|I am a 400-foot tall purple platypus-bear with pink horns and silver wings.
The following information is not considered to be part of the main continuity.
|"My brother and I are quickly learning that life with Aang is one adventure after another. But who knows, one of those adventures might even save the world."|
|— Kya narrating.|
The unaired pilot episode is a low-budget, pre-production test episode created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko with the assistance of Korean animation studio Tin House, to pitch the Avatar: The Last Airbender series to Nickelodeon.
The pilot episode never aired on public television and instead appears as an extra feature on Avatar DVDs with commentary from Mike and Bryan. It is also available for purchase with and without the commentary on iTunes and was released as a video on the official Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube channel, although it is now privated. Many elements of the pilot are dissimilar to what eventually developed into the televised series.
Since January 2002, Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had been given the blessing of Nickelodeon's then-head of development Eric Coleman to begin crafting a series that contained "action and adventure" and "legends and lore". Konietzko eventually fell in love with the drawing of a "balding human man in his forties wearing a futuristic outfit" and later adding an arrow design to his head as well (an early prototype for Aang) along with sketches of a "robot cyclops monkey holding a staff" (an early concept of Momo) and "a bipedal polar bear-dog hybrid" (an early concept of Appa that was later recycled as Naga).
As other characters were created, and concepts such as the bending arts' reliance on martial artistry came to be, the show's focus shifted slowly from sci-fi heavy to more Asian-influenced. These modifications were the ones presented to Nickelodeon, the same ones which persuaded the corporation to "greenlight" Konietzko and DiMartino's plans and produce their pilot. The characters were the earliest forms of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
The pilot begins with Kya explaining the war between the nations and the absence and later discovery of Avatar Aang. Aang, Sokka, and Kya are flying on the Avatar's flying bison, Appa, fleeing from Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, who is pursuing them on his ship. Zuko launches fireballs in an attempt to bring them down, but Appa manages to avoid the attack. Moments later, a serpent rises out of the water in front of Appa, who manages to evade it. Deprived of its prey, the serpent searches for another victim to attack, and begins to attack Zuko's ship upon spotting it. This buys Aang and his friends enough time to get away safely. Zuko, defending his ship, starts attacking the massive serpent with firebending.
The group lands on an island to relax. Kya tries to practice her waterbending, but she cannot control it well. Seeing her frustration, Aang proceeds to give her some pointers by demonstrating the correct leg stance. Sokka, agitated that the two of them are playing around, demands they help him look for food. Kya is reluctant to let Aang go off by himself since he is the world's last hope, so Sokka goes out to look for food alone. He finds some wild berries and eats them, but they taste bad. Suddenly, Fire Nation soldiers arrive, and they ambush and capture him.
Aang and Kya have been tying the reins to Appa's horns. Alarmed that Sokka has not returned yet, Aang asks Kya to fly with him on his glider around the island to search for him. They manage to spot the soldiers taking Sokka into a Fire Nation base. Reasoning that since Aang is the Avatar and too important to risk being captured, Kya tells him to wait outside the base while she sneaks in to save Sokka. Irritated, Aang plays with Momo, but he later decides he should be helping people and flies into the base anyway.
Sokka is brought forth to Prince Zuko, who has just returned to the base with the serpent's decapitated head. Sokka insults him, calling Zuko "scar boy". At that moment, two guards arrive with Kya captured, and the two are subsequently questioned by Zuko about the whereabouts of the Avatar, but they deny everything. Zuko prepares to have the soldiers scour the island for the Avatar, but at that moment, Aang suddenly flies in on his glider, shocking everyone.
Aang flies around the base, gathering everyone's attention by performing stunts and lands, but is quickly surrounded by soldiers armed with spears. Zuko orders the soldiers to throw Kya and Sokka down into a pit. Determined to save them, Aang uses airbending to escape and taunts Zuko to take him on alone. Momo and Zuko's pet hawk fight, while Zuko pursues Aang and attacks with firebending.
They battle atop a scaffolding, eventually fighting on the head of a huge Zuko statue within the base. Zuko eventually disarms Aang and thinks he has cornered the Avatar, but Aang jumps off the statue. His purposeful endangerment of himself causes him to enter the Avatar State, and he subsequently throws Zuko off with a powerful gust of air. However, before Zuko hits the ground, Aang leaves the Avatar State and saves him from a fatal fall. Sokka, trapped in the pit with his sister, finds the situation hopeless. However, Kya waterbends a large container of water to fill the pit, freeing them, though they find themselves surrounded by soldiers. Aang flies by as Sokka throws his boomerang with a rope attached to it, and it wraps itself around Aang's glider. They all escape, along with Momo and a basket of food.
That night, they leave the island flying on Appa. Aang falls asleep and comically falls off Appa's head, later remarking he had meant to do so.
- Written by:
- Main article: Transcript:Unaired pilot
- The four images shown in the opening sequence of Aang bending do not follow the order of the Avatar Cycle. Instead, they go from air to water, followed by fire, and ending with earth.
- There are several bending techniques used that were not seen in the polished show, such as the group-fireball created by Zuko and several of his soldiers.
- The concept of the Avatar State functioning as a defense mechanism was similar to its concept in the main series, though in the pilot, Aang would purposely put himself in danger to enter it. The creators later felt that the concept of the Avatar State needed to be more complex, and so, in the series, they initially gave Aang no control over it, requiring him to be in genuine danger before he would enter the state.
- Much of the music featured in the episode was either reused or reworked for use in the actual series.
- Many aspects of the original pilot were later incorporated into the actual series but in different fashions:
- The serpent that attacked Team Avatar, and later Zuko's ship, was recycled in "The Serpent's Pass" and "The Awakening".
- The Fire Nation soldier armor design is significantly different from the original series' primary design but an earlier Fire Nation armor seen in "The Southern Air Temple" and "The Siege of the North, Part 1" share similarities to the original design.
- Zuko and Aang's scaffolding battle was re-used in "Return to Omashu" during Aang's fight with Azula.
- Zuko's messenger hawk chasing Momo was recycled in "The Waterbending Scroll" where the pirate captain's iguana parrot chased Momo and in "The Runaway" where Momo and Hawky do not get along.
- Aang saving Zuko at the last minute was recycled in "The Blue Spirit" and "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
- Sokka saving himself and Kya by tossing his boomerang attached to a rope to Aang as he flew over on his glider was re-used in "The Northern Air Temple" though there Sokka saved himself and the mechanist.
- Although Kya is renamed Katara, her "original" name is recycled as the names for both her mother and daughter.
- As Aang airbends in the opening sequence, a statue of a lion turtle can be seen.
- While the early concept of Pakku waterbends in the opening sequence, the Northern Water Tribe in the background looks more like a castle than how it is depicted in the final version.
- The prototype of Toph seen in the opening sequence was later recycled as The Boulder, Sud, and Bolin.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, page 30.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, page 22.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (April 14, 2012). "Welcome to Republic City". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 1. Nickelodeon.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, pages 10 and 11.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, pages 14-25.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, pages 26 and 27.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1: Essentials Collection on iTunes, as "selected by the show creators," includes the pilot with and without commentary. These two versions of the episode are of a set, available only when the rest of the ten-episode album (nine when the pilot is discounted from being two separate episodes) is purchased.