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The Legend of Korra—The Art of the Animated Series, Book Two: Spirits is an art book written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Joaquim Dos Santos that is based on the second book of The Legend of Korra. Similar to its predecessor, the volume offers an inside look at the developmental and creative process that Book Two underwent prior to its release through a series of preliminary artworks supplemented by commentary from the creators. The second of four art books, it was released on September 23, 2014, and spans 184 pages.

A second edition of the art book was released on September 22, 2021. It features creator commentary from DiMartino and Konietzko, a new cover drawn by Konietzko,[2] and a new foreword by Bolin's voice actor, P. J. Byrne.[1]

Contents[]

This book contains fifteen chapters:

  1. Rebel Spirit (pages 9 through 30)
  2. The Southern Lights (pages 32 through 49)
  3. Civil Wars, Part 1 (pages 50 through 57)
  4. Civil Wars, Part 2 (pages 58 through 67)
  5. Peacekeepers (pages 68 through 75)
  6. The Sting (pages 76 through 83)
  7. Beginnings, Part 1 (pages 84 through 101)
  8. Beginnings, Part 2 (pages 103 through 113)
  9. The Guide (pages 114 through 122)
  10. A New Spiritual Age (pages 123 through 135)
  11. Night of a Thousand Stars (pages 136 through 143)
  12. Harmonic Convergence (pages 144 through 153)
  13. Darkness Falls (pages 154 through 163)
  14. Light in the Dark (pages 164 through 171)
  15. Ancillary Art (pages 172 through 183)

It also includes an introduction by Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino on pages six and seven, respectively. A foreword by Bolin's voice actor, P. J. Byrne, is located on page six and seven in the book's second edition.

Chapter One: Rebel Spirit[]

The first chapter introduces the reason behind the six-month time-skip, plus the new characters and plot, of the second book. DiMartino explains that he always liked time-skips because it made him feel as though "characters have a life of their own" when off the air. Mako is a cop, Asami runs Future Industries, and Bolin is still trying to keep the Fire Ferrets alive. The other aspect was that the unseen progression enabled the creators to change the style of the characters slightly; Konietzko states that he wishes that he used Korra's long-sleeved style throughout the entirety of the second book. As part of his new profession, Mako was given a police uniform; though the crew's designers kept Mako's scarf with his new appearance, Konietzko removed it from his final design. Asami received new winter-wear alongside the rest of Team Avatar, with the former's garb being based on a coat Konietzko had found on a Japanese fashion website. Expression sheets for Tenzin are shown; while important for the animators to base their work on, Dos Santos states that due to production schedules, expression sheets are usually only created for main characters like Tenzin. In particular, the expression sheets are useful as Tenzin's design is labeled as a realistic one by DiMartino, which makes it difficult for animators to give him exaggerated expressions.

Kya concept art

The initial concept art for Kya showed her to be older and with a different outfit compared to the finalized design. Designs by Lauren Montgomery, Ki Hyun Ryu, and Bryan Konietzko.

The chapter also covers the introduction of new characters, such as Kya, someone who DiMartino labeled as one of his "favorite additions", together with her brother Bumi. Konietzko explains that her design was an "interesting collaboration" between Lauren Montgomery, who made the initial concept, Ki Hyun Ryu, who added to that concept, and himself, who made the final touches. It was Konietzko who pushed for Kya to wear an outfit that resembled her mother's outfits from the first series. Joaquim Dos Santos adds that the final design tweaks, such as drawing her eyes slightly bigger and giving Kya a more youthful and "cute" appearance, helped bolster the "free-spirit" aspect of her personality.

Varrick is another one of those new characters. His initial design by Ki Hyun Ryu, while having the same quality as the final iteration, was ultimately too realistic and refined. His design represents for DiMartino the prosperity of the Southern Water Tribe and was designed very realistic, while the characters of Tonraq and Unalaq were designed to be in contrast with one another; where Tonraq is more brutish and fights like a barbarian, Unalaq is refined, with a more elegant technique. Konietzko had wanted Unalaq to resemble his brother to a greater extent, in part to better distinguish his design from Tarrlok's, but eventually came around to the designers' arguments that the chieftain should have a more professional aesthetic. The characters of Desna and Eska took some time as, according to Dos Santos, the artists were unable to pin down a look for the twins. It was not until Ki Hyun attempt that they figured out the twins' signature deadpan look and hunched backs; for his contribution, Joshua Middleton gave the twins' draping sleeves slits to allow them freer range of movement.

Several of the episode's minor characters are expanded on. Korra and Mako's replacements in the Fire Ferrets were originally designed with similar hairstyles to their respective predecessors. The intention was for there to be a gag where, during Bolin's speech to his team, the camera would be behind the two new players, making the audience think it was Mako and Korra. While taking care to be ambiguous, Dos Santos indicates Ki Hyun Ryu's designs for two of the Red Monsoon Triad members that Mako arrests were based on pro-wrestler André the Giant and Oddjob from the early James Bond films.

The designs and mechanisms behind the carnival games at the Glacier Spirits Festival are shown. For the co-creators, the games were a fun way to show Aang, Appa, and Momo in their chibi designs, and how the characters have become part of the Avatar world's popular culture through their depictions as the games' wooden cutouts and plush doll rewards.

In regards to the several exterior and interior views of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace by Emily Tetri and Fred Stewart, DiMartino details the history and politics behind the Northern and Southern Water Tribe's relationship in the second season. Traditionally, the South was overseen directly by its own governmental body, the Council of Elders, while the chieftain in the North was the de jure head of both tribes; in the modern era, Unalaq is seen by most of the Southern populace as a figurehead. Having aided in the South's recovery after the Hundred Year War, the North expected to reap the benefits of its investment, which in turn led to tensions between the two tribes over who deserved the benefits of the South's prosperity. This backstory was developed by the Korra writers, but was not detailed onscreen for fear of overloading the episodes with exposition.

The "owl-faced spirit" that marked the first appearance of the dark spirits was a challenge as it set the mold for the dark spirits that would appear later. Konietzko states that he "had to establish how they would look in various states"; the dark, neutral, and light versions. Korra and her allies' fight with the dark spirit was storyboarded by Dos Santos. Given the direction to make the dark spirit move extremely fast, and having the freedom that came with portraying an entity that was not human, the co-executive producer relished the chance to depict the dark spirit's amorphous shape and unpredictable motions, likening it to a scorpion, cobra, and gorilla. Dos Santos also acknowledged Studio Pierrot's talent for translating his "squiggly" drawings of the dark spirit into fully realized animation; DiMartino in turn praised both Dos Santos and Pierrot for capturing the weight of Korra's movements as she struggled to get up after being flung by the dark spirit.

Chapter Two: Southern Lights[]

The second chapter initially shows the character designs of young Tonraq and Unalaq as well as their father, the former chief of the Northern Water Tribe. It displays background designs of an aerial view of the tribe and a closer look to the chief's throne room, which, DiMartino explains, have not changed significantly in the intervening years between the two series. However, the painting style was updated from the original series to match "the Korra style".

Frozen Southern spirit portal design

A background design by Studio Pierrot of the frozen Southern spirit portal. Painting by Fred Stewart.

The art book then shares a concept of the scene where a young Unalaq coaxes some spirits back into the sacred Northern forest in the aftermath of Tonraq's destruction, a painting made by Fred Stewart. Next to it, two moody grayscale concepts of the Everstorm raging above the South Pole and the sacred forest found at the heart of the storm are shown. Konietzko comments that the trees were based on the sacred forest on ancient bristlecone pines, some of the oldest organisms on Earth. He also wishes that the scenes in the animated series looked as lovely as Joshua Middleton's concept pieces of the forest.

Next, the co-creators show the concept art of the Avatar statues found in the Southern Air Temple room, updated to reflect the style of the new series. Konietzko says it is hard to keep the statues drawn on the model and painted well from various angles, and that the spiral orientation of the room presents a tough challenge when trying to keep their placements consistent from shot to shot, which is why he begged DiMartino to never write another scene in that location again. The statues shown are of Wan, Raava, Aang, and eighteen Avatars before him. The following spreads exhibit concepts of the Southern Air Temple from the outside and the frozen Southern spirit portal.

DiMartino mentions that the first stop on Tenzin's family vacation is this temple, where Aang grew up. Following the Hundred Year War, Aang established the Air Acolytes. Later, they moved into the various temples and repaired them to their former states. The four temples became pilgrimage sites for the Air Acolytes as they studied Air Nomad history and philosophy. He then goes on saying that Book Two was a chance to get to know the airbender kids a little more, so they gave them each their own story. Meelo's revolves around getting his first pet, a lemur named Poki, for whom they show character designs. Meelo's military side shows through when he trains a whole army of lemurs.

More background designs by Studio Pierrot are then shown of the icescapes of the Everstorm and the sacred forest in its frozen and melted states. Konietzko adds that Fred Stewart and Emily Tetri have been their background-painting dynamic duo from the start, but they were lucky to add a third painter, Lauren Zurcher, who came on board in the midst of retakes for this episode. Three background designs painted by Zurcher of spooky trees in ice are displayed.

The chapter ends with storyboard sequence panels by Ki Hyun Ryu of Korra's attempt and ultimate success in opening the Southern portal and several designs of dark spirits, some of them being based on African hunting dogs, ugly fish species, and gulper eels (also known as pelican eel).

Chapter Three: Civil Wars, Part 1[]

Ice palace interiors at night

Background design of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace interiors at night by Fred Stewart.

This third chapter begins with the character designs for the "extras", the citizens of the Southern Water Tribe. DiMartino says that one of the biggest design challenges is filling the background with a variety of interesting characters like them, and adds that they might look small in the frame but that without them the shots would feel quite empty. Right after, paintings of the Southern Water Tribe Royal Palace interiors at night by Fred Stewart are displayed, which Konietzko states are as close to an approximation of what a real-life ice castle would look like at night. Sketches of the fight between Korra and the rebels that went after Unalaq are also shown. Some of the storyboards were drawn traditionally with "good, old-fashioned pencil and paper", and then revisions to some of the action staging were made digitally after the fact by different artists, as was the respective case with Masami Anno, the storyboard's artist, and Dos Santos.

Subsequently, DiMartino says that writing the two-part "Civil Wars" story was special to him because of the chance to explore the relationship between Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi, since it was important for the creators to show how being children of the Avatar was not without its challenges. However, he points out that the story was meant to be less about Aang's parenting skills and more about the three siblings' issues surrounding their self-worth and issues with one another in regard to their relationship with their father. Several background designs of the Southern Air Temple are shown.

Adjacent to a storyboard by Masami Anno, DiMartino comments on how important showing Korra's relationship with her parents was in Book Two, as she struggles with being an independent person as well as being the Avatar.

Chapter Four: Civil Wars, Part 2[]

Two pictures of Tonraq's mountain prison in the Southern Water Tribe are put together, one drawn by Studio Pierrot and the other painted by Fred Stewart.

DiMartino mentions that it is very rare that he does any storyboarding on the show during that time, but the scene in which Varrick spends a long time in a taxidermied platypus bear was one that he really wanted to work on as it was completely ridiculous. He goes on to tell how Lauren Montgomery joined the show at the start of Book Two as a supervising producer, working on the acting and humor in the show, with one example being her storyboarding the scene where said platypus bear makes a distraction by pooping money. As he had mentioned previously, Dos Santos points out how a scene like Eska forcibly betrothing herself to Bolin was storyboarded and revised by multiple artists, in this case by Ki Hyun Ryu, Ian Graham, and Dae-Woo Lee.

Aang, Katara, and their children

A family photo of Aang, Katara, and their children. Created collaboratively by Christie Tseng, Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf, and Emily Tetri.

The book then shows several character and prop designs by Konietzko. Bolin and Pabu's "goth wedding outfits" were created by Desna, according to DiMartino. In the outline of the story, he wrote a scene where he tailored Bolin's clothes, but it was cut. Then, Konietzko shares that when it comes to creating Water Tribe costuming and culture, he turns to a book about making the film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Photos in that book of intricate ceremonial parkas inspired Judge Hotah's robe.

It follows with a character design of a baby flying bison, and Konietzko says that DiMartino and writer Josh Hamilton came up with Ikki's whimsical names for all the baby bison. He is not sure whether the one displayed in the book is called Blueberry Spicehead or Twinkle Starchild. After a concept and a finished painting of the cave where Tenzin and Ikki hide away from their family troubles in the episode is shown, he also presents a family photography "in the Avatar world" of Aang, Katara, and their children, claiming that Bumi looks like he was in that "awkward phase", while young Kya was ridiculously adorable. Meanwhile, baby Tenzin was just chilling.

Chapter Five: Peacekeepers[]

The fifth chapter opens with character designs by Angela Song Mueller of Bolin and Ginger in their Nuktuk franchise costumes, together with Varrick's "mover crew", colored by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf. The page also features designs for the Republic City fire truck and firefighters, finished by prop designer Christine Bian, a video game designer who joined the crew in the midst of the second and third seasons' productions. The firetruck Bian completed was based off a vehicle concept drawn by Jung-Su Lee for Book One.

Dos Santos then introduces designs for Mako and Bolin's bachelor pad, mentioning that it was a "really small room" to stage scenes in, and so a 3D version was built to assist the storyboard crew in getting the angles of the shots correct. The designs featured were created by William Nanqing Niu and painted by Lauren Zurcher. Designs by Studio Pierrot and Emily Tetri of the sound stage for the Nuktuk movie are also shown, with Dos Santos noting how the low budget they had for the movie is reflected in the designs.

Artbook mug shots

Criminal mugshots held by the Republic City Police. Designs by Christie Tseng.

On the following page, a book of mugshot designs is shown created by in-house designer Christie Tseng, whom Konietzko remarks is "young, but skilled and talented beyond her years". He commends Tseng for imbuing a great deal of personality into each of the thirty designs, making them "feel like real moments in time caught on film".

At the end of the chapter, several scenes from the episode are described together with their storyboards. The first depicts Lu and Gang giving the new cop, Mako, advice and sending him into the office of Lin Beifong, who yells Mako out of the room. Dos Santos comments that when the team saw the animatic, created by Ki Hyun Ryu, for the scene, they all had a good laugh for about twenty minutes. On the same page, designs for the two characters are shown, with DiMartino adding that it took him all season to remember which character was which. The next page features the dark spirit leviathan, with Konietzko noting his concerns about it being confused with Vaatu, the planned "big boss" dark spirit for the season. To differentiate the two, Konietzko worked with Angela Song Mueller to make the head and mouth shape very distinct and the leviathan's tentacles more sea creature-like than Vaatu's ribbons. Such action sequences with huge fantastical monsters were emblematic of the second season for Dos Santos, and a departure from staging action scenes for Book One.

Chapter Six: The Sting[]

At the beginning of the sixth chapter, designs of guards and an evil Unalaq of the Nuktuk mover are shown. DiMartino adds that everything involving The Adventures of Nuktuk: Hero of the South was one of his favorite things in Book Two, and that it was inspired by old movie serials, like 1930s Flash Gordon, in writing, storyboards, and designs. He then mentions that because the film was black and white, the concept of the guards not wearing pants was not totally clear. Subsequently, a title card from the first Nuktuk mover is displayed; Konietzko explains that it does a good job of capturing the melodrama of the old serials. Ki Hyun Ryu, Christie Tseng, and Konietzko worked together on the title card doing the rough poses, putting the characters on model, and the calligraphy, respectively.

Later, DiMartino expresses how he loves that evil Unalaq's lair looks like a cardboard model, and then mentions that Varrick cut a lot of corners during filming since the final product has so much detail. Two pictures are shown, one of evil Unalaq's lair and another one of the mover set and background for a certain Nuktuk scene.

Korra and Mako at the Glacier Spirits Festival

Korra and Mako having fun at the Glacier Spirits Festival. Created collaboratively by Christine Bian, Christie Tseng, Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf, and Emily Tetri.

Konietzko explains that DiMartino, Tim Hedrick, and Joshua Hamilton had the idea that Nuktuk needed some animal sidekicks, Pabu and Naga, who were turned into a snow-raccoon (Juji) and an artic panda (Roh-tan), respectively.

On the following pages, there is a storyboard showing that, unfortunately for Ginger, Bolin had a hard time separating his real life from Nuktuk's after he gives her an unscripted kiss during filming. Following on, there is a picture of Korra and Mako having a good time at the Glacier Spirits Festival.

Finally, the chapter shows background designs from Republic City. The first two are interiors, at the top Asami's fancy office at Future Industries headquarters. The other two are exterior backgrounds of some buildings. The head picture is a boathouse in Republic City's harbor, where Asami and Mako crashed while being chased by some Triple Threat Triad members. The last portrait is of Bolin and Mako's first real apartment.

Chapter Seven: Beginnings, Part 1[]

The chapter starts with the design of Wan. Konietzko comments that when it was time to design Wan, the joke was that he was going to be the base of the character, since he gets the common question about if he based Aang's design on DiMartino and his perfect round and bald head. On the same page, the book shows the design of the aye-aye spirit, intended to act as a foil for Wan but eventually become an ally. DiMartino based this character off the aye-aye, an odd-looking, creepy-eyed animal, which, like most spirits, is mistrustful of humans, although Wan's selflessness changes his opinion. After this, a painting by Emily Tetri of the vast Spirit Wilds is displayed, along with a storyboard of the episode's opening scene with Wan running from the Chou brothers, which gives a sense of Wan's mischievous personality and the class struggle that will lead to Wan to become the first Avatar. The storyboard also portrays the collaborative effort that goes into staging these scenes, as Dos Santos says.

Later, we see the designs of the Chou family, the elite, ruling class. DiMartino mentions that he chose names that could be found in an old myth or fairy tale: Little Chou, Middle Chou, and Big Chou. The page also shows the designs of background characters from Wan's city from Studio Mir artists Il-Kwang Kim and Jin-Sun Kim.

The next three pages display background designs. The first of the three shows the Spirit Wilds' oasis, jungle, and field, and an early background. On the same page, Konietzko comments that the story of the first Avatar was something they had in mind since the original Avatar series, although the team later figured where to place Wan's story in Book Two. They wanted to establish a distinct art-direction style for the mythic tale of the first Avatar, which would help place it ten thousand years before Korra's time. He also mentions that one of his favorite parts was developing, along with Studio Mir and Nickelodeon artists, the look of these backgrounds, which were inspired by ancient Chinese ink wash paintings and Japanese woodblock painting. The second one shows the edge of the Spirit Wilds with the lion-turtle city visible in the distance. On the same page, Konietzko also mentions that he wished they had chosen this unique design for Avatar back then. The last of the three shows the balcony of the Chou palace, the Spirit Wilds meadow, the Spirit Wilds streams, and the Chou palace gate.

The next four pages show designs of strange, cute, and amazing spirits, as DiMartino describes them. He adds on the first page that one of the most delightful feelings was getting to see how the designers populated the world of spirits, mentioning that the carrot and the radish spirits were two of his favorites. The next description is about the designs of the spirit bug, the oasis spirit, the kind spirit, and the puffball spirit. On the same page, Dos Santos comments that, when they are in the thick of a deadline, there is only enough time to hand out a few rough designs to the storyboard teams, which gives the story artist an idea of how to inhabit the scenes with characters that have not been designed. Later, he adds that when they saw what the designers did based on little scribbles, he laughed out loud. On the bottom of the page, where the design of the dragon spirit is displayed, Dos Santos brings up that he was getting goose bumps after the reaction of the crowd when the spirit dragon showed up training the first Avatar in homage to Zuko and Aang's training with Ran and Shaw. On the following page, more designs of spirits are shown.

Subsequently, as more graphic designs of spirits are shown, DiMartino and Konietzko comment on a few things. DiMartino says that Konietzko and him love Hayao Miyazaki's films, adding that Spirited Away is one of his favorites, and they wanted to give a tribute to it with the marching spirit parade into the spirit oasis. Then, Konietzko says that the animation at Studio Mir breathed so much life into all the spirits through Wan's flashback episodes. He states that usually there is not much detail in the animation of side characters, adding that they appreciate how much extra effort and care was put into it.

Afterward, paintings by Evon Freeman showing Wan in the Spirit Wilds are featured, the antlered spirits present with him being inspired by the Nightwalker from Princess Mononoke. The same page also portrays some concept pieces of Wan and Mula on their journey. Next, there is a design of Yao in a background by Josh Middleton, which Emily Tetri finished after the style of animation was decided. DiMartino states that Yao, who visited the Spirit Wilds and was attacked by an ancient spirit and whose body subsequently became partly transformed into a tree, was created to show how spirits could affect humans, setting up Wan's and Raava's fusion.

Raava and Vaatu concept art

Concept art of Raava and Vaatu by Bryan Konietzko.

DiMartino says that visualizing two of the most ancient spirits in the world, Raava and Vaatu, is not an easy task. However, as soon as they started talking about spirits of light and dark, Konietzko sketched two kite-like spirits. What took longer was to figure out their names, since they wanted something that alluded to ying and yang, complementary yet opposing forces. After looking at Sanskrit names and tossing ideas, they sorted out on Raava and Vaatu, with the double a providing the symmetry they were looking for. On the same page and the final page of the chapter, designs by Konietzko are showcased.

Later on, Konietzko comments that they did not want the light and dark spirits to be humanoid. He says that he had a vision of them as squid-like kites with no face and intricate patterns. Konietzko wanted the shapes of their silhouettes to hark back to Chinese rooflines as if ancient architects in the Avatar world had drawn inspiration from them. For the patterns, Konietzko looked at all sorts of patterns in nature, like the shells of the goliath beetle, but he was worried for the animators having to replicate something so hard. Konietzko also considered basing their patterns on archaic Chinese characters for light and dark, implying that the spirits are the base of the Avatar world's written language. After all, Bryan found a rubbing in a book of ancient Chinese architectural details that tied all of his ideas together. At the end, he apologizes to the animators since the designs were still difficult to draw.

Chapter Eight: Beginnings, Part 2[]

DiMartino notes that during the story, they were careful not to use the words "airbender", "firebender," etc., as they imagine that such terminology only came into use after the different tribes of people learned about one another.

Konietzko comments that not all humans lived at odds with the spirits in Wan's time, and that the proto-airbenders' organically designed city helped them to live in harmonious balance with both the natural and the spirit worlds. He also appreciates Il-Kwang Kim's concept for an early version of the Air Nomad tattoos.

Konietzko notes that the creators were glad to have another attempt to do justice to Jae-Woo Kim's beautiful and intricate designs for the lion turtles in "Beginnings", as part of the detail was omitted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He notes that the different cultures of humans can be expressed in the architectural designs of the lion turtle cities, with the earth lion turtle looking as if his city was the heaviest. There was an idea for different lion turtles of each element to be spread out across the world. He makes reference to Chinese guardian-lion sculptures and several Korean turtle statues that he saw with DiMartino as points of inspiration for the lion turtle design.

Dos Santos explains that the Tree of Time acts as a visual anchor that keeps a consistent line of action so that the viewer did not get disoriented, with cuts showing characters' proximity to the tree.

Ink wash backgrounds

Backgrounds drawn in an ink wash style by Yong-Ik Noh.

DiMartino explains his emotional reaction to Wan's death, and expresses his appreciation for how the Wan episodes turned out. He wishes that they could have spent more time with the first Avatar. He explains that there were scenes that were cut from the double episode due to time constraints, such as Wan falling down a waterfall before he reached the air lion turtle. The final still-frames of Wan attempting to stop humanity from warring against itself were completed through the work of multiple artists from different departments in the show's crew; Ki Hyun Ryu drew the illustrations, the cleanup work was done by Christie Tseng, Angela Song Mueller, and Christine Bian, while Konietzko applied the color tones. The site of Wan's death, a battlefield marked with giant earth coins, is revealed to be the one Zuko passes by in the episode "Zuko Alone".

Dos Santos notes his and Kwang-Il Han's difficulty in storyboarding a fight between a human and a more abstract character like Vaatu, and so the revision process for Wan's final fight took longer than would be typical as the fight had to be completely restaged.

Chapter Nine: The Guide[]

Konietzko and Angela Song Mueller worked on the dragonfly bunny spirits, trying to make them cute and cotton candy-like. Konietzko developed the basic look with Furry-Foot, and then Mueller developed the rest of the spirits based off him. At first, Bum-Ju looked more like a regular rabbit, so he was given more insect-like features, with the potential strangeness of such features being counterbalanced by the pastel colors to make them more cute.

Dark spirit bats

Character models for the dark spirit bats. Designed by Bryan Konietzko.

Konietzko knew that they would be challenged by the spirit bats that DiMartino and the writers drafted. They were created in 3-D, as a swarm of bats would have been very hard to pull of in 2-D animation. The Nickelodeon CORE Department animated a wing cycle and created a rig that allowed Studio Pierrot to create hundreds of bats. He enjoys the scene and only regrets that the bats were not able to be seen up close, and brings attention to the detail of their vertical teeth.

The creators discuss the sets used in the episode, such as the Eastern Air Temple, now populated by the Air Acolytes; the sadness of the abandoned spiritual grove found below the Eastern Air Temple, as well as the yin-yang motif of the rocks around the Tree of Time in the Spirit World, with the tree being based on a dramatic photo of an ancient bristlecone pine taken by Mac Danzig. Due to the workload involved with the series' production, the artists who designed and painted the backgrounds did not have the chance to give personal touches to their work. It is for this reason that Konietzko wishes that the crew gets the chance to work on a feature film at some point in the future, using the resources of such a production to develop "deep concept exploration".

Chapter Ten: A New Spiritual Age[]

Dark spirit hand design

A design for the dark spirit hand. Concept art by Fred Stewart.

DiMartino expresses his love for the meerkat prairie dog spirits, and explains their ability to turn into sticky blobs when their home is attacked by humans. Konietzko explains how they got to revisit spirits from Avatar: The Last Airbender in this episode, such as Wan Shi Tong, whose appearance was made cloaked and Dracula-like, and the Knowledge Seekers, based on Angela Song Mueller's Shiba Inu, albeit with cyan eyes in the new series' iteration. The creators explain the references to Asian art in the new guardian spirits, such as their similarities to Thai guardian statues. They also express their appreciation of the dark spirits, such as a more primordial, dinosaur-like catgator spirit, and several creepy designs that can be seen in the spirit forest. Fred Stewart was praised for creating such entities like the dark spirit hand, while the catgator spirit was listed as a creation of storyboard artist Dae-Woo Lee.

The creators explain that they wanted the locations at the beginning of this episode to feel amorphous and unstable, such as the meadow where Korra and Jinora first enter the Spirit World. They also express their concerns for communicating the strange distances in the Spirit World, such as Korra moving more than a mile after taking a few steps up Hai-Riyo Peak. Dos Santos explains that the previous Spirit World weirdness makes the scene easy to understand. The now upside-down library is used to illustrate the topsy-turvy nature of the Spirit World.

Iroh was a character that the creators loved to have back, and listen to his insightful wisdom. Dos Santos explains that he loves that in the episode they do not just explore the creepy spirits, but the fun and playful elements of the Spirit World, such as the spirits at Iroh's teahouse. His favorite spirit in the episode is the radish lotus spirit. DiMartino notes his love for the design and attitude of Young Korra, and how he and the other writers realized that they could bring her back in a unique way in this episode to represent Korra's spiritual immaturity.

When describing Ki Hyun Ryu and So-Young Park's storyboards of Korra opening the portal, Dos Santos that only on a series like Korra could you find giant spirit dog-lions, an evil giant bunny holding a girl hostage, the embodiment of evil being trapped inside a tree, and an antagonist that can manipulate water to turn everything it touches into "spirit pixels".

Chapter Eleven: Night of a Thousand Stars[]

Nuktuk promotional poster

A promotional poster for The Adventures of Nuktuk: Hero of the South. Designed by Christie Tseng.

Dos Santos explains the difficulties of making animation look like a bad, low-budget film from the 1930s and '40s. Lauren Montgomery staged the majority of the Nuktuk scenes, and Dos Santos jokes that he would make Ed Wood proud (Wood being the director of low-budget pulp horror, sci-fi, and horror films in the 1950s). DiMartino notes that Varrick cut a lot of corners in the production of the Nuktuk epic, such as the low-budget backdrops for the mover.

Dos Santos explains that originally, the fight between Tonraq and Unalaq was written as a quick takedown by the latter, with Unalaq taking advantage of the fact that Tonraq is already exhausted by the fight with dark spirits, but it evolved into something bigger. Four versions of the fight were staged, with the final version being a collaboration between Dos Santos and Colin Heck.

Konietzko applauds the dark spirits created by Christie Tseng, noting that she is a sweet, young artist, and that on the surface, it would not seem like she had such nightmarish creatures lurking in her brain.

Chapter Twelve: Harmonic Convergence[]

Floating spirit states

The different states of a floating dark spirit. Designed by Bryan Konietzko.

Konietzko jokes about having the floating spirit as a sparring partner, so that they could knock each other around the ring, and then rock out and listen to music. DiMartino talks about the difficulties of tying all the different storylines together in the last few episodes, while also building up the final battle. He notes that there are more opportunities for a character's clothes and hair to be messed up next to a drawing of an injured Korra with her hair down.

Konietzko explains how he is usually affected by scenes of a melodramatic sacrifice, and that Bumi's scene with the floating spirit is in part a sacrifice, but then plays out as full action-comedy. Even though it is quite silly, it outshone the melodrama to become Konietzko's favorite part of Book Two. He compliments Ki Hyun Ryu's storyboards of the scene, as well as Fred Stewart's background work on the ice fortifications around the portal, noting that Stewart is talented at icy, moody paintings.

Dos Santos explains that the little things in the final animation can give a scene a sense of scale and depth on the storyboard for Asami flying the plane to the spirit portal. The handheld-camera shot of the plane, and the lumbering pace of the spirits creates an attention to detail that makes an over-the-top scene feel like a testament to the high level of animation produced by Studio Mir. DiMartino explains the necessity to get a few final shots from space, as Harmonic Convergence is a celestial event. The views were painted by Emily Tetri, who is described as being fond of cosmic scenes.

Chapter Thirteen: Darkness Falls[]

Unavaatu concept art

Concept art of UnaVaatu by Bryan Konietzko and Fred Stewart.

DiMartino talks about the creators wanting to outdo themselves in the finale, and ending the season with an exciting battle between spirits representing light and darkness. Konietzko combined elements of Unalaq and Vaatu's design to make UnaVaatu, a horrifying combination. Konietzko's concept art of the Dark Avatar, using a background painting from Fred Stewart, depicts the entity in the South Pole as minuscule Northern Water Tribe troops flee before him; Konietzko ruminates on how the soldiers might question their loyalty to their chief. The creators also talk about how Zhao was the first name on their list when they discussed who would be in the Fog of Lost Souls after they came up with the concept.

Dos Santos believes that Bolin's reaction to Eska's deadpan greeting and subsequent ambush shows Ki Hyun Ryu and the Avatar crew's skill at balancing humor and high-stakes action.

Chapter Fourteen: Light in the Dark[]

Korra versus Unavaatu

Concept art of Korra's fight with UnaVaatu by Bryan Konietzko and Fred Stewart.

DiMartino explains that Korra's story in Book Two is about humans moving beyond their ordinary abilities, and becoming extraordinary. When she loses her connection to the past Avatars and to the Avatar Spirit, Korra looks deep within herself and forms a new connection with the cosmic version of herself. In Hindu philosophy, there is the concept of atman, which is defined as the "innermost essence of each individual," or "the supreme universal self". This is DiMartino's interpretation of what Korra sees and becomes when she meditates; the giant blue cosmic Korra is a visual representation of her inner essence.

Dos Santos explains the obstacles in the final fight between Korra and UnaVaatu, such as the Yue Bay setting meaning that there would be water, increasing the animation work. Shots were staged so that the water could not always be seen by the audience. The motions the characters made also had to be more slow in order to show the truly massive size and weight of the two combatants compared to their normal selves.

Konietzko notes the irony of Tim Hedrick's initial belief that the Avatar State caused Aang to grow into a huge version of himself, and that they did something rather similar with Korra. Hedrick felt vindicated, and Korra's giant spirit design became a favorite of Konietzko's. Her design was simplified and her proportions were elongated to give her an ethereal, spiritual appearance. DiMartino notes the similarities of the cosmic Korra to Aang in "The Guru", and Konietzko confirms that the giant spirit Korra moving through the stratosphere was a nod to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A unique feature of Korra's production compared to the original series is that the storyboards are not just line art, but panels that are improved with lighting, grayscale color tones, and shadows. This choice was done both to help provide consistent lighting direction for the layout and background artists who, in turn, use the storyboards as reference for making their own work more cinematic in quality. As was also the case with Ki Hyun Ryu and Juno Lee's storyboards of Korra purifying UnaVaatu, color was added to the boards due to the complexity of the action occurring. It was for this quality that makes the action sequence parallel to the storyboarding done for Aang's fight with Ozai.

Chapter Fifteen: Ancillary Art[]

The posters for New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con are featured, with Konietzko noting that it often takes "a village to complete."

Konietzko was disappointed by his original draft for the press art, and was pleased when Ryu turned it into a dramatic, stunning drawing. He loved the pose of Studio Pierrot showing a miffed Korra slamming her fist into her palm in the season opener. It was refinished by Christie Tseng, who added Tonraq and Unalaq to the art.

In an aside regarding his artwork depicting Korra and Jinora's journey in the Spirit World, Konietzko takes a moment to thank writer Tim Hedrick, director Ian Graham, and Studio Mir for there work on "A New Spiritual Age", dedicating his piece to their efforts creating one of his and DiMartino's favorite episodes. Konietzko also drew the cover art for the sountrack for Korra's first season, which DiMartino states was only achieved thanks to the support of the fanbase and crew for composer Jeremy Zuckerman's integral work on the series.

Korra's Spirit Parade

Korra's Spirit Parade by Lauren Montgomery.

Commissioned by Nickelodeon to do a print for Comic Con, Konietzko created a piece in the style of artist Frank Frazetta, depicting Korra facing down the owl-faced spirit from "Rebel Spirit" as it looms over her. In spite of Konietzko keeping the art child-friendly for the convention's audience, the network rejected his work for keeping Korra facing away from the viewer, as well as the "demonic" depiction of the dark spirit, a comment Konietzko found amusing given the presence of such spirits throughout Korra's second season. Frustrated due to the network's standards, Konietzko gave the promotional duty to Lauren Montgomery, who created a more family-friendly piece titled Korra's Spirit Parade, showcasing the Avatar walking with many of the friendly spirits she encountered. The artwork, which Konietzko found superior to his own, was emblematic of the crew's collaboration, as after Montgomery created the line work for the piece, Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf then colored it, while Konietzko composited the elements together with a Spirit World painting by Fred Stewart.

The artwork also includes pencil-and-paper sketches by producers Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu, and Lauren Montgomery of Mako, Bolin, Korra, Bumi, Unalaq, Asami, and Kya; the sketches were originally rewards as part of the show's social media presence on Korra Nation. Despite not getting the chance to use such classic methods, Dos Santos enjoyed the opportunity to put aside his digital tools, with the show's co-creators complimenting their producers for their quality work.

Evon Freeman's designs of Mako and Bolin in Republic City Hustle are featured, which was developed after writing of Book Two had already finished, and Nick wanting a series of shorts for their new app.

See also[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Dark Horse. The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series–Book Two: Spirits HC (Second Edition). Retrieved on February 1, 2021.
  2. Bryan Konietzko's Instagram (July 26, 2021). Retrieved on March 6, 2022.
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