The opening sequence is an introduction to the series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. It is played at the beginning of every episode. The Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game also features a short introduction done in the style of the animated series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
The sequence opens by showcasing the four elemental bending styles: waterbending, earthbending, firebending, and airbending, performed by Pakku, an unknown earthbender, Azula, and an Air Nomad, respectively. The sequence cuts to a map of the Avatar World, followed by Katara's narration explaining the origins of the Hundred Year War launched by the Fire Nation. Avatar Roku is then seen bending all four elements before disappearing in a gust of air, just as Katara states that the Avatar disappeared when the world needed him most. Next, Katara and Sokka appear, followed by Aang, showing scenes from the first episode, with the title card appearing immediately after. Chinese characters appear at the top of the show's title card, translating as "the spiritual medium who has descended upon the mortal world".
Katara narrates the opening sequence. In the first episode, she states:
"Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless firebenders. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years have passed and the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the War. Two years ago, my father and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe. Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads, and that the cycle is broken. But I haven't lost hope. I still believe that somehow, the Avatar will return to save the world."
In subsequent episodes, she says:
"Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world."
In the unaired pilot episode, she says:
"Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, how the four nations once lived in harmony. How everything changed once the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless firebenders. But when the world needed him most, he disappeared. Nobody had seen him for a hundred years, until my brother and I found him, an airbender named Aang. The problem is, this Avatar is still a kid, and even though his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. The Fire Nation will do anything to capture Aang before he masters all four elements, so I must keep him safe until he's ready to fulfill his destiny. My brother thinks I'm crazy, but I believe Aang can save the world."
"Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother Sokka and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. Although his airbending skills were great, he had a lot to learn before he was ready to save anyone. But from the first day I met him, I believed Aang would save the world. And you know what? I was right. With the help of his friends, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and ended the Hundred Year War. Zuko, Ozai's son and our ally, became the new Fire Lord. Together with Earth King Kuei, Aang and Zuko promised to return the nations to harmony."
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
The Legend of Korra
The show opens by showcasing the four most recent Avatars bending their native element: earthbending by Kyoshi, firebending by Roku, airbending by Aang, and waterbending by Korra. Behind each bender is calligraphy similar to that seen in the background of the original series. It subsequently shows a picture of Team Avatar, followed by a map of the Avatar World. After that, Tenzin explains the transformation of the Fire Nation colonies into the United Republic of Nations, before the picture zooms in on the capital: Republic City. A statue of Aang is seen on an island in the bay, and it is explained how the Avatar accomplished many remarkable feats in his life, before he eventually died and was reborn into the next nation of the Avatar Cycle. As of the second episode, the opening sequence is much shorter; the display of bending is abridged to show only a few seconds of each element and the sequence skips over the origin of Republic City to show the statue of Aang, with Korra nearby striking a similar pose.
"Earth. Fire. Air. Water. When I was a boy, my father, Avatar Aang, told me the story of how he and his friends heroically ended the Hundred Year War. Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko transformed the Fire Nation colonies into the United Republic of Nations, a society where benders and nonbenders from all over the world could live and thrive together in peace and harmony. They named the capital of this great land Republic City. Avatar Aang accomplished many remarkable things in his life, but sadly, his time in this world came to an end. And like the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the Avatar began anew."
In subsequent episodes, he says:
"Earth. Fire. Air. Water. Only the Avatar can master all four elements and bring balance to the world."
Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game
Unlike the opening sequences of the series, which all feature original animation, the opening of the roleplaying game reuses animation from both series. The showcase the bending arts: airbending is performed by Zaheer, using animation from his fight against Korra and Tonraq on Laghima's Peak; waterbending is performed by Katara, using animation from her fight against Hama; earthbending is performed by Bolin, using animation from his escape from the Northern Air Temple; and firebending is performed by Zuko, using animation from his Comet-Enhanced Agni Kai against Azula. Each element is identified by Iroh's narration.
- In the opening of both series, the airbenders featured are the only characters who begin their respective bending sequence without having both feet on the ground.
- Airbending is the only art to be performed by a man in both opening sequences.
- In the opening of both series, the element performed last is the native element of the Avatar in that series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
- While Katara says the words "everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked", a line of firebenders is shown as they are seen in the series. However, the war began one hundred years prior, when the armor used by the Fire Nation military supposedly had large shoulder spikes and a faceless helmet, according to Arnook.
- The unnamed earthbender in the initial sequence is a sort of prototype of Toph. However, Aaron Ehasz later suggested that the character should be a girl.
- When Azula demonstrates firebending, she uses conventional fire rather than her trademark blue fire.
- Aang saves Katara from the fire dragon the magician sent her way in "The Deserter" with a move similar to the one performed by the Air Nomad in the opening sequence.
- In the opening sequence of the second episode, "The Avatar Returns", Katara states that she and her brother have discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang; however, she did not know at that time that Aang was the Avatar, discovering as such in the very same episode.
- The background with the statues near the end of the opening sequence was drawn by an Italian freelance artist.
The Legend of Korra
- Kyoshi is shown bending an element for the first time without using her fans.
- Aang is wearing different clothes than those he wears in the actual series. These are also used for his design in the "Who is Amon?" photo album on Nickelodeon's website.
- Korra uses a waterbending move similar to the one she used during the semifinal match against the Bau Ling Buzzard Wasps.
- Tenzin uses an airbending move similar to that of Aang's while dueling Zaheer at the Northern Air Temple.
- In the extended opening sequence, there is a picture showing the original Team Avatar: Aang is in his original design used in Books One and Two, Katara is in her original Book One design, Toph is in her original Book Two design, Suki is in her Kyoshi Warriors makeup, Sokka is in his original Book One design but also has his space sword from Book Three, and Zuko is in his Book Three design.
- This is Suki's only appearance and mention in the entirety of the series.
- All of the benders in the opening sequence are Avatars, past or current.
- J. K. Simmons did the narration for the extended opening sequence in his first recording session for Tenzin, with his first take being used in the episode.
- The shot in the opening sequence of Korra standing in front of Aang's statue was based off a painting done by Fred Stewart, with its further design and animation being done by Joshua Middleton and Lauren Montgomery respectively.
- In most episodes, Shiro Shinobi narrates a recap of events from previous episodes, shown with an effect to similar to newsreels from the 1920s. This recap is similar to Roku's "Previously on Avatar" sequence from the first series.
- When developing the recaps, the creators could only devote twenty seconds of an episode's runtime to the segment. Taking inspiration from the recaps of certain anime, wherein a character would narrate the prior events while in-character, the creators decided to use Shiro, given his role as an announcer.