of The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan (page six), while in the second edition, the foreword was written by Gene Luen Yang, who authored the first five Avatar graphic novel trilogies. The book also includes an introduction by Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino (page seven). The very last page contains a conclusion, which is again written by the creators.

The book explains how the series was created and gives one an idea of the efforts that went into such an endeavor. Thanks to the many beautiful illustrations, the book also lets the reader go a step further into the world of Avatar.

Chapter One: Early Development[]

Aang early concept art

Early concept art of Aang, Appa, and Momo by Bryan Konietzko.

In the introduction to the chapter, the two creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, expand on how they first met while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. An initial friendship that began with Konietzko helping DiMartino with his student film expanded after they both graduated and got their start in the animation industry, culminating in the two directing episodes together for sitcom shows like Family Guy, King of the Hill, and Mission Hill. Despite their workload and failed past pitches, the pair remained committed to working together to get their own show on the air, toying with the idea of a coming of age story inspired by their childhood experiences. Their discussions came to fruition when Konietzko lost his job on the production of Invader Zim; after its cancellation on the January of 2002, Konietzko got in contact with Nickelodeon development executive Eric Coleman, who had scouted the young artist for his work as art director on Zim. Piqued by the pair's experience in production and their prospective ideas, Coleman iterated that the network was interested in a show with elements of "action, adventure, and magic" in the vein of current blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. During a brainstorming session with DiMartino, Konietzko found an old science fiction sketch he had made during his work on Invader Zim of three characters: a robot cyclops monkey marked with an arrow on his head named Momo-3, a middle-aged bald man in futuristic garb, and a bipedal creature that was a cross between a polar bear and a dog. Drawn to the concept, the style of which was similar to that of Zim's creator Jhonen Vasquez, Konietzko would alter the characters to create continuity between them and have them fit within the network's guidelines. He put the monkey's arrow markings on the man's and polar bear's heads, gave the monkey's staff to the man as well, and made the futuristic, sullen-looking man an inquisitive, mischievous young boy, seeing it as a more befitting point of view character for the children who would serve as the show's main audience. The arrow markings on the three characters were inspired by a character sculpture done by Chris Sickels, a friend of Konietzko's, that was covered in arrow decals.

Konietzko would add new artwork to the pair's pitch, taking on the design sensibilities of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki; one such sketch showcased the young boy as a Huckleberry Finn archetype, having him herd a group of bison-manatee hybrids floating through the skies, who trusted the boy due to their shared arrow body markings. When deciding on the pitch's story, DiMartino's interest in Ernest Shackleton's 1915 expedition to Antarctica inspired him to center the narrative around a group of characters similarly trapped in the rapidly changing landscape of the South Pole. During a late-night rendezvous at DiMartino's house, the two creators gelled their various ideas together: the group trapped in the ice were kids from the "water people", who themselves were being attacked by the "fire people" trying to melt down the South Pole. The kids would then be rescued by the arrow-marked "air" boy Konietzko had drawn. From there, the creators spent the next two weeks fleshing out what would become the world of Avatar, such as there being a fourth group, an "earth people", and generally basing the mythos of the series around their own interests, namely disciplines like yoga and traditional martial arts, animated media from Japan and live-action cinema from Hong Kong, and the many cultures and philosophies of Asia the creators had researched. In addition, Konietzko worked on developing three pieces of art that reflected fantastical action-adventure. One was of Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Momo traveling with a group of bison-manatees through the air, another of Aang dive-bombing a battleship on his glider, and a final one inspired by the character Naota Nandaba from FLCL where, similar to a moment from said anime, Aang's eyes and arrow tattoos glowed a solid white as gusts and flames billowed around him. Though the creators admit they "broke every rule" by giving a more than two hour pitch regarding the main characters, setting, and overall story arc, Eric Coleman was convinced by the pair's outline, giving the green-light for the series to begin early production.

Team Avatar early development concept art

Concept art for Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Momo during the show's early development by Bryan Konietzko.

The chapter then delves into the process that went into developing the show's initial lead characters. In their conception of the characters, the creators intended for Aang, Katara, and Sokka to be ten, twelve, and thirteen years old, respectively. At the suggestion of Eric Coleman, all three characters were aged up by two years during the show's early development.

Aang was originally referred to as the "wind boy", "Buddha boy", and the "keystone being" by the creators, as Aang's transformative role in the narrative was bringing balance back to the world. Having discovered the Hindu word avatar during their research, translated as a persisting human manifestation of a divine entity, the co-creators originally described Aang, and by extension their fictional depiction of an avatar, in the series bible as "the incarnation of the Spirit of the Planet in human form." Ultimately, the creators opted not to use this description in the actual series. Other dropped concepts had Aang's character being a survivor of a technologically advanced society that had existed a thousand years prior, as opposed to a century like in the actual series; this was reflected in his futuristic garb, staff, and robotic animal companion in early concept art. Once the creators had refined their vision of the Avatar world and the four nations that comprised it, however, they decided Aang should be a member of the Air Nomads, a group aesthetically and culturally inspired by Tibetan and Buddhist civilizations. Aang's pacifistic and boisterous personality mixed with his prodigious skill in martial arts came about when DiMartino and Konietzko watched a pre-teen boy's acrobatic performance that was part of Shaolin: Wheel of Life, a recorded stage show by monks of the Shaolin Performing Arts Troupe; both creators felt the boy's adorable nature and skill perfectly epitomized what they wanted Aang to be like. Though Konietzko drawings influenced much of Aang's look, other subsequent artists in the animation staff provided their own alterations and passes on his design. Tin House animation director Young Ki Yoon worked to streamline Aang's design for other artists; key animator Ga Young Myeong's rendition of Aang's exaggerated reaction to Katara wearing a necklace in "The Fortuneteller" was a favorite of the creators'.

To DiMartino, Katara represents the positive ideals present within the show, and as a strong female main character, was one factor that appealed to the show's female audience. Influenced by the relationships they had with their own sisters, DiMartino and Konietzko established Katara and Sokka's sibling rivalry by giving the former bending abilities while the latter did not. Conversely, unlike Aang, Katara was not a bending master, having only a rudimentary understanding of waterbending. It was from this character detail that the co-creators decided that Katara's inexperience was due to her being the only waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe. Katara was not the character's original name; in the pilot episode, the character was referred to as Kya. The name, however, had to be changed due to potential copyright issues regarding the titular protagonist from the video game Kya: Dark Lineage. For a short time, the character was referred to as Kanna before Konietzko came up with the name Katara. The names Kya and Kanna would later be used for Katara's mother and grandmother. Artwork of Katara from the series bible and the show's early production is shown; some of the first closeup views of Katara and Sokka were done at the last minute by Konietzko after he realized none were included in the initial pitch to Eric Coleman. Later designs done for the show's pilot episode, which included her signature hair loopies, were done by both Konietzko and Young Ki Yoon. Expression models for Katara's final iteration are also displayed, with Konietzko basing her visages on the visuals coming from JM Animation, one of the show's animation studios.

While simple in motivation and snide in behavior, Sokka's purpose, defending his remaining family and home from the Fire Nation by himself, elevated the character's realism for DiMartino. The creators had always intended for Sokka to be the everyman character of the group, with the chance to flesh out his character coming when they determined the South's warriors had left to fight in the Hundred Year War, leaving Sokka as the only man of fighting age left in the South. DiMartino enjoyed getting to shape Sokka's arc through the series, with the character going from an untested warrior to a worldly leader. Like Katara, Sokka's expression models were based on JM Animation's pencil-test animation for the first season. The liveliness of the animators' drawings are noted, as is Young Ki Yoon's depiction of Sokka's deadpan expression in a design for the pilot. Concepts for Sokka's weapons, including his battle club, jaw blade, and boomerang, are shown, including Konietzko's hand-drawn notes on the components of each implement. The weapons were inspired by traditional Native American weaponry, and were constructed primarily with bone and leather.

Appa concept

An early sketch by Bryan Konietzko of Appa and Aang to emphasise the "epic spirit of the series".

Appa's design, being a six-legged floating mammal, was a tribute to two of Konietzko's favorite things: his love of manatees, specifically the contrasting quality of their bulky physiques and ability to swim gracefully underwater, and the "boundless imagination" of animator Hayao Miyazaki. For Appa's anatomy, his six legs were based off the Catbus from the Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro; while taking care to keep the design simplified for later animation, Konietzko researched bison and manatee physiology, and even had the chance to swim with one of the aquatic creatures shortly before finalizing the pitch. Both Appa's design and position in the story changed through early development of the show. Originally, Konietzko had intended Aang to be the caretaker of a herd of flying bison. This was later reduced, at the insistence of DiMartino, to a small family group of bison to lessen the amount of characters in the main cast that had to be accounted for; by the time the series had reached pre-production, Appa was the sole bison remaining in the core group of protagonists. Each iteration of Appa's design had unique features that were incorporated or adapted into his final design. One concept gave him a wispier tail, another stubbier legs, and long spiral horns were streamlined to be short and curved, as Konietzko refined the species' various hybrid characteristics. The aforementioned concept with Appa and his spiral horns had the bison floating off the ground as a comparatively minuscule Aang reaches up to pet him; the creators intended such a "quiet moment" between the two characters to reflect what would be the epic feel of the series. The creators also reveal that, after fan demand and the creators' own petitions, Nickelodeon's consumer products department released Appa plushies to positive reception and financial success.

As the setting of the world of Avatar became less aesthetically analogous to science fiction, the creators considered dropping Momo's early robotic iteration, and his role as a mischievous sidekick to Aang, entirely. Momo was also intended to be stuck in the iceberg with Aang and Appa at the beginning of the series, which the creators saw as excessive. Momo's inclusion, however, was saved as DiMartino came up with the idea for Aang meeting Momo in the deserted Southern Air Temple, acting as a symbol of hope in the face of the Avatar's despair. The robotic angle to the character's design was changed to more closely resemble flesh and blood ring-tailed lemurs and spotted bats, two of Konietzko's favorite animals. Having researched such animals for reference, many of Momo's early designs were more photorealistic compared to the character's final design. In a desire to make the lemur more "cute and cuddly", Konietzko revised Momo's features to resemble the titular character from the Hayao Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro. Many of Momo's mannerisms and articulations were based on Konietzko's childhood pet cat, with his sketches for Momo iterating that, among other creatures, the lemur should move like a "cat-thing".

Unlike the main protagonists, Zuko was not a part of the creators' conception of the series at the beginning. While the creators' vision had a Fire Lord as an opposing force to the protagonists, he would stay on the sidelines while prosecuting the war from the safety of his throne. In contrast, the concept of Zuko was born when Eric Coleman suggested to the creators that they could have a younger antagonist consistently pursue Aang and his friends from episode to episode. From Konietzko's concept art of the scarred prince, the creators quickly established Zuko's backstory and character arc, namely that his father was responsible for marring his face, and that his pursuit of Aang was to help restore his lost honor. For his long-term development through the series, the creators knew Zuko would eventually become an ally to Aang, but did not have the circumstances of his journey mapped out during the series' early development. It was for his actions as a hero and villain that made the character feel realistic and complex to DiMartino. Zuko's design went through several iterations, while retaining his scar throughout his creation process. Inspired by the aesthetic of samurai, the prince's hair was originally formed like a narrow wick and upturned to hang over his bare scalp; at Young Ki Yoon's suggestion, Konietzko gave Zuko a more substantial top-knot that flowed downward like a ponytail. Unlike the other characters who were aged up during development, Konietzko made slight alterations to Young Ki's design pass on Zuko, giving him a younger and leaner look. Another change to Zuko also involved his armor; like his hair, Zuko was given armor harkening to the protection worn by samurai. At the last minute, the creators decided to have Zuko's outfit reflect Chinese styles of armor instead, a change that affected the general look of the Fire Nation's fashion and architecture as a whole.

Bending early development concept art

Concept art by Bryan Konietzko, depicting how the bending arts would visualized in the show.

Per Eric Coleman's guideline for having the characters use "magic" to fight each other, the creators worked on developing the bending arts of the Avatar world, the ability to manipulate or "bend" four different elements using Chinese martial arts styles and forms. As opposed to the "magic wand fare" used in other franchises, the bending arts were based around the creators' desire for action that was grounded in physicality; in regards to the network's policy on violence, this also ensured that characters were not physically making contact with one another. As the world of Avatar continued to be developed with Asian influences in mind, the bending arts were shaped by a variety of related subjects. The concept of using kung fu to control supernatural forces was built off the storytelling employed by Hong Kong cinema, with the creators listing the movie Shaolin Soccer as a particular example. When demurring on which elements to include, the creators decided on the four elements of air, water, earth, and fire, a grouping drawn from the philosophies in many ancient civilizations, such as Buddhist and Hellenistic cultures. Though DiMartino and Konietzko learned of and were intrigued by the traditional Chinese five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water as a potential concept, the creators believed that the four elements' historical presence in cultures around the world would make the bending arts easily understood by the show's diverse audiences. For the actual kung fu that would serve as the catalyst of the elemental bending, Konietzko set about determining what style of martial arts would be adapted for the show, as well as finding a teacher of said style to act as a consultant. Drawn to the martial art of Northern Shaolin, Konietzko sampled the classes of numerous practitioners in the Los Angeles area, eventually coming under the tutelage of Sifu Kisu. Konietzko was impressed by Kisu's no-nonsense, dedicated teaching style, and by the summer of 2002, explained to Kisu his and DiMartino's ideas regarding the elements and martial arts for their prospective show. In turn, Kisu was intrigued by Konietzko's pitch, and quickly gave his own ideas about how different kung fu disciplines could be used to bend each element, which became the basis for the martial arts choreography of the series going forward. Kisu also believed that the disciplines should be assigned to each element based on their respective characteristics, a notion that helped Konietzko and DiMartino further define the cultures in their fictional world. As part of his consultant work, Kisu provided examples of kung fu forms that were recorded and used as video reference by the show's crew; a series of thumbnail sketches by Konietzko depict the flow of one of Kisu's demonstrations. Other pieces of concept art show different characters bending the elements, displaying how different movements correspond to how the elements are generated or manipulated.

With a foundation for how the action in their series would work, the creators began producing a short demonstration of how Kisu's martial arts demonstrations could be animated. DiMartino and Konietzko recruited a small team to help them create the animated sequence using pencil and paper. Choreographing the action was a difficult process for Konietzko, attesting that his own issues came from an artistic block and his lack of experience with kung fu at the time. While the pencil-test animation has never been released in its totality due to Konietzko deploring his own work, the art book shows two series of animation key frames from the sequence, one of Zuko comedically rolling in the air and falling to the ground, and another of Aang reacting with exaggerated disgust at Zuko's "stinky fire breath". Once the test animation was done, the creators then gave it to their friends Benjamin Wynn and Jeremy Zuckerman, who provided both the sound design and music for the final product. Regardless of his perceived performance, Konietzko iterates his appreciation for the work everyone put into the pencil test, and how the collaboration with the small team led to future partnerships in the show's production. Lauren MacMullan, whose house was used as a makeshift animation studio, would be hired on the show's production as a director; Wynn and Zuckerman's work together on sound and music blossomed into an association that extended through the show's production, with the two proving themselves as capable artists to the network despite their status as recent graduates.

Serpent attack concept art

Early concept art for the unaired pilot shows the serpent attacking Aang and his friends. Concept art by Bryan Konietzko.

Over the next nine months, the creators expanded on the content in the series bible, namely by refining the show's overarching narrative, and coming up with ideas for individual episodes. Konietzko created more character and conceptual artwork for the bible as well, in particular depicting several moments from the pilot where Aang flees a giant serpent, rescues Katara and Sokka from the burning wreckage of a Fire Nation outpost, and fights Zuko atop some scaffolding, to give the network an idea of the varied moods the show could evoke. This all resulted in a sixty-five page series bible that was sent to Nickelodeon along with the original pencil test, and a script for a short pilot episode. In the early months of 2003, the network authorized the further development of the pilot episode, which the co-creators worked on within their new Nickelodeon office space. Though the series was always intended to open in on Katara and Sokka finding Aang inside an iceberg, the story for the first episode was too long, necessitating a shorter story disconnected from the series' narrative to give focus-group audiences a sample of its setting, characters, and action. The pilot would first need to be animated by an experienced animation studio, and given Avatar's visual homages to the style of anime, the co-creators tried to make contact with overseas Japanese studios for a collaboration, using the pencil test as a "calling card" of sorts. The co-creators' entreaties to the Japanese studios ultimately went unanswered; however, at a recommendation of a friend, Konietzko and DiMartino became aware of Tin House, a small South Korean animation studio that had worked on the recent animated film Wonderful Days. As the film had its own stylistic homages to anime, the creators were interested in working with the studio, a feeling reciprocated by Tin House's staff, who were eager to collaborate on the project creatively. Konietzko and DiMartino moved to Seoul, South Korea for several weeks to help Tin House with the pilot's production; both creators enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the animation process used by Korean studios, as well as the relationships that formed between them and the studio's staff in and out of the workplace. Many of the Korean artists would continue to work on the series all the way to its final episodes; those who did not continued to influence the series in other ways. Young Ki Yoon, the animation director for Wonderful Days, helped Konietzko streamline some of the main characters' designs, the final models of which are shown in the art book. Among them are two characters unused in the series proper: an earlier concept for a male version of Toph, and a firebender who was part of an all female Fire Nation group that was hunting down Aang. Another of Young Ki's contributions was his layout work on a background painting by Young Cheol Jong, for the top of a giant statue Aang and Zuko fight atop. The statue was that of an Avatar's, which the Fire Nation was altering to resemble Zuko's father, the Fire Lord, instead. By February, 2004, the pilot was completed by Tin House, and, with its positive reception from kids focus-groups, Nickelodeon ordered a pickup of thirteen full episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Spotlight: The South Korean Animation Studios[]

In a subsection of the chapter, the creators take some time to detail their collaborative relationship with the animation studios that worked on Avatar, as well as showcasing the work of individual artists. Having previously worked on animated projects that employed overseas Korean studios, such as Invader Zim in Konietzko's case, the creators had always been impressed by the talent and work ethic of the animators. The relationship between the Korean studios and their American production partners, however, was viewed as an unequal one by the creators; the Korean artists were not given the time or resources, and thus incentive, to augment American artists' work with their own creative flairs, and were generally penalized whenever they tried to do so. In addition to telling the story of Avatar, part of the reason why Konietzko and DiMartino were interested in creating a project was to change the system between American and overseas animation studios, and give the South Korean artists a chance to be a greater part of the creative process in their work. Though a difficult process, the co-creators received support from within Nickelodeon's hierarchy, including general manager of Nickelodeon Animation Studios Mark Taylor and the crew's line producer Miken Wong.

Last Agni Kai key frames

Yu Jae Myung's key frames for Zuko and Azula's Agni Kai.

Though Tin House was the animation studio responsible for the pilot, the rest of the series was animated by three other South Korean studios: JM Animation, DR Movie, and MOI Animation. JM Animation was the first of the new studios to be hired on; the studio was actually a new creation altogether, having been formed by a small number of Tin House artists that had also worked on the pilot. While believing in JM Animation's staff, and their creative ability, the creators knew the studio did not yet have the resources to handle animating thirteen episodes within the show's production deadlines. Thus, DR Movie and their sister studio MOI Animation, two veteran studios with a history of working with American and Japanese productions, were also enlisted to help with the series' initial episodes. The premiere episodes, "The Boy in the Iceberg" and "The Avatar Returns", were completed by JM Animation, a labor described as "Herculean" by DiMartino. An anecdote by DiMartino describes how he, Konietzko, and the episodes' director Dave Filoni sat down to watch a QuickTime video of the studio's pencil test animation, wherein afterward all three were stunned by how "the beautiful quality, the emotional acting, and the dynamic action" had exceeded their expectations.

Though assured that Avatar's animation would be special as a result of their collaboration, what made the creators' interactions with the Korean animators so satisfying was developing relations with each other on a personal level. These opportunities to develop their lasting friendships came during DiMartino and Konietzko's periodic trips to Seoul throughout the show's production to help the animators with their work.

As mentioned, several pages are dedicated to showing key frame animation from several moments in the show. These include drawings by In Jeong, who worked on Zuko's Agni Kai with Zhao in the episode "The Southern Air Temple". Ki Hyun Ryu animated multiple sequences, including Aang waking up Appa after they were freed from the iceberg and Katara castigating Sokka for his dirty socks from "The Boy in the Iceberg". Select moments from Zuko and Azula's Agni Kai in "Sozin's Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno" were animated by Jung Hye Young and Jae Myung Yu; and two moments centered around Sokka, the first being his heckling a defeated Fire Nation Man were drawn by Jung Hye Young in "The Blind Bandit", while Sokka's attempts to knife and later hold onto a fish in "The Fortuneteller" were done by Ga Young Myeong and Jae Myung Yu.

Chapter Two: Season One: Water[]

After the pilot and the series were commissioned by Nickelodeon, Konietzko and DiMartino started recruiting a larger team to make the series, drawing upon the connections they had made in prior animated productions. Two such colleagues, who had also worked with the co-creators on Mission Hill, were Aaron Ehasz, Avatar's head writer, and Dave Filoni, director of the first season's premiere and finale amongst other episodes. Brought on during the initial script-writing process, Ehasz helped with fleshing out the series' early narrative, while Filoni was scouted for his artistic appreciation of Hayao Miyazaki's films, having introduced the co-creators to the influential films years before. Others would join the production as directors, storyboard artists, designers, and layout artists, resulting in a team of thirty people at Nickelodeon Studios. Most of the crew had only worked in the style of American sitcoms or superhero media, however, a far cry from the style of Japanese anime and how it captured ambient movement, lighting, and camera perspective, all stylistic choices Konietzko and DiMartino wanted the show to draw upon. The art direction of Avatar was a learning process for all the crew, as Konietzko admits the challenge in adapting his own style in the vein of Studio Ghibli and Gainax's creations. Sticking to the influences that appealed to him on an emotional level, Konietzko infused his designs with his appreciation for the natural world and the rich cultures of Asia, while, in his capacity as art director, allowing for the show's style to evolve from episode to episode with the crew's creative input. The crew also took to the show's other design challenges, whether it was creating characters and environments that were introduced in every new episode, or trying to depict notoriously difficult to draw elements like fire and water in action scenes.

After succeeding in finding the show's animation studios in South Korea and building up an in-house crew in the United States, the collective team began work on the two-episode season premiere. During this point in development, Aang's design would receive another update by Ki Hyun Ryu, who further streamlined the airbender's outfit to ease the overseas animators' work. Will Weston's color concept for the iceberg holding Aang and Appa is shown. The creators envisioned that the airbender and bison were suspended in a pocket of energy within the ice as opposed to them being frozen solid; they also thought about having the pair rotate within their icy prison, but realized it would be too hard to animate. More of Weston's concept art shows the interior and exterior spaces of Katara and Sokka's village, which had been reduced to a small settlement after repeated Fire Nation attacks. The creators iterate how the Southern Water Tribe was inspired by the daily life of an Inuit village as depicted in the film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Several of Konietzko's concepts for the firebenders' armor are shown; the many attempts by the co-creator were focused on creating something that was easy to draw given the soldiers' presence throughout the story, but nonetheless scary and cool in its design. The common element between the designs are the pitch black eyeholes in their faceplates, resembling the empty sockets of a skull graphic. The "horns" gracing the helmet in one concept were based off a rhinoceros beetle's; in turn, the curved, blade-like prow of Zuko's ship was based off the similarly shaped crest on the firebenders' helmets.

Art of the Animated Series Iroh sketches

The page dedicated to Iroh. Key animation frames by Jung Hye Young. Concept art by Hong Li, Bryan Konietzko, and Aaron Alexovich.

Iroh was added while making the first episode, after the creators brainstormed that Zuko would travel the world with a mentor figure. He was at first going to be Zuko's gruff sifu, but later on in development, became his uncle to make the story more interesting. During one of their first meeting with Aaron Ehasz, the head writer convinced Konietzko and DiMartino that Iroh should be more soft in nature, pitching him as "a guy who is trying to enjoy retirement, but gets stuck watching over his nephew". According to Konietzko, Mako made Iroh complete by reinforcing his wisdom and and compassion through his performance, while adding a sense of humor to the character. Iroh's final design was conceived by artist Hong Li, and further developed by Konietzko and Aaron Alexovich, who streamlined Hong's highly-detailed drawings.

Another addition to the antagonist roster was Zhao, who was created for the purpose of giving Zuko a rival in his quest to hunt down Aang. When writing for Zhao, the team took care to not make his behavior over the top like cartoon villains from other shows. In his capacity as a writer, DiMartino lists Jason Isaacs' roles as Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot and Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films as inspirations for Zhao, to the point that he asked casting director Maryanne Dacey to get an actor that could capture Isaacs' "wonderfully cunning, evil vibe" to portray the character. To DiMartino's surprise, Dacey was able to get in contact with Isaacs, who subsequently agreed to play the part. Like with Iroh, Zhao's final design came from Hong Li's early concept art. The varying designs were too "tough" for what the creators had in mind, however, as Zhao was supposed to have the feel of a "sleazy politician or an overambitious corporate climber". The disparity between Zuko and Zhao is showcased in a color concept by Will Weston; in it, the characters' respective ships are docked at harbor, Zhao's cruiser towering over Zuko's smaller craft. The creators reveal that Zuko's ship was an older model from the early days of the war, a hand-me-down from the prince's father, while conversely, Zhao's ship was supposed to represent the modern technological advances of the Fire Nation's navy.

A background painting of the Southern Air Temple and the surrounding mountains is shown, along with concept art and designs relating to Aang's mentor, Gyatso. The creators detail the society of the Air Nomads and, despite their monastic practices of traveling the world while tending to their bison herds, how they built four temples at remote locations that served as cultural, spiritual, and educational centers for their people. As the Air Nomads had been wiped out by the present storyline, Aang's flashbacks with Gyatso served as a demonstration of their shared way of life. Gyatso's design was supposed to reflect his playfulness and wisdom, as he was someone who enjoyed the simpler moments of life.

The concept for Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors came from two sources, the first being DiMartino's idea during the series' early development for a warrior culture that had maintained its neutrality throughout the war, and the second from writer Nick Malis, who included a group of all female, Japanese-inspired warriors in one of his story pitches. Said inspiration came in the form of the Kyoshi Warriors' armor and garb, which was based on traditional Japanese clothing. The Kyoshi Warriors' historical purpose was to provide security to the local population, as Avatar Kyoshi created the group to protect her island home from visiting unruly sailors. Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors were only meant to appear in their debut episode; following their popularity with both fans and the production team, however, the creators began planning to bring the characters back for future stories, particularly in regards to Suki and Sokka's burgeoning relationship.

During one of his many trips to South Korea, Konietzko took the opportunity to design the elderly King Bumi. The monarch's muscular physique, usually hidden behind his regal raiment, was meant to evoke the hunched proportions of the Evangelions from their eponymous series by Gainax. Conceptually, Bumi's character was a fusion of DiMartino's idea that a friend of Aang could have survived the hundred years he was in an iceberg, as well as writer John O'Bryan's pitch for a "crazy old king" that would repeatedly test the young Avatar. Bumi became one of DiMartino's favorite characters, despite his introductory episode being viewed as part of the production's "growing pains" while developing Book One. In addition to Bumi's designs and concepts, artwork for two other characters are shown from "The King of Omashu": the cabbage merchant and Flopsie, the former being designed by Aaron Alexovich. The cabbage merchant's recurring appearances and comedic encounters with Team Avatar throughout the series was a result of his popularity with the writers. Though taken aback at the merchant's reception with both crew and fans, the creators got used to the merchant's sudden appearances in the series, likening it to how the protagonists of Cowboy Bebop ran into the recurring characters of Antonio, Carlos, and Jobim. Flopsie, Bumi's beloved pet, was a hybrid design on Konietzko's part that crossed a goat and a gorilla, which was a more challenging design to conceptualize compared to other animal designs in the series.

The prison rig Katara, Haru, and Tyro were imprisoned on was designed by Dave Filoni and Tom Dankiewicz, with a background painting that served as one of the prison's establishing shots in the episode being done by Will Weston. The prison's design was based off of real-life, contemporary oil rigs; rather than extract natural resources, the prison rig in the show was used by the Fire Nation to hold earthbenders in captivity away from their native element, and use them as laborers to build the invader's metal battleships.

Several concepts of the spirit Hei Bai are shown from Konietzko and Ethan Spaulding; like many other characters in the series, Hei Bai's look took cues from the designs of Neon Genesis Evangelion, in this case from the antagonistic Angels. During his journeys into the Spirit World, Aang has the chance to meet Avatar Roku, his mentor throughout the series, and predecessor in the Avatar Cycle. As one of the few heroic Fire Nation characters introduced early in the show, Roku was regarded as an opportunity to display a more positive side of the nation's culture. Roku's temple, built on the outermost island of the Fire Nation archipelago, was based off the Yellow Crane Tower located in Wuhan, China. The Yellow Crane Tower's upturned, flame-like roof corners were not only applied to Roku's temple, but also became a motif for the architecture of the Fire Nation as a whole.

The designs for the pirates Katara steals from, as drawn by Sung Gu Won, were all based on the friends the creators had made at JM Animation. In particular, Pirate Barker Oh was modeled after future supervising director Seung Hyun Oh, who frequently took the creators out for karaoke, reflected in one of the pirate's expression models where he is singing into a microphone. The exception was the crew's captain, who was based on a concept of Hong Li's.

Freedom Fighters concept art

Concept art for the Freedom Fighters, drawn and colored by Ki Hyun Ryu.

Having only basic character outlines in a script for what would become Jet and his Freedom Fighters, the American crew commissioned JM Animation artist Ki Hyun Ryu to create concept art of the new characters during pre-production. Though Ki Hyun's designs were a stylistic departure from the series' aesthetic, their quality convinced the creators to keep them. The liveliness in Ki Hyun's work helped to illustrate the Freedom Fighters' personalities, with added labels in the concept art indicating the role each member had. Boss was Jet, Scout was Sneers, Archer was Longshot, Sentry was the Duke, Strongarm was Pipsqueak, and Thief was Smellerbee; the writers came up with the characters' actual names at a later point. Jet's design is also noted to have been based on Spike Spiegel's from Cowboy Bebop, while the group's armor indicated that they had scavenged pieces of clothing from different nations. DiMartino compliments how the designs and writing for the characters influenced each other for the better, to the point that they decided to bring Jet, Longshot, and Smellerbee back in the show's second season. Concept sketches for the Freedom Fighters' treetop hideout by Dave Filoni are also shown, which include the director's comprehensive notes that flesh out the environment for other artists on the crew. In an aside, the creators reveal that, as a Star Wars fan, Filoni would slip in references to the franchise in his work; one such association is in a sketch of the tree the Freedom Fighters live on, with the tree's middle region being labeled as "Ewok", a reference to the arboreal creatures introduced in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

One source of contention between the creators and the writers was the canyon crawlers, large creatures evoking crocodiles and spiders that inhabit the Great Divide. Though frustrated at the writers coming up with such a bizarre animal, the creators praise Ethan Spaulding and Jerry Langford for visualizing the concept into a terrifying final product.

As part of her first assignment joining the crew, recent architectural school graduate Elsa Garagarza was to design the Fire Lord's throne room that would fit within the guidelines of "Egyptian, Chinese, scary"; in the creators' view, Garagarza passed the test with her work on the recurring location.

Blue Spirit mask concept art

Concept art for the Blue Spirit and its design inspiration, a Chinese drama mask. Concept art by Bryan Konietzko.

At first, only thirteen episodes were approved for development by Nickelodeon, potentially making "The Blue Spirit" the last episode of the series. Needing a story as exciting as a season finale, the writers quickly drew up a scenario where a disguised Zuko would rescue Aang after he had been captured by Zhao. In the early script for the episode, Zuko's masked alter ego was the Red Spirit rather than the blue. Konietzko would also research a variety of masks in Asian cultures when creating concept art for the main element of Zuko's diguise. The resulting red color scheme for the disguise and mask, however, was seen as being too close to "an ancient Korean version of Spider-Man"; as well, the director of the episode, Anthony Lioi, noted that an association with the Fire Nation and its red color motif might give away Zuko's identity to the audience. Changing the disguise's color to blue, Konietzko created the final version of the design after referencing a Chinese drama mask for the Dragon King Nuo character. The drama mask, a picture of which is shown next to concept art of the Blue Spirit, was too elaborate in design to recreate for TV animation, resulting in Konietzko streamlining elements of the design, and ensuring the mask's spooky and menacingly playful qualities remained intact. While Zuko was always Konietzko's favorite character, the Blue Spirit alias enhanced the character's appeal, allowing for the prince to act without the sense of shame brought about by his exile.

Designs and concepts are shown for the path leading to Mt. Makapu by Tom Dankiewicz, and the statues that line it by Dave Filoni. The two turtle statues that stand beyond the archway were based on similar statues the creators saw during their trips to South Korea.

The bounty hunter June's design was based on the show's post-production supervisor, Lisa Yang; June's shirshu was also named after Yang's pet dog, Nyla. Designed by Konietzko, the shirshu is a composite of several animals: a wolf, a mole, and a giant anteater.

The designs for Aang, Katara, and Sokka's masks during their attendance of the Fire Days Festival are displayed; they were conceptualized by director Lauren MacMullan, then further developed by Aldina Dias. The masks, and the festival they were a part of, were meant to showcase how the Fire Nation's cultural heritage was not solely rooted in militarism. A painting by Hye Jung Kim of the village where the festival takes place captures the Fire Nation's colonizing of the Earth Kingdom, wherein the main temple's upturned pointed roof corners contrasts with the rest of the village dwellings built in the typical Earth Kingdom style. Jeong Jeong, Aang's first firebending master, was designed referencing the appearance of DR Movie president Jeong Gyun Jeong, who the creators befriended during their trips to South Korea. Describing Jeong Gyun as looking akin to a James Bond villain, the creators were interested in including him in the show. The story of "The Deserter", and Jeong Jeong's jungle encampment, were based on the narrative and setting of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness; paintings of the camp were designed and painted, respectively, by Elsa Garagarza and Bryan Evans. Storyboards of Aang's first meeting with Jeong Jeong are also shown; for these storyboards, director MacMullan won an Annie Award in 2005 for Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production.

The creators admit that they were not entirely satisfied with the design of the Southern Air Temple, and were thusly excited when the story gave them the chance to create the Northern Air Temple. Ricardo Delgado's design for a full view of the temple standing atop a mountain is shown; the white snow contrasting with the dark rock in the design referenced photos Konietzko took while visiting the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains in Canada.

Katara fighting Pakku key frames

Key frames for Katara and Pakku's fight by Kyung Pyo Hong.

The art book shows an array of models for the background characters inhabiting the Northern Water Tribe city, as designed by Angela Mueller. In contrast to Katara and Sokka's rugged home, the Northerner's fashion was meant to show how cosmopolitan way of life was in the city. The show stayed in the Northern Water Tribe for several episodes, a departure from the series' usual traveling road show format. This gave the crew a chance to develop the look of the city, captured in background designs by Konietzko and Elsa Garagarza, and paintings by Bryan Evans. Aang and Katara's waterbending master, Pakku, first appeared in the series' opening sequence as the silhouetted waterbender. In the creators' opinion, Konietzko's design of the character perfectly meshed with the performance of Pakku's actor, Victor Brandt. A series of key animation frames by Kyung Pyo Hong show Katara and Pakku engaging in close quarters with their bending; the action scene was also one of the creators' favorites.

Aang becomes Ocean

Concept art for when Aang joins with the Ocean Spirit by Bryan Konietzko.

When determining the architectural style of the Northern Water Tribe, the production team considered what resources the Northerners would have given their location. Two background designs illustrate such choices; the first by Elsa Garagarza of a Northern armory has the entranceway and ceiling lined with whale bones, while the second by Mike Van Cleave shows the ornate cityscape, the structures of which were formed by waterbent ice. In a departure from the season finale's predominantly blue and icy setting, Aang's foray into the Spirit World provided a reprieve with its lush and colorfully distinct environments; a painting of the forest Aang travels through was designed by Ricardo Delgado and painted by Bryan Evans. As part of their invasion of the Northern Water Tribe, the Fire Nation hired mercenaries to act as trebuchet operators, the designs for personnel and weapons being created by Konietzko and Aldina Dias. Aang's joined form with the Ocean Spirit was referred to as "Koizilla" by the production team. Concept art by Konietzko of Aang at the center of the creature shows him in a "heart of energy", a glowing sphere that he floats in at the center of the spirit's watery form. Storyboard sheets show the scene where Aang merges with the Ocean Spirit, and illuminates the world. The storyboards were some of Dave Filoni's last work on Avatar, as after finishing directing the finale, he would leave the production to become supervising director on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Spotlight: The Hybrid Animals[]

Iguana seal concept art

Designs for an iguana seal by Jae Woo Kim.

Having likely been inspired by the comic strip character Opus the Penguin, Konietzko always enjoyed creating his own imaginary hybrid creatures from a young age. During Avatar's initial development, Konietzko resumed the practice when creating animals like Appa and Momo, though he had originally only intended for his designs to be how bison and lemurs looked in the world of Avatar. The concept became more prominent and pronounced when the writers began creating more and more bizarre animals, as well as drawing attention to the hybrid creature phenomenon within the show itself. Though a departure from his original vision, Konietzko appreciated that the writers and fans were having fun with the concept.

Several designs and concepts for the hybrid fauna of Avatar are shown in this section of the art book; all the creatures were colored by artist Hye Jung Kim. The juvenile and adult forms of a platypus bear, and the otter penguins were designed by Konietzko. The hybrid pigs, purple pentapii, buzzard wasps, camelephants, and turtle ducks were designed by Angela Mueller; the turtle ducks were based on a concept by Lauren MacMullan. Jae Woo Kim designed the koala sheep, gemsbok bulls, and aardvark sloths. Jae Woo also designed the rabaroo baby and adult; while most of the crew regarded the pair as cute, Jae Woo was disturbed by his own creation. Similarly, Mueller's wolfbat design gave DiMartino long-lasting nightmares; the hybrid creature took inspiration from the wrinkle-faced bat species. For his own part, Konietzko regarded the iguana seal, designed by Jae Woo, as one of his favorite creatures. Konietzko also designed the komodo rhinos; as opposed to normal rhino's, the points on a komodo rhino's head are arranged like the horns of a rhinoceros beetle. Turtle seals and tiger seals were Konietzko's creations as well; seals and turtles were two individual animals that were popular choices in the crew for crossing with other species. Other Avatar animals were simply larger versions of their real-life counterparts, as was the case with Jae Woo's design for a giant rhinoceros beetle.

Chapter Three: Season Two: Earth[]

Great wall

A visual comparison between the Great Wall of China, and the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se. Photo taken by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, design by Jevon Bue, and painting by Bryan Evans.

In developing the second season, the creators traveled to China in early 2005 to gain inspiration - particularly regarding new sources of architecture. Sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City provided the scale used to inspire Ba Sing Se. To the creators' luck, their tour guide also directed them to an architecture park, an "inspirational goldmine", which happened to feature a vast array of Chinese architectural styles from a variety of ethnicities and eras. Several of the creators' photos taken during this trip were later used as reference by the production team's background designers. The chapter shows several of these pictures, alongside the artwork from the series that was inspired by each one. The influences of these images can be seen throughout the Earth Kingdom; the Great Wall can be directly related to the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se. Having the experience of creating the first season, Konietzko's design department was becoming more confident in developing the show's art style. More staff were hired on to realize the many new Earth Kingdom characters and backgrounds, while Konietzko delegated some of his supervisory roles by promoting Hye Jung Kim to oversee color artists, while Elsa Garagarza headed up the background department. Both women helped their teams maintain the show's quality artistic standard, with their new roles in the production giving Konietzko more time to manage his other responsibilities.

Introduced briefly at the end of season one, Azula quickly established herself as the second season's main antagonistic force for Team Avatar and Zuko to contend with. As a firebending prodigy, Azula generated blue flames as opposed to red; this not only signified her proficiency compared to her brother, but also helped to distinguish the siblings' respective attacks during their various battles. Unlike others in the show's main cast, Azula's design came together relatively quickly; as she was the firebender in the show's opening sequence, Azula was designed earlier on in the production than her debut would suggest. Her final design and expression models by Konietzko are shown, as well as a concept of the princess in "phoenix-armor" by Ethan Spaulding. Both creators iterate their love of Azula, as well as the contributions the writers and Grey DeLisle made to establishing her as a complex and psychologically imposing villain.

The early development of Book Two was a unique period in the show's development, as the crew's designers actually had an excess of time before production officially started. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity, the crew developed more concepts for locations and characters in the season's first episode as the episode's script was being written. These included new sleeveless, springtime outfits for Katara and Sokka by Konietzko, as well as sketches that fleshed out General Fong's fortress by Ethan Spaulding and Dean Kelly. Though these designs aided in the development of the episode, the lead time the crew had was ultimately replaced with the same hurried production schedule as before, which involved storyboard artists drawing scenes before they had the final designs for the characters and setting.

In addition to drawing concept art for traveling musicians Moku and Chong, Konietzko also provided movement reference to the animators by acting for Chong, completing the effect by wearing a manila envelope on his head whilst playing an Irish bouzouki. The design process for the buildings in Song's village is shown, starting with the early concepts; these concepts were then altered and given further detail by other designers, and finally given color by painters to deliver the final product. Three such chains of art are shown in the chapter, with crew members passing on their work to other colleagues. In the provided examples, Ethan Spaulding and Elsa Garagarza did concepts of buildings like Song's house, Garagarza and Enzo Baldi refined the concepts into background designs, and then Bryan Evans, Jean-Paul Bondy, and Hye Jung Kim provided the background paintings by giving the designs color and simulated lighting.

The designs for Azula's companions, Mai and Ty Lee, are noted for how they complement their respective personalities. Ty Lee's pink, acrobatic outfit reflected her usually cheery disposition, while Mai's dark robes belied her morose outlook on life. The section also shows the launchers and holsters underneath Mai's draping garb that she uses as part of her arsenal of weapons.

As part of their travels through the Earth Kingdom, Aang and his friends encounter the swampbenders of the Foggy Swamp. Konietzko's designs for two of the swampbenders, Due and Tho, were caricatures of other Nickelodeon animated showrunners, that being Catscratch creator Doug TenNapel and The X's creator Carlos Ramos. The relatively unflattering depictions were part of a "bitter caricature war" waged between the Avatar crew and Vamos. The dense vine and root networks of the swamp were given extra attention as displayed in the works of designer Seung Hyun Oh and painter Bryan Evans.

Toph concept art

Concept art for Toph Beifong by Bryan Konietzko.

When describing Toph in their initial outline for the series, Konietzko and DiMartino conceived of her as brash and tough, a character that would act as Aang's earthbending teacher despite her being blind. While these traits were retained throughout her development, the main difference from series bible to the character's introduction in the second season was that the creators had originally intended for Toph to be a teenage boy. During the writing of season two, Aaron Ehasz suggested that Toph should be a young girl instead; though hesitant at first, the creators warmed to having a twelve-year-old girl embody the character's personality traits. Once Toph's gender and age had been decided, the creators then gave the voice acting role for the character to Jessie Flower. Flower had voiced Meng for a one-off appearance in season one, and impressed the creators with her personality and acting ability; the creators had joked about making Meng a recurring character in the show to retain Flower's talents, and jumped at the opportunity to include her in the main cast. Though the creators always had faith the show would connect with a female audience, they were surprised that many of the younger male fans told them that Toph was their favorite character. Concepts and designs for Toph's casual and formal dress were drawn by Konietzko, the latter garb being based on the fashion of China's Tang dynasty. Per her status as the greatest earthbender in the world, Toph's fighting style was made to be unique compared to the kung fu employed by other characters. To that end, Sifu Kisu recruited his friend, Sifu Manuel Rodriguez, to be a consultant for his and Toph's martial art, Southern Praying Mantis style. A series of key animation frames by Ga Young Myeong shows Toph executing a Southern Praying Mantis form during her fight with The Boulder. In a surprise connection to Toph and her visual impairment, Rodriguez informed the creators that Southern Praying Mantis style was said to be founded by a blind woman.

Director Ethan Spaulding's sketches for Toph's Earth Rumble opponents are showcased, including The Boulder, The Big Bad Hippo, The Gecko, and Headhunter, the varied designs for each being a testament to Spaulding's imagination that consistently impressed the creators. The Boulder was was named after WWE wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a personal hero of DiMartino's. Another wrestler, Mick Foley, AKA Mankind, agreed to voice The Boulder, another exciting prospect for the creators. Toph's swift takedown of The Boulder was storyboarded by Konietzko. Though Konietzko and DiMartino found themselves too busy with their respective duties to regularly draw storyboards for the series, they enjoyed the rare opportunities to get back to their storyboarding roots, particularly when it came to taking on sequences that were of significance to them.

The story of the episode "Zuko Alone" was a unique one in that Aang and his friends did not make any appearance in it, with the narrative focusing completely on Zuko in his past and present experiences. The Earth Kingdom village he sojourned in during his travels alone was based on the settings of American Western movies like Shane.

As the favored sibling in her family, Azula received numerous technologically advanced vehicles from her father to aid in her pursuit of the Avatar, including the tank train, which was designed by Aldina Dias and modeled as a computer generated element by Steve Ziolkowski. While the designs of the train's exterior are shown, the interior space was never depicted in either concept or the episode it appeared in; the creators joked that Lo and Li were the ones driving the train for Azula.

Another cinematic reference came from a concept by Ethan Spaulding of Sokka awkwardly stuck in a hole as a baby saber-tooth moose lion yawns atop his head. Sokka's pose deliberately harkens back to a scene in the movie The Money Pit, where Tom Hanks' character also sinks into a hole. Toph fully encasing herself in rock armor as part of Aang's earthbending training was meant to only have her mouth exposed to allow her to breathe. During the animation process for the episode, the hole in her armor revealed her eyes instead, an error given Toph's blindness. The mistake was not caught during retakes, and remained present when the episode was completed and made ready for syndication.

Planetary calendar room background and designs

The background painting and design notes for the planetary calendar room in Wan Shi Tong's Library. Painting by Bryan Evans and designs by Elsa Garagarza.

In terms of challenging designs, the creators list the planetary calendar room in Wan Shi Tong's library as one example. Using a background painting of the room by Bryan Evans, Elsa Garagarza's notes point out the various features of the room, which include how the room is lit by phosphorescent crystals and built with stone and metal braces. Garagarza also included her own sketches regarding the room's mechanisms, such as how the rings holding the likenesses of the sun and moon, and the dome that recreates the nighttime sky and stars, emerge from a gap along the circumference of the calendar room and move independently from one another.

The sandbenders the protagonists encounter were regarded as a fun opportunity to create a group that had adapted their bending to suit their environment, which in this case, was a large, sprawling desert. Concept sketches for the sandbenders' designs were done by Giancarlo Volpe, and given final character models by Angeler Mueller.

By the time production had reached "The Serpent's Pass", the crew's designers had hit their stride in creating fully fleshed out environments, as evidenced by the backgrounds of Full Moon Bay and the Serpent's Pass that were designed by Seung Hyun Oh and painted by Bryan Evans. For the collection of Aang impersonators seen in the episode, DiMartino served as a model for one of them, having dressed as the Avatar for a prior Halloween. The serpent that prowls the pass to Ba Sing Se made its first true appearance after being shown in the unaired pilot; the creators had been waiting for just the right moment to reintroduce the creature into the series proper.

As mentioned previously, the Great Wall of China was a main source of inspiration for Ba Sing Se's towering walls. Jevon Bue's designs for the side of Ba Sing Se's Outer Wall facing towards the rest of the city shows barracks clinging to the side of the massive fortification. This was based on the settlements built along the Great Wall of China in ancient times, as the garrisoned soldiers typically lived in close proximity to the wall. The tunnel-boring drill used by the Fire Nation to burrow their way into Ba Sing Se was both a challenge and a source of satisfaction for Konietzko as art director, who helped Jevon Bue and Aldina Dias in their respective depictions of its interior spaces and exterior layers.

Zuko and Jet duel creative process

The creative process that went in to choreographing, storyboarding, and animating Zuko and Jet's fight. Video reference of Bryan Konietzko and Sifu Kisu's mock fight taken by Lisa Wahlander. Storyboards by Dean Kelly, final animation by JM Animation.

Beyond its status as the Earth Kingdom capital and importance to the main characters, Ba Sing Se was an immense challenge for the design team given the city's scale and complex layout. The designers' efforts were bolstered, however, by the addition of Jevon Bue to the team during season two. Many of the Ba Sing Se background paintings shown in the art book were first designed by Bue, who is labeled as a powerhouse by the creators for the quantity of quality material he made for the show in a limited time frame, living up to his nickname "The Machine". As Ba Sing Se was physically divided along its inhabitants' socioeconomic classes, the design team gave each tier of the city its own particular architectural and cultural flavor. DiMartino and Konietzko's photos taken during their trip to Beijing served as the basis for Ba Sing Se's design, and the creators compliment the crew for making the metropolis feel like a real setting one could be transported into. Designs for the city's denizens are expanded on; Joo Dee, Team Avatar's chaperone, was modeled in appearance and personality after the production crew's similarly exuberant line producer, Miken Wong. The man sucking on a corncob that sits between Toph and Sokka on the train was a gag character drawn into the storyboard by artist Chris Graham, and an homage to a similar joke made in Invader Zim, a show Graham and Konietzko had worked on together. The Earth King's royal guards had armor different to those of other Earth Kingdom soldiers; the armor's ceremonial style was meant to indicate the guards rarely if ever saw combat. The garb worn by the city's Upper Ring denizens was designed by Angela Mueller, and were some of the creators' favorite designs by the artist. As with Toph's upper class dress, the fashion worn by Ba Sing Se's rich and powerful was inspired by the clothing of Tang-dynasty China. A series of frames showcases the process that went into choreographing and animating action scenes like Zuko's fight with Jet. The first sequence shows Konietzko and Sifu Kisu acting out the action with weapons, which was recorded on video by martial arts coordinator Lisa Wahlander. The footage is then given to storyboard artists and animators, Dean Kelly and JM Animation in this instance, who use the choreography as reference to bring a sense of realism to their drawing and staging of the action.

As the ruler behind the throne in Ba Sing Se, Long Feng was one of the primary antagonists of the second season alongside Azula. For Konietzko, everything about Long Feng, to his writing, design, character animation, and portrayal by Clancy Brown, elevated the character beyond just a typical villain, to the extent that the creator found Long Feng more nuanced and nefarious than Fire Lord Ozai. Designs for Long Feng's subordinates, the Dai Li, show how their rock gloves are made up of segmented stone tiles that fit around the curves of their wielders' hands. Long Feng's library within the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace, lit by glowing green crystals, was painted by Bryan Evans. Evans was another keystone of the crew's art department, and among the artist's quality work, the library background painting was the creator's favorite.

Unlike other episodes, "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" was not written by the show's staff of writers. Instead, head writer Aaron Ehasz had the idea to invite other members of the crew, from production assistants to storyboard artists, to create their own short stories with the show's principal cast. These vignettes allowed the crew to take a break from the drama of the main storyline, and gave them the chance to focus on how the main characters acted in slice of life scenarios. Future Book Three director Joaquim Dos Santos got his start in the production on this episode, with some of his work including storyboarding Zuko's date with Jin. The creators note Dos Santos' well-deserved reputation for drawing action scenes, while simultaneously lauding his ability to depict subtle and comedic character acting in his storyboards.

Another later addition to the production team was Jae Woo Kim, who was brought on board to help the design team with the demands that came from the series' expanding narrative. Jae Woo frequently provided additional detail to his designs, the attention to detail being a great boon to the animation staff. As an example, the character designer's sketches show expression models for the circus ringleader and animal trainer in addition to their final models, as well as various anatomical drawings of a lion vulture, including views on how its long neck and wings extend. Jae Woo also designed Appa's circus performer outfit; the bison's treatment at a Fire Nation circus in "Appa's Lost Days" resulted in the episode winning a Genesis Award by the Humane Society of the United States. The Air Nomad nuns present in Aang and Appa's flashback at the Eastern Air Temple were also designed by Jae Woo. The creators conceptualized that nuns would operate the Eastern and Western Air Temples, while monks presided over the Northern and Southern temples. The Eastern Air Temple was designed by Elsa Garagarza, and was Konietzko's favorite of the air temples, highlighting its aesthetic and evidence of deterioration from the Fire Nation's past assault.

Earth Kingdom Royal Palace design

A background design for the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace by Jevon Bue.

In the same vein as other Ba Sing Se designs, the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace was inspired by the royal locales of Beijing, China. Background designs for the Earth King's throne room and an aerial view of the palace grounds were designed by Jevon Bue and painted by Bryan Evans. The blue and red dragons in Zuko's nightmare were meant to symbolize "the tormented halves of his soul". The blue dragon was voiced by Grey DeLisle, Azula's voice actor, a deliberate matchup given the princess' blue firebending.

Expression models and concept art of Guru Pathik were done by both Jae Woo Kim and Seung Hyun Oh. Pathik's lessons on the nature of chakras was educational for both the audience and the creators. The latter group enjoyed the chance to receive a spiritual lesson and learn more about the real-life philosophical concept.

Besides creating new characters, designers also have the duty of developing Special Pose and Costumes (SPC) concepts for pre-existing characters. For the Avatar crew, this typically meant giving the characters scars and battle damage, with two examples being Angela Mueller's SPCs for Aang and Katara's burnt and tattered clothing following their duels with Azula, Zuko, and the Dai Li. Konietzko also lists Aang's glowing crystal armor as another SPC that he personally enjoyed designing. The glowing crystals that the characters find under Ba Sing Se are the most unique natural resource found in the Earth Kingdom, which only form in the caves beneath the city. The architecture within these caves is meant to reflect the original settlement that was built before the modern-day Ba Sing Se ever existed.

Spotlight: The Calligraphy of S. L. Lee[]

The decision to use Chinese characters for the writing system in the world of Avatar came early on in the show's development. Like Sifu Kisu, the creators wanted an actual expert in their respective field to consult on the series, in this case for Chinese calligraphy; unlike Kisu, the process for finding someone with the requisite knowledge and experience was much quicker and easier. An internet search done by the creators led them to Dr. Siu-Leung Lee, an academic with a background in Chinese history and calligraphy, who promptly responded to Konietzko's job offer within an hour of it being sent. In his role as a consultant, Dr. Lee handled all the translation and calligraphy found in the show, including its main title logo. When deciding on how to translate content Konietzko sent to him, Dr. Lee would first inquire about the in-universe primary source for the content, what their background was, and tailoring the style of calligraphy based on that information. If the author of a hypothetical document was a cultured individual who worked in a royal court, Dr. Lee would have the Chinese characters drawn in a traditionally elegant style, whereas if the individual was a low-ranking clerk, the calligraphy would be more pedestrian in quality. As well, when translating ancient writings in the Avatar world that related to spirits and elements, Dr. Lee would use a similarly archaic Chinese system of writing. To the creators, Dr. Lee's artistic talents and knowledge helped to ground the series in the rich cultural history of China.

Planetarium dial

The Chinese characters on the calendar dial in Wan Shi Tong's Library were created by Dr. Siu-Leung Lee.

Designs in the art book that incorporate Dr. Siu-Leung Lee's calligraphy, with provided translations, include wanted posters for Aang, Zuko, Iroh, the Blue Spirit, Jeong Jeong, and Chey, Iroh and Toph's passports and tickets to Ba Sing Se, posters for the Fire Day Festival and information regarding a missing Appa, pages from the Fire Nation Royal-Issue Atlas, Katara's waterbending scroll, and a mural painting commemorating the founding of Kyoshi Island. Various terms relating to the Northern Water Tribe, including the Moon and Ocean Spirits or "Gods", are written using ancient Chinese characters.

The planetarium calendar inside Wan Shi Tong's library represented the dating system used by the Avatar world that was developed with Dr. Siu-Leung Lee's input. The dial used to operate the planetarium is composed of five rings that, when turned to a specific date, affect the alignment of the celestial elements in the room. The outermost ring has symbols for the twelve animals that comprise the traditional Chinese zodiac, the sequence of which represented a cycle of twelve years. The next ring had Chinese characters paired together to form sixteen eras within the Avatar world; the names for these eras were determined by Dr. Lee, who referenced concepts within Chinese history. The next three rings held, respectively, numbers for the thirty days in a month, the twelve months in a year, and a yin and yang symbol with the sun and moon replacing the black and white circles within their opposite-colored teardrops. Characters for the summer and winter solstices, and spring and autumn equinoxes, are also shown below the dial.

Chapter Four: Season Three: Fire[]

The fourth chapter goes into detail about how the third and final season was developed, from the introduction of new characters, such as Combustion Man and Hama, as well as the inspiration behind the unique landscape of the Fire Nation. In the introduction to the chapter, DiMartino and Konietzko reveal that many of the season's character beats and action set pieces were concepts they had written down in the series bible three years prior to Book Three's production. These moments include the return of Sozin's Comet, Zuko standing against his father by joining Team Avatar, his later confrontation of Azula alongside Katara, Sokka and Toph hijacking an airship, and Aang sealing himself in a sphere of earth during his fight with Fire Lord Ozai. While not clearly defining it, creators also mentioned that Aang would defeat Ozai using a technique exclusive to the Avatar, which would strip him of his firebending. More of the season's plot and characterization was determined during a three-day retreat in Santa Barbara, California on April, 2006, where the show's writers discussed ideas pertaining to Iroh's imprisonment, Combustion Man, Sokka apprenticing himself to a master swordsman, and Zuko using lightning redirection against Ozai. In the months after the retreat, Konietzko took his own vacation to Iceland, for the simultaneous purposes of fulfilling his dream of visiting the ruggedly beautiful country, and capturing the distinctly violent landscapes of the country to use for designing the "turbulent" look of the Fire Nation. Of the thousands of Iceland location photos Konietzko took, three are shown in the initial chapter, along with the designs and background paintings from the show that referenced them. One shows the Gullfoss waterfall, which became the basis for the waterfall Sokka and Piandao visit; the other photo is of Viti, a crater lake that visually inspired the look of the pool Team Avatar rest in prior to their first encounter with Combustion Man.

After appearing in the shadows for the previous two seasons, Ozai's full visage is shown for the first time in "The Awakening". The moment where Zuko looks up to meet Ozai's eyes is meant to represent how the prince can see past the frightening image he has of his father, and perceive him as a flesh-and-blood person, visually similar to himself. Ozai was designed by Konietzko, Angela Mueller, and Jae Woo Kim.

Aang disguised concept art

Concept art for Aang in his Fire Nation disguise by Bryan Konietzko.

Another idea spawned from the writers' retreat was that Team Avatar would spend a large portion of the series traveling in disguise within the Fire Nation. As a designer, Konietzko felt it was time for a change after the characters had worn the same outfits for forty episodes, and enjoyed having the "good guys" dressed in "bad guy" clothing. Konietzko spent much of the retreat coming up with concepts for Team Avatar, trying to make sure their new costumes still had continuity with their original outfits. Some of Konietzko's concepts would end up inspiring the stories of certain episodes. The writers had discussed if Aang would wear a hood, hat, or wig to conceal the arrow tattoo on his head, eventually deciding the airbender would remain incognito with a headband and his post-coma hairdo. Aang and his headband would later play an important part in the Footloose-inspired episode, "The Headband". Another concept by Konietzko had Sokka wearing a sword on his back, eventually leading to the development of the episode "Sokka's Master".

Several designs for the Fire Nation's Domestic Forces are shown, who were created by Konietzko, Seung Hyun Oh, and Angela Mueller; their weapons were designed by Aldina Dias. This particular branch of the Fire Nation's military is primarily composed of women, whose duties include policing and defending their homeland from invasion; high-ranking female firebenders in the Domestic Forces are also responsible for training much of the army in other branches.

Sokka and Piandao's sword concept art

Designs for Sokka and Piandao's swords by Aldina Dias.

Piandao, a master swordsman and Sokka's teacher in the way of the blade, was modeled in design and personality after the show's martial arts consultant, Sifu Kisu. The creators had always wanted to include Kisu in the show, like they had done for other colleagues, and found the perfect fit for him when Piandao was developed. Sokka and Piandao's swords were designed by Angela Mueller, and colored by Hye Jung Kim, using Kisu's own collection of blades as reference. Though translating the weapons and their ornate craftsmanship into drawings took more effort than usual, Konietzko felt it was worth it to make the characters' swords look unique. Aang's excessive armor was designed by Angela Mueller; the armor, and the gag relating to it in the episode, were references to the creators' distaste for certain anime designs, and their suffering constant requests from Nickelodeon to have Aang in armor for merchandising purposes. Mueller's design for the armor includes notes calling for animators to include "ridiculous highlights" on the armor's surface, as well as having the helmet tassels move due to "a magical wind that doesn't affect anything else".

Combustion Man, a Fire Nation assassin with the ability to create explosions with his bending, was another creation from the writers' retreat. The pitch for the character originated from writer John O'Bryan, who envisioned a group of firebenders working in unison to create a nuclear explosion with their combined mental concentration. Konietzko then reduced the conceptualized group down to a single assassin that could "blow things up with his mind", who was hired by Zuko to kill Aang. Konietzko also handled the designs for Combustion Man, and intended for the assassin to be the physical opposite of Aang; by his own admission, the co-creator typically draws characters like Aang in line with his own lithe physique. Thus, Konietzko sought out reference material for the bulkier Combustion Man, using pictures from the internet of bodybuilders, as well as the features of other crew members. Post-production crew member Rohner Segnitz was used as the model for Combustion Man's head, while Joaquim Dos Santos' hand was the basis for the assassins' corresponding metal prosthetic. Combustion Man's artificial arm and leg were evidence for how the assassin's mastery of his abilities had taken its physical toll; his injuries did nothing to hinder his combat proficiency, however, as Combustion Man had gained a reputation as a fearsome Agni Kai duelist.

Several backgrounds for the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord" are shown, including the courtyard where Roku and Ta Min were married at, and the interior and exterior of the Fire Nation Royal Palace during Fire Lord Sozin's reign. Prior to its destruction by Roku, the ancient throne room in the palace was more light and welcoming in design than the darker incarnation that Sozin replaced it with. The episode featured more new backgrounds than any other episode of the series, in addition to the crew also having to deal with the challenges of visually and narratively depicting certain characters throughout various points in in their lives, namely Roku and Sozin. The two characters' adolescent and adult models were designed by Angela Mueller. Sozin's royal portrait, alongside his successors and predecessors, were illustrated by Jae Woo Kim, who also handled the coloring with Hye Jung Kim. Sozin's father and grandfather were included in the lineup for the portraits, but as they were not prominently featured in the episode, the creators did not come up with names for them.

Despite only having a minor role in "The Runaway", the official presiding over Fire Fountain City received several expression models from Jae Woo Kim, a testament to the designer's tendency for "design overkill". The concept art shows the town official sporting quizzical, smug, shocked, and jubilant expressions.

In addition to her final designs by Angela Mueller, concept art of Hama by Ian Graham and Seung Hyun Oh depicts the Southern waterbender with a more wizened and manic quality. Hama's ability to manipulate other people's bodies with her bending had its origins in the series bible, where the ability was described as the highest level of waterbending. The writers then incorporated the early concept into "The Puppetmaster", and came up with the term "bloodbending". For the creators, Hama was an opportunity to have a villain who was not part of the Fire Nation. As well, Hama's connection to Katara and her family exemplified the series' philosophies on how a person's state of being can be defined by being in or out of balance, rather than by notions of moral goods and evils. The mountain that Hama used to imprison the members of her Fire Nation community was based on an Icelandic mountain, Herðubreið, also referred to as the "Queen Mountain".

The various anime-inspired redesigns for the characters present in Aang's nightmares and daydreams came from the imagination of director Ethan Spaulding. The creators commented that, while they typically had to keep Spaulding's design sensibilities in line with the show's style, the episode's bizarre story allowed the director to be more unconstrained in his artwork. The nightmare versions of Aang and Ozai were conceptualized and designed by Spaulding; Momo and Appa's samurai designs were done by Jae Woo Kim, who translated Spaulding's concepts into character models. The anthropomorphic Momo, nicknamed "Momo Yojimbo" in the art book, was based on the design of Miyamoto Usagi, a similarly designed rabbit samurai who was the titular character of the comic book Usagi Yojimbo. The sequence where Aang hallucinates Appa and Momo fighting with swords was also storyboarded by Spaulding; it also featured the first and only moment where the two characters' voice actor, Dee Bradley Baker, used actual human language for their dialogue.

Earthbending-powered tank schematics

Designs for the earthbending-powered tanks by Aldina Dias and Bryan Konietzko.

As part of the third season's invasion storyline, Team Avatar received another round of updated designs that harkened back to their outfits from prior seasons, albeit with a more heroic flair to them. Konietzko's concepts for the Southern Water tribesmen's and Appa's armor were based on unused merchandise ideas the creator had drawn up for Nickelodeon. Aang's new, asymmetrically folded robes that he wore until the end of the series were based on the garb of Shaolin monks; Konietzko wanted Aang to evoke qualities of vulnerability and strength, like the warrior-monk performers in Shaolin: Wheel of Life. Konietzko also designed the new war machines in the episode alongside Aldina Dias. The Fire Nation's airships were another idea that had its beginnings in the series bible. The earthbending-powered tanks that were created by the mechanist were inspired by the armored vehicle designs of the famous inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci.

The rooftops of the Western Air Temple referenced the architecture of Bhutanese temples. In order to make the Western temple unique compared to its brethren, all the while ensuring it would be inaccessible to most visitors, Konietzko came up with the idea for the temple's buildings to be upside down, hanging off the edge of a cliff.

The Sun Warriors Aang and Zuko encounter are revealed to be the descendants of the most ancient culture that was built around firebending. Similarly, when designers like Jevon Bue and Elsa Garagarza worked on the Sun Warriors' ancient city, they used Mayan ruins as a foundation for their work.

Two of the characters located in the Boiling Rock prison were modeled after members of the production. Supervising director Seung Hyun Oh's likeness was used for the prison's warden, while Chit Sang was based on animation director Jae Myung Yu. The prison itself was based on Alcatraz, an infamous maximum-security island prison in the United States of America.

When developing the series' final episodes, the creators wanted to focus in on Katara's feelings regarding her mother's death. The resulting episode, "The Southern Raiders", is listed by DiMartino and Konietzko as one of the darkest and serious episodes in the series. Katara's mission of revenge against her mother's killer, Yon Rha, ended up bringing her closer to Zuko; the waterbender's turbulent mental state was also reflected in the episode's background paintings, such as Bryan Evan's painting of Yon Rha's village, where the dark storm clouds almost completely obscure the sky, and cast the world below in dull grey hues. Jae Woo Kim's designs for Yon Rha and his mother are also shown; the fearsome murderer is now described as a "pathetic human being", in part due to the time he spends with his abusive parent.

Another episode conceived later on in the season's development was "The Ember Island Players", a story that recapped the events of the series just before the finale. The concept for the episode came early on in the writing for the third season, with Tim Hedrick pitching how Team Avatar would meet a caravan of performers acting out their prior adventures. Though DiMartino and Konietzko initially dismissed the idea as too goofy, they adapted the concept later on in the writing process, both as a way to provide some comedy and introspection for the characters before the dramatic events of the series finale, and as an opportunity to give their own spin on the recap episodes typically shown in 1980s TV sitcoms. Part of the episode's comedy came from the writers poking fun at their own creative decisions. Aang being portrayed by an adult woman was a jab at how young boys are typically cast in animated media; Aang's actress wearing a costume for the "Koizilla" spirit was a tribute to the same technique employed by Japanese kaiju movies. Toph was also portrayed by an adult actor of the opposite gender, a deliberate riff on the earthbender's original design.

The production of the "Sozin's Comet" episodes, which served as the finale to the entire series, was incredibly taxing for all members of the crew. When production was ready to begin on the finale episodes, the in-house team at Nickeldeon was already feeling exhausted. Furthermore, the finale, which was originally only intended to be three episodes, was extended to four due to the sheer amount of action and narrative material created by the storyboard artists. This in turn meant even more work for the overseas studios like JM Animation, who then had to animate twice as much content. In spite of these challenges, all members of Avatar's production were committed to giving their all and completing the series; the creators honor the commitment and effort put in by the artists and animators to make the show's final episodes. To Konietzko, seeing the finale with friends, colleagues, and family at a private screening, then again with fans at Comic-Con, helped bring a sense of closure after years of working on the show.

The Lion Turtle

A design for the lion turtle by Jae Woo Kim.

A variety of background paintings and designs from the finale are showcased. A background painting by Bryan Evans shows the red light of Sozin's Comet peering out from the horizon as it skimmed the Earth's atmosphere. The lion turtle, and his assisting Aang in defeating Ozai, was an idea Konietzko and DiMartino had had from the beginning of the series; furthemore, the creators had sporadically placed the lion turtle's image throughout the series, all the way back to the unaired pilot's opening sequence. In terms of the entity's in-universe history, the lion turtle is the oldest living creature in the world, and was born before the Avatar and the bending arts ever existed. Jae Woo Kim's concept art for the lion turtle, including closeups of its various features, and Bryan Evans painting of it are also shown. While the creature's rendition in the final animation left the creators dissatisfied, they are content that the quality artwork that went into designing the lion turtle can be shown in the art book. Another of Jae Woo's designs was the eel hound, the fastest terrestrial creature in the world of Avatar. The eel hound was only featured in the finale, but Jae Woo's designs made the creators wish they could have featured it in prior content.

Azula's overarching conflict with Zuko came to a head in the finale, culminating in their final Agni Kai, which was the creators' favorite moment in the last four episodes. A background painting of the Fire Lord's throne room by Will Weston was adjusted by Hye Jung Kim so that the flames in front of Azula's seat were blue instead of orange. This alteration was meant to visually reflect not only the effect that Sozin's Comet was having on Azula's abilities, but also how her mental state was deteriorating throughout her storyline. Storyboards for the sequence where Azula cuts her hair in frustration were drawn by Lauren Montgomery, and animated by Jung Hye Young, who was responsible for many of Montgomery's other finale sequences. The creators also praise Montgomery for her ability with character acting, posing, and hair for female characters like Azula.

Energybending sequence

Storyboards of the energybending sequence performed by Aang on Ozai by Bryan Konietzko.

Aang and Ozai's long awaited battle is also expanded on in greater detail. Several designs and background paintings for the lava column forest that is the site of the characters' battle are shown, which were designed by Jevon Bue and Elsa Garagarza, and painted by Bryan Evans. A storyboard frame by Joaquim Dos Santos shows Ozai's airship as Toph metalbends its rudder. Dos Santos' storyboard was part of a broader sequence where Toph, Sokka, and Suki take down the Fire Nation airship fleet; at the end of his boarding, Dos Santos commented that he never wanted to draw another "pointy-tipped airship again". In addition to his other duties, Konietzko personally storyboarded the sequence where Aang energybends Ozai, overcoming the Fire Lord's energy to remove his bending. Unlike most storyboards, the characters within Konietzko's drawings are partially colored, namely with the orange and blue glow that emanates from Ozai and Aang's bodies. When writing the finale with DiMartino and Aaron Ehasz, Konietzko pitched how Aang and Ozai's "souls would flip inside-out", despite not knowing how he would later visually depict the scene. After experiencing an artistic block, Konietzko overcame it by applying color to his monochromatic drawings to represent the concept. Though Konietzko worried the sequence was too ambitious in scope, the animators and composite artists at JM Animation delivered beyond the creator's expectations, to the point that the sequence did not go through any revisions after JM's first pass.

Chapter Five: Ancillary Art[]

The last chapter features several additional pieces of artwork, from promotional drawings to creative doodles. As the crew spent much of their time working on the sixty-one episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, they rarely got the chance to create any other recreational art. On occasion, side-projects that were commissioned to help promote the series would give the crew's artists a chance to demonstrate their abilities; other times, as in Konietzko's case, rudimentary drawings were done during official meetings to pass the time.

Several promotional posters, and their early designs, are displayed in the chapter, which were typically created to advertise important episodes in the series. The posters were then distributed by Nickelodeon in physical and internet publications. One such poster, advertising the unaired pilot, was created by Konietzko at the insistence of line producer Miken Wong, who felt the artwork would increase the chances of the series getting picked up for syndication. Another poster depicted Aang and Katara in conflict with the giant serpent at the Serpent's Pass, which was drawn by Konietzko and Seung Hyun Oh, colored by Hye Jung Kim, and painted by Bryan Evans; the poster was displayed at New York City's Times Square.

Unused Book One DVD box set cover

Unused cover art for the Book One DVD box set by Bryan Konietzko.

Konietzko took the task of creating the covers for the series' DVDs very seriously, as he knew that the series would continue to be experienced by new fans and old in said format. Not wanting to just use pre-existing production artwork for the covers, Konietzko set about creating his own high-quality drawings that represented the episodes bundled in each disc. The creator had to work on each cover during overnight hours and within a one-to-two day timeframe, however, while being guided by the art director of Nickelodeon's consumer products department. Despite these limitations, Konietzko was mostly satisfied with how the covers came out, especially the Book Three DVD box set; the finished covers are shown in the art book, as well as some of Konietzko's early designs that were rejected. The cover for Book 1: Water, Volume 1 originally had Aang standing atop a peak in front of the mountains of the Southern Air Temple. The network instead wanted the cover to have a more action-oriented pose; Konietzko's original art was later used by Dark Horse Comics for the cover of this art book. Similarly, Konietzko's depiction of an underwater Aang in the Avatar State for the Book One DVD box set was rejected in lieu of artwork befitting a movie poster. The art for the Book Two DVD box set included the planetary calendar ring from Wan Shi Tong's library; Konietzko welcomed the chance to include the design in such a prominent location, as he felt it was not properly displayed in the episode.

Three tie-in video games for Avatar were created during the series' original run, all published by THQ: the Avatar: The Last Airbender video game, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth, and Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno. As the show's crew were too busy with their own work, they could only provide the original cover art for the latter two games. Joaquim Dos Santos conceptualized the two covers, while Bryan Evans painted the cover for The Burning Earth, and Hye Jung Kim painted Into the Inferno; Konietzko designed the chibi Aang on the cover for the Nintendo DS version of Into the Inferno.

Attending Comic-Con Avatar panels since 2004 and getting the chance to meet the show's fanbase was always a highlight for the creators. To give something back to their fans, the crew always made sure to have new content in the form of posters or T-shirts to give out. A teaser poster for season three shows Aang, Zuko, Combustion Man, and an eclipse; according to the creators, some fans speculated that Combustion Man was actually Ozai. A T-shirt is displayed, emblazoned with a graphic of the Book Three DVD box set cover, and was used as part of a free T-shirt contest. A poster for San Diego Comic-Con 2009 had Aang, Appa, and Momo enjoying themselves after the war in a field, surrounded by a number of other flying bison and winged lemurs. The creators had joked about revealing that, after giving birth to a litter of baby bison, that Appa was female; while a jest, Konietzko and DiMartino still entertained the notion of the flying bison and winged lemur populations growing after the series' story had ended.

Greeting card

An early example of the chibi-style artwork used in the Super Deformed Shorts. Greeting card drawn by Bryan Konietzko.

The Super Deformed Shorts were created at the request of Nickelodeon for extra content near the end of season two's production. The creators decided on having the shorts drawn in a chibi style, knowing the popularity of the phenomenon among anime fans. The crew also welcomed the chance to work on something that was both stylistically and narratively different and simpler from the rest of the series, akin to the Studio Ghibli comedy film My Neighbors the Yamadas, or an animated show for pre-schoolers. Designs for the show's main cast, now in chibi form, were designed by Seung Hyun Oh and Konietzko; the character models were also used for a crew-exclusive T-shirt. A spread of character sketches and poses for all the chibi characters were mostly done by Seung Hyun Oh, who also directed the shorts, combining the shorts' style with his own "zany" ideas. The creators had dabbled with depicting the characters in a chibi style before creating the shorts; a greeting card Nickelodeon dated 2004 has Aang and Momo evading fiery projectiles with exaggerated expressions and features.

During long storyboard meetings, the show's crew would draw caricatures of each other, partially to pass the time, and also to give each other morale boosts. Included are sketches of animatic editor Dao Le, final checker Kathy Gilmore, and storyboard artist "and brewer of strange herbal remedies" Miyuki Hoshikawa. Various artists' depicted certain crew members on post-it notes, including DiMartino, Konietzko, Lauren Montgomery, Seung Hyun Oh, Ethan Spaulding, Ian Graham, Giancarlo Volpe, and Joaquim Dos Santos. At the request of a young fan, who wanted Aang to be real so she could play with him, Konietzko created a birthday card that had the show's main cast in birthday apparel and wishing the fan a happy birthday.

In the art book's second edition, more supplementary art is included, in this case being pencil sketches of the show's characters drawn by Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Lauren Montgomery in their own particular styles. The art was created during the COVID-19 pandemic, and auctioned off to raise funds for the Navajo Nation, a Native American reservation of the Navajo people.


See also[]