Avatar Wiki
Avatar Wiki
This article is about the real world.

The Legend of Korra — The Art of the Animated Series, Book Four: Balance is an art book written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Joaquim Dos Santos that is based on the fourth book of The Legend of Korra. Similar to its three predecessors, the volume offers an inside look at the developmental and creative process that Book Four underwent prior to its release through a series of preliminary artworks supplemented by commentary from the creators.

The last of four art books, it was released on September 15, 2015, and spans 184 pages. A second edition of the art book was released on July 26, 2022.[1] It features a new foreword by Asami Sato's voice actress, Seychelle Gabriel, and will also be available in a deluxe edition, including a slipcase and a commemorative lithograph of the book's original cover art.[2] Its new cover art was drawn by Joaquim Dos Santos and colored by Bryan Konietzko.[3]


The book contains thirteen chapters:

  1. After All These Years (pages eight through 23)
  2. Korra Alone (pages 24 through 35)
  3. The Coronation (pages 36 through 45)
  4. The Calling (pages 46 through 55)
  5. Enemy at the Gates (pages 56 through 67)
  6. The Battle of Zaofu (pages 68 through 81)
  7. Reunion (pages 82 through 93)
  8. Beyond the Wilds (pages 94 through 105)
  9. Operation Beifong (pages 106 through 117)
  10. Kuvira's Gambit (pages 118 through 131)
  11. Day of the Colossus (pages 132 through 143)
  12. The Last Stand (pages 144 through 165)
  13. Ancillary Art (pages 166 through 183)

It also includes an introduction by Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko on pages six and seven. They thank the fans for their support and explain their relief to have reached the finish line after years of hardship. An additional foreword by Seychelle Gabriel, Asami's voice actor, praises the work of the creators, the show's creative team, and the Avatar community, and how their work together relates to the season's themes regarding the concept of balance.

Chapter One: After All These Years[]

Kuvira concept art

Concept art for Kuvira by Bryan Konietzko.

When it came to introducing Kuvira, the show's final main antagonist, DiMartino believed that it was important to have a female villain that was similar to Korra, especially in terms of her unyielding personality and bending prowess. Expanding on this, Konietzko details how his first design of Kuvira was meant to evoke Korra's, albeit in a more intense form. Having done designs of Kuvira since Book Three: Change's development, Konietzko enjoyed the opportunity to create a military dictator, particularly when it came to working on Kuvira's uniform. In one iteration designed by Lauren Montgomery, Kuvira sported a long hair braid and cape, though both elements were removed due to the effort it would take to animate them. As it was decided during the storyboarding process of the first episode that Kuvira would metalbend her armor in combat, the creative team focused on outfitting her with stacked strips of metal plates, which were incorporated into her final design by Konietzko and Ki Hyun Ryu.

For Kuvira's action scene with the bandits, DiMartino and the other writers took care to depict Kuvira's ability to maintain her control over a situation, emphasized by Ki Hyun Ryu's storyboarding of her dynamic movements. Joaquim Dos Santos felt that the scene was the audience's true introduction to Kuvira, as opposed to her appearances in prior episodes.

DiMartino describes how Prince Wu, despite being deliberately written to annoy Mako with his obnoxious and goofy manner, has a good and vulnerable side underneath this veneer, displayed during his breakdown in the episode "The Coronation". He further states he enjoys writing characters with such depth, namely in how their lack of social filters influences what they say or do. Wu went through several designs, as Konietzko found his initial depictions to be "too cool", even when they retained a sense of dorkiness. Commenting on his hairstyle, Konietzko was satisfied with Wu's bangs in his final design.

Several existing characters also went through redesigns for Book Four. Looking over Lauren Montgomery's concepts for Asami's casual costume, DiMartino iterates how important costumes can be for showcasing a character's personality, complimenting Asami's final design for its blending of formal businesswear and and fashion-forward attire. Mako received the most streamlined update to his clothing, reflecting his new role as an Earth Kingdom bodyguard. Having liked General Iroh's hairstyle, designed by Il Kwang Kim, Konietzko was pleased that Mako adopted it as well. With Tonraq now having greying temples, brought about from the stress of worrying over Korra, Dos Santos opines that one should never underestimate "old-man strength". For Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo, aspects of their redesigns are discussed, namely how the crew developed them in tandem with the new airbender wingsuits early on in Book Four's production, as well as their working to keep the kids' new haircuts in line with the silhouettes of their previous looks.

Using Kuvira's costume as a template, Konietzko designed the Earth Empire's military uniforms with a series of different armor pieces, fabric trims, and patches that denoted rank. Konietzko also comments on how serious Bolin and Varrick looked in their uniforms, while describing how Baatar Jr.'s new design reflected his transition from a dorky engineer in Book Three: Change to being Kuvira's severe second-in-command. Dos Santos further describes the thought process for designing Kuvira's maglev train, and how it reflects aspects of her characterization. The sleek design for Kuvira's train was shaped around her ideals regarding progress, while the stark steel frame reflected her intimidating methods of spreading oppression and fear.

The designs for the new wingsuits used by the Air Nomads were a collaborative process between Dos Santos, Konietzko, and DiMartino. Dos Santos' early wingsuits drew heavily from traditional Air Nomad garb in terms of aesthetics, with the wing fabric of the suit staying wrapped around the the suits' belt and legs while at rest, and around the airbender's arms while spread out in flight. Konietzko felt, however, that the suits should be more of a departure from how Air Nomads had been previously depicted, opting instead to base the garb off of real-life flight suits. After a few more iterations, and DiMartino's notes that the wings of the suit should be less baggy, Konietzko settled on the outfit's final design. Despite not being mentioned in the series, Konietzko reveals that Asami was the wingsuits' designer. As the new airbenders introduced throughout the series got new wingsuit costumes, several of them also got slight alterations to their character designs, with Bumi in particular gaining a more toned physique during the three year timeskip between seasons.

Chapter Two: Korra Alone[]

Though Korra received a new look for the first half of the season in the form of an Earth Kingdom outfit and short hairstyle, care was taken to ensure design continuity with the Avatar's old look, with DiMartino drawing attention to the similarities between her new sleeveless shirt and baggy pants with her previous Water Tribe outfit. Konietzko himself noted the fun in continuing Avatar: The Last Airbender's tradition of putting the main characters in the fashion of other nations. He nevertheless bemoaned that the parka Angela Song Mueller created for Korra was not used elsewhere in the show.

Korra's fight with a bruiser later in the episode was staged by Dos Santos, who notes his luck in getting the chance to combine two of his passions: cage fighting and animation.

The backgrounds of an Earth Kingdom village that Korra walks through at night were designed by Christine Bian and painted by Fred Stewart. Commenting on the gloomy fog present in the paintings, Konietzko felt the mood of the drawings perfectly captured Korra's feeling of isolation.

As the writer of "Korra Alone", DiMartino regarded the episode, and Katara's patient guiding of Korra through her physical and mental recovery, as some of his favorite material to write for the show. The focus on the characters going through such therapy was important to the creative team, as they did not want to skip over Korra's building frustration regarding her lengthy rehabilitation.

The design for Korra's Water Tribe catamaran was drawn by cleanup artist Steve Hirt. It was an update on the catamaran that Pakku used to transport Aang and his companions in the episode "The Avatar State".

DiMartino and Konietzko expand on background paintings of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace, with the former describing how it has been the residence of Tonraq and his family following his election as tribal chief. One of the paintings showcasing a foyer with a view of the radiant landscape outside was originally intended to be used for a scene of Tonraq wheeling Korra into the palace. While the scene was ultimately cut, Konietzko appreciates that the finished painting can still be displayed in media like the art book.

Discussing a spread of storyboards depicting Korra adopting her Earth Kingdom disguise, Dos Santos lauds assistant director Steven Ahn for his versatility, namely his ability to create action sequences with giant mecha or capturing intimate, emotional moments like Korra's expression as she cuts her hair.

More background paintings are shown, this time of the Northern Water Tribe. Konietzko notes that Emily Tetri's painting of the icebergs that Korra sails through was one of his favorites of her work. The painting of the spirit portal at the North Pole was done by Fred Stewart, with Konietzko revealing that it was the background painter's last piece before leaving the show to work in feature film animation. Konietzko goes on to thank Stewart for all his effort and time on the series, honoring his work as the stylistic foundation for the show's background paintings.

Aang airbending seaweed wraps

A photo of Aang comically airbending a pair of seaweed wraps designed by Ki Hyun Ryu and Angella Song Mueller.

Having been looking for a chance to portray Aang in a more comical fashion, harkening back to his trickster antics from the original series, Konietzko enjoyed Ki Hyun Ryu's design for Aang's photo. Konietzko further noted that it was appropriate Ki Hyun drew Aang doing his classic pose and feat, as the supervising producer had done the key animation for the airbender's marble trick in the episode "The Warriors of Kyoshi".

Another incorporated element from Avatar was the Foggy Swamp, now seen from the perspective of Korra and her friends. DiMartino labels the location as one of the original show's most iconic settings; little was changed about its design between the two series.

Chapter Three: The Coronation[]

The creatives discuss several locations of Republic City featured in the episode. Designed by William Nanqing Niu, a background of the miniature Earth Kingdom Royal Palace in the Little Ba Sing Se Fashion Mall is shown, which Konietzko describes as a "tacky family buffet" despite its opulent exterior. The concept of a mall designed to resemble the Earth Kingdom capital struck DiMartino as, while over the top, fitting with Wu's storyline during his shopping trip with Mako, the imitation representing and complementing the prince's grasping for relevance as a ruler. The Republic City Four Elements hotel's service and luxury, displayed in background paintings, is renowned among travelers and world leaders, with Wu taking up permanent residence there during his time in the city.

Old Toph concept art

Concept art for an elderly Toph Beifong by Lauren Montgomery.

An elderly Toph and her settling down in the swamp was a story detail originally conceived during the development of Book Three. After receiving a brief mention in the prior season, the creative team decided that Korra encountering Toph during her road to recovery, and experiencing her blunt teaching style, would contrast well with Katara's methods. For her updated design, Toph's height became an issue for Konietzko and the artists on the crew, as the latter group drew her at the same dimensions she was at age twelve in spite of how she appeared in Book One: Air. Though Toph's model sheets showed her diminutive height to be the result of her hunched back and bent knees, her scenes underwent several retakes during the animation process, as artists continued to draw her at the same height but with an upright posture.

For Korra's sparring session with Toph, Dos Santos compliments assistant director Owen Sullivan's storyboards, particularly his ability to succinctly capture the movement of characters through his art alone.

The designs for several background characters are also expanded on. The Kuvira supporters that Wu accosts at the mall for their apparel were directly based on and designed by two of the show's crew members, Angela Song Mueller and Christine Bian. DiMartino states that Fire Lord Izumi was a character that they, despite their interest in, were unable to figure into the main plot of the season. Desna and Eska both received new identical sets of robes, in addition to slight changes to their heights and hair length. Referencing the subtle changes to the twins, Konietzko joked that he instead thought about distinguishing Desna by making him look like a "preppy tennis player".

The goggles worn by Varrick at the end of the episode were designed by Angela Song Mueller; in spite of the multiple colored lenses affixed to them, Konietzko imagines that their purpose, and the reason Varrick wears the apparel, is for pure aesthetics. The inventor's spirit energy machine was originally a 3D model used in storyboarding, with Hirt translating it into a drawn, painted element.

The landscape painting depicting the maglev train track winding through various rock formations was done by Lane Garrison, an artist with Nickelodeon's fellowship program who was given the opportunity to work on various aspects of the show's design process. The landscape itself was inspired by the terrain located in White Pocket, Arizona.

Chapter Four: The Calling[]

Earth Empire topographic map

The design for a topographic map of the Earth Empire by Bryan Konietzko.

Several of the backgrounds relating to Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo's journey through the Earth Kingdom are discussed. The hilltop stupas that the airbender kids rest by were inspired by the Buddhist shrines of similar design in the nation of Bhutan. It is for their connection to areas of great spiritual energy that Jinora chooses to meditate near the stupas in order to search for Korra. Konietzko added his own touch to a lush forest background designed by Christine Bian and painted by Craig Elliott, adding a moss-covered statue depicting a monkey spirit standing amidst the trees.

The Earth Empire banner displayed in one of the settlements the airbender kids visit was designed by Konietzko. Unlike the propaganda glorying Amon's revolution in brutal and intense terms, Konietzko instead decided to have the artwork depicting Kuvira evoke idealism and optimism, in the way historical and contemporary military dictatorships were built up to elicit support from the public. The banner itself was created by using pre-existing design elements, utilizing one of Kuvira's expression sheet models and the Metal Clan's emblem that Kuvira appropriated for her former home.

The map of the Earth Empire was also created by Konietzko, who relished the chance to develop and composite more of his cartographical work into the final animation. By his own admission, Konietzko spent an "inordinate" amount of time working on the intricacies of the map, namely detailing the continent's coastline, converting the stylized mountain ranges from the map of the original show's opening sequence into topographic features, and charting the rail lines used by the Earth Empire military.

The banyan-grove tree was given an updated design by William Nanqing Niu, who drew upon his experiences drawing spirit vines in the previous two seasons to render the tree's massive, sprawling roots that covered and grew out from the swamp.

As DiMartino notes, "The Calling" is unlike most episodes in that there was no action scene at the story's conclusion, with the resolution to Korra's healing coming from her having to face her mental blocks as opposed to overcoming a physical antagonistic force. Over a spread of artist Eugene Lee's storyboards picturing Korra removing the poison from her body with metalbending, DiMartino further describes the graceful form of her movements as being akin to waterbending.

Chapter Five: Enemy at the Gates[]

Commentating on Varrick saving Zhu Li from falling off their train, and his insensitivity regarding their subsequent romantic moment, as storyboarded by Chris Palmer, DiMartino states that it was enjoyable to explore Varrick's burgeoning conscientious streak.

Female Earth Empire personnel

Designs for female Earth Empire personnel by Angela Song Mueller.

Several character models are displayed, showcasing the female personnel of Kuvira's army, including mecha suit pilots, metalbenders, and infantry of various ranks. Though Konietzko made a point of including such diversity in the Earth Empire's forces, he admits his fault in their lack of inclusion in the actual show, as the designs were largely omitted from being used for background characters in the final animation.

The Earth Empire tanks used in Kuvira's annexation of Zaofu were inspired by the same weapons of war deployed in World War I. DiMartino bemoans the fact that the tanks were not utilized more.

For the mecha suits, Dos Santos explains that his initial basic concepts for the mecha were given over to Christine Bian, who, in addition to translating the designs into a highly-detailed model, elongated the suit's limbs to give it a more humanoid appearance, while also detailing how the suit's armaments fit within its body.

As part of his reintroduction in Book Four, Hiroshi Sato received an updated design to reflect the time he had spent incarcerated. During the storyboarding of Hiroshi's conversation with Asami, Ki Hyun Ryu created his depiction of what the former industrialist looked like before the crew's designers were finished with their own versions. Konietzko appreciated Ki Hyun's design, and its similarities to that of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki; he simultaneously stressed, however, that they did not mean to impugn Miyazaki with such a connection to a villainous character. Speaking to the emotions behind the characters during their reunion, DiMartino imagines that, despite the time that elapsed, Asami would still feel haunted by Hiroshi's actions, and her seeing how her father has changed was a way to give her character closure.

Chapter Six: The Battle of Zaofu[]

Kuvira's command center, the structure being composed of several folding metal panels, was referred to as a yurt in the episode's script; DiMartino draws attention to how yurts are typically decorated and used in more peaceful settings, in contrast to how Kuvira's reflects a more sinister purpose. Konietzko praises William Nanqing Niu for his attention to detail in his designs, namely how his notes for the mechanics of how the yurt's panels fit together helped the animators with their own work.

Alternate character costumes featured in the episode are displayed. Konietzko jokingly questions what it must be like for Wei and Wing to have a mother who provides them with readily accessible ninja garb. DiMartino compliments Kuvira's hair being let down, and how it later sells her transforming into Korra's "Dark Avatar" hallucination of herself. The co-creator similarly states it was fun to see Meelo, Ikki, Zhu Li, and Huan in pyjamas, particularly the latter's spiky bedhead.

Ikki and Meelo's paintings

Ikki and Meelo's self-portraits as drawn by Bryan Konietzko and Joseph Aguilar.

The scene where Huan evaluates Ikki and Meelo's artwork went through several revisions, one focus being to determine just what the children's self-portraits would be. One storyboard iteration had Meelo sculpt a butt out of clay, which Konietzko found amusing, but ultimately too weird to include. The final paintings were drawn by Konietzko, who received help from prop designer Joseph Aguilar, and inspiration from the paintings' depiction in the storyboard.

Describing his own boarding of Korra's first duel with Kuvira, Dos Santos mentions that the Great Uniter was toying with Korra, using the fight as a chance to make an example of the Avatar. Kuvira's quick agility and footwork incorporated moves from Western boxers, such as Muhammad Ali, to accentuate her confidence in battle. Conversely, Dos Santos labels Korra's offense as powerful, but overcommitted, leaving her vulnerable to Kuvira's counterattacks.

The crowds of Zaofu's citizens present for Kuvira's victory necessitated the creation of several background extras of varying gender and age range, all with unique designs that fit within pre-existing Metal Clan motifs. Konietzko credits such character designs, in this case created by Angela Song Mueller and Christie Tseng, for helping make the cultures in the world of Avatar authentic.

The backgrounds of Zaofu under occupation showcase the city's culture being covered by foreboding Earth Empire iconography, in particular Toph's statue, a fact she would not be happy with in DiMartino's view.

Chapter Seven: Reunion[]

Bolin and Varrick's disheveled designs are shown as part of their storyline escaping the Earth Empire. The chance to have two comedic relief characters interacting with each other was particularly enjoyable for DiMartino, with their dialogue having the benefit of P. J. Byrne and John Michael Higgins' unscripted banter during their shared recording sessions.

Bolin's fight with the group of Earth Empire fugitives was storyboarded by Eugene Lee, who Dos Santos notes as having a knack for staging action scenes with multiple combatants, such as when the fugitives were warded off by Bolin's earth and lavabending. The fugitives themselves were intended to represent the outcome of Kuvira's extremist pursuit of uniting the Earth Empire, in this case her xenophobic purging of fire and waterbender citizens from her new nation. One of the fugitives, Baraz, was voiced by Steve Blum, Amon's voice actor. Baraz's design harkens to another of Blum's roles, Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. Initially, the design was only meant to be a temporary one used for storyboarding, but the design stuck, with Baraz receiving a receding hairline from Konietzko to differentiate him from his source inspiration.

Within the crew of the show, new additions stepped in to fill in vacancies, while other veteran members of the production took on new roles. Melissa King, a freelance background artist from Book One, joined the team after the departure of Fred Stewart, with one contribution being her paintings of the Earth Empire's checkpoints. Konietzko imparts the value of King's work on Book Four, and apologizes for misidentifying her work in the Book One art book. Originally a prop designer, Christine Bian switched to doing background designs, such as the restaurant Team Avatar and Wu visit; Konietzko identifies her strength in doing interior spaces, her talent supported by her prior experience creating the props that fill such environments. Konietzko further compliments painter Lauren Zurcher for her artistic style in making Bian's design elements stand out. One such element, a mirror in the restaurant's bathroom that Wu walks past, had to be altered to look like a cabinet, a choice made to avoid having the animators spend time accounting for the prince's reflection. Iterating William Nanqing Niu's talent in drawing natural settings like swamps, Konietzko also praises his work representing the scale of urban areas like the streets of Republic City. The train compartments Korra, Mako, and Asami travel through were painted by Craig Elliott, a temporary addition to the show's team of background painters. The aforementioned painting displayed a complex understanding of lighting, through the natural light emanating past the train's windows and the artificial light coming from the lanterns along the train's walls.

Asami's updated electrified glove

Designs for Asami Sato's new electrified glove by Bryan Konietzko and Joseph Aguilar.

Several characters in the episode also received costume updates. Mako and Bolin's relatives, Yin and Tu, acquired new clothes during their stay at Asami's mansion, with Yin continuing to wear Mako's scarf. Asami's electrified glove became more streamlined aesthetically as a result of the businesswoman's tinkering. When deciding on Korra's look for the rest of the season, Konietzko wanted her new design to reflect her psychological growth, not just in her recent rehabilitation, but from an inexperienced teenager to a fully-realized Avatar over the course of the whole series. After only appearing in a few episodes, Konietzko reused Korra's long-sleeved outfit from Book Two: Spirits and streamlined her skirt, pants, and boots to give her design a superhero quality to it.

Chapter Eight: Beyond the Wilds[]

Needing to expand on the main setting of the episode, the crew developed new artwork for Republic City's Spirit Wilds. The update to the location was well-received by the co-creators, who enjoyed the creative freedom afforded from Republic City's drastic changes throughout the series.

One of the citizens abducted by the spirit vines is introduced as Steve by Konietzko. When creating incidental characters for the first season, their color palette skewed toward muted tones that fit well against the desaturated backgrounds, with the exception of Steve and his bright orange and red clothing. This resulted in him standing out in shots with multiple characters, to the point that Konietzko jokingly gave him a name.

With Varrick and Bolin arriving in Republic City, they were given new designs in place of their Earth Empire uniforms, which Konietzko imagines they burned. Varrick's clothing was an update on his casual wear from Book Two, likely retrieved from the business magnate's penthouse. Bolin styled his hair back into its traditional cowlick style, and added a new leather jacket to his apparel that Konietzko states was inspired by the costumes present in the film The Rocketeer.

Zaheer's underground prison

A background painting of Zaheer's underground prison by Lauren Zurcher.

As Zaheer had been captured during the events of the prior season, the writers decided on confining him in an underground fortress located near Republic City. Konietzko expands on the concept, saying the prison was originally a temple that the Order of the White Lotus had repurposed for holding Zaheer. The prison was designed by William Nanqing Niu and painted by Lauren Zurcher; Konietzko praises the latter's depiction in particular of the light shining from the glowing crystals around Zaheer's cell.

Chapter Nine: Operation Beifong[]

Spirit energy cannon designs

Designs for the spirit energy cannon by Joseph Aguilar and Bryan Konietzko.

Several of the designs for the Earth Empire in the episode were inspired by the equipment used during World War II. One example would be several of the technology props designed by Aguilar, such as machine parts, circuit boards, binoculars, and walkie-talkies. Another would be the spirit energy cannon, which was based on the similarly gargantuan railway guns created by Nazi Germany. Konietzko felt that the fantastical cannon achieved a sense of realism through being an analogue to an actual historical weapon.

Baatar Jr.'s factory was an entirely new location for the series, and required backgrounds that captured the facility at various angles and distances. Drawn by Christine Bian, DiMartino noted how one of her designs showcasing a wide angle view of the facility encapsulated the locations where the character scenes and action sequences would take place.

While only a page of spirits designed by Angela Song Mueller and Christie Tseng for the episode is shown, Konietzko muses that the pair's combined work on creating spirits for the entire series could fill an art book by itself; he estimates Tseng might have drawn at least a hundred on her own. He further lists the dragon eel spirit as his favorite of the ones introduced in "Operation Beifong", complimenting Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf's coloring of the entity.

Commenting on Lauren Montgomery's boarding of Korra appealing to the spirits for aid, DiMartino praises the supervising producer for accentuating emotional scenes with character acting and cinematic techniques, pointing out how Montgomery uses a wide shot of a despondent Korra at a low angle to depict how alone the Avatar feels after being abandoned by the spirits.

Kuvira's fight with Suyin was boarded by Dos Santos, who labeled the fight as among his top three favorite action sequences he had ever staged. Its placement stemmed from the culmination of the mentor and protege's conflict over the season, the actual fight choreography between the two master metalbenders, and the final animation rendered by Studio Mir. Though Dos Santos was unsure whether the idea came from the writers' room or the design team, he felt Kuvira's ability to form a blade and whip from her metal wrist bracelets was a natural extension of her metalbending prowess.

Chapter Ten: Kuvira's Gambit[]

Becoming a recurring location in Book Four, Republic City's Central City Station was itself based on New York City's Pennsylvania Station prior to its demolition and redevelopment. Konietzko bemoans the fact that Penn Station's modern incarnation lacked the architectural style of its predecessor and fictional counterpart.

Now wearing new clothing inspired by equestrian attire, Zhu Li marks her new appearance in the episode by standing up to Varrick over his treatment of her. The scene between the two characters was storyboarded by Natasha Presler-Wicke, whose work on the expressions and posing for the pair is commended by DiMartino.

A quote from William Nanqing Niu on the dedication of the crew is shared by Konietzko; it states that despite how exhausted the crew was in the final stages of the season's production, what kept them going was their love of the show and the camaraderie they shared as a team. Niu himself designed most of the cityscape shots of Republic City shown during its evacuation. Konietzko credits the painters in particular for infusing their work with cinematic lighting. The Future Industries warehouse where Baatar Jr. is held for interrogation, painted by freelance artist Kristy Kay, used dramatic sun rays from the windows and ceiling light fixtures to gel with the drama of the scene; the space that housed the hummingbird mecha suits was painted by King, the cool color of the sky reflected on the floor being balanced by the warm light coming through the paned skylights.

Colossus concept art

Concept art of the Colossus by Bryan Konietzko.

The design process for the colossal mecha suit used by Kuvira during her invasion of the United Republic of Nations was spearheaded by Konietzko, who then handed it off to other members of the team, such as Christine Bian and Lauren Zurcher, who developed the co-creator's concepts for the mecha suit's cockpit into a fully-realized design. The actual body of the mecha suit went through several iterations, going from a squatter height, evoking the smaller one-man piloted mecha in Kuvira's army, to a more skeletal, lankier appearance; the through-line between the two versions being the motif of Zaofu's domes, the material Kuvira used to construct the massive suit. In a desire to make the mecha suit more creepy, Konietzko took inspiration from mechanical beings in animated media like Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky, Max Fleischer's The Mechanical Monsters, and Brad Bird's The Iron Giant. The final version of the design came about when Dos Santos flattened the suit's rotund head, which Nickelodeon's in-house team of 3D modelers then converted into a CG element used in the final product.

Chapter Eleven: Day of the Colossus[]

As the battle between Team Avatar and Kuvira's mecha suit continued into the next episode, more wide-scale, sprawling shots of Republic City were required. William Nanqing Niu's detailed designs for the cityscape were then painted by Melissa King and Anthony Wu, another freelance art brought on to help the team.

Hummingbird mecha suit cockpit design

A design for a hummingbird mecha suit's cockpit by Joseph Aguilar.

The idea for the hummingbird mecha suits came from a pitch Konietzko made to the show's writers. Within the lore of the series, Konietzko envisaged the suits as another of Asami's creations with her intention being to use them for construction projects in Republic City. Though acknowledging the suits might not be considered "cool" like more traditional mecha, Konietzko appreciates the suits' unique design and the inspiration for it, that being a hummingbird's wingbeat and an actual mechanical recreation of the bird that demonstrated the same rapid movement. The designs for the suit were created by Konietzko and Joseph Aguilar, with the former developing the body and wings, and the latter working on the suit's "limbs".

When staging the sequence where Korra stops the giant mecha suit with his team, Dos Santos discusses the storyboard artists problem solving the issue for how Korra would notice the canal she would use to freeze the mecha suit, all the while standing at ground-level. The crew sketched their individual ideas, eventually settling on putting Korra atop a hill so she could see the canal from an elevated point of view.

Chapter Twelve: The Last Stand[]

More backgrounds of the giant mecha suit's interior are shown, with the challenge for the design team being to make the depicted spaces feel as though they fit inside the suit's body structure. Another more specific challenge was the suit's engine room, which went through several design retakes owing to its round shape and domed ceiling. Konietzko attests that the latter, lined with metal honeycomb panels, had to be redone five times by William Nanqing Niu.

Speaking to Mako's destruction of the mecha suit's spirit vine core, at the near cost of his life, Dos Santos hopes the scene, which he boarded personally, eased some of the fanbase's negative reception to the character.

As the episode occurred between sunset and dusk, several of the background paintings had to undergo changes to account for how the dominant light sources, such as the sun, would affect the setting. The location of Korra and Kuvira's final showdown in the Spirit Wilds was shaded with the warm light of golden hour, a choice on Zurcher's part that Konietzko praises for providing a mysterious ambience to the characters' confrontation. In other moments, however, the crew had to account for the dominant light source being the energy beam from the giant mecha suit's cannon or the new spirit portal, which instead cast the world in their own vivid colors.

An unused background of Republic City after Korra bent the energy beam is shown, framed as an aerial shot overlooking the entire city. Initially a painting by Lauren Zurcher and altered by Konietzko, the crew decided against using the background as a pick-up for the sequence, determining it would fit better in the art book.

With the finale having several complicated action sequences, the co-creators relied on Dos Santos, Lauren Montgomery, and Ki Hyun Ryu for their expertise in boarding; the moment where the spirit energy cannon goes haywire and Korra saves Kuvira included panels from all three producers. The particular scene went through several revisions, as Dos Santos stated he and his colleagues knew this would be some of their last work on the series.

The portal's location in the Spirit World was a setting Konietzko wanted to be entirely new. The landscape itself drew from several inspirations, with Konietzko and Christine Bian using icebergs, baobab trees, and aquatic plants for the location's bizarre natural features; the neon color scheme for the plants along the ground used source images of aquariums illuminated by black lights. As the setting evoked feelings that would both mollify and disturb, Konietzko felt the design reinforced the nature of Korra and Kuvira's interaction in the location after their battle.

For Varrick and Zhu Li's wedding, Konietzko and Christine Bian researched decorations for nuptials celebrated in winter, a prospect Bian was excited about given her own impending marriage; Konietzko further provided elements that his wife used for their own ceremony. Given the elements used for the event, DiMartino imagines that they were appropriated from a Nuktuk mover. Several characters, such as Varrick, Zhu Li, Korra, Mako, Asami, and Wu, also received updated formal wear, with Dos Santos enthusiastically opining that the show had more costume changes with its principal cast than any other show he had worked on.

When deciding on the wedding's jazz-inspired musical entertainment, DiMartino consulted with series composer Jeremy Zuckerman on what instruments he used for his own renditions, and then included them in the episode's script. As opposed to having unknown background extras as instrumentalists, DiMartino decided the band should be composed of minor characters from seasons past, such as Tahno, his pro-bending teammates, Hasook, the council page, Lu, and Gang.

Asami and Korra holding hands storyboard

A storyboard panel of Korra and Asami holding hands by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.

Discussing his own feelings toward Korra and Asami's final romantic moment in the series together, Konietzko gives his thanks for the fanbase's support and appreciation. From the ending's inception in the story outline, the creative team took care in how to depict the scene, developing several iterations until DiMartino and Konietzko worked together to create the final storyboards of Korra and Asami walking into the spirit portal holding hands.

Chapter Thirteen: Ancillary Art[]

The Future Industries advertisement on the back of Asami's magazine is displayed from the episode "Reunion". The ad was originally going to be a fashion promotion starring Ginger, but Konietzko instead decided it would be more appropriate to showcase Asami's status as a tech magnate by her marketing her own company. The ad used a mechanical prop created by Joseph Aguilar, concept sketches for the female engineers by Konietzko that Angela Song Mueller then developed, and Chinese characters written by Siu-Leung Lee describing Future Industries' recruitment efforts toward female engineers.

Turtle duck boat

A print of Korra and Asami's date as they ride on a turtle duck boat displayed at Gallery Nucleus.

A print by Konietzko, titled "Turtle-Duck Date Night", depicts Korra and Asami cuddling together while riding on a turtle duck boat beneath Harmony Tower. The artwork used pre-existing production elements, namely Emily Tetri's painting of the tower that she had based off of a design by Jung-Su Lee; the turtle duck boats were inspired by swan boats Konietzko had ridden while visiting Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan. The print was Konietzko's contribution to an art gallery commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Avatar franchise, and as a dedication to "Korrasami" and fans of the show coming out about their own sexual identities, the co-creator donated his earnings selling the print to a suicide-prevention hotline helping LGBTQ individuals.


  • "Remembrances" is the only episode of Book Four and the entire series to not have its own chapter, since the episode was mostly a clip show with minimal new content.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series–Book Four: Balance (Second Edition) (Deluxe Edition). PenguinRandomHouse.com. Retrieved on July 26, 2022.
  2. The Legend of Korra—The Art of the Animated Series, Book Four: Balance HC Second Edition. DarkHorse.com. Retrieved on July 14, 2022.
  3. Bryan Konietzko's Instagram (February 12, 2022). Retrieved on February 13, 2022.