Many, many people seated in Ballroom 20 at 11:15 on Friday were simply waiting for the Firefly 10-year reunion panel that was to follow. But they are missing out. Avatar: The Last Airbender is America’s entry into the world’s greatest animes, and the sequel series The Legend of Korra proved to be a fine follow-up that may sit right next to Airbender on the submission list. Make no mistake, though: the Korra fans also came out in droves, and I saw dozens of great-looking Korras in the audience.
The panel featured creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino; voice actors Janet Varney (Korra), David Faustino (Mako), P. J. Byrne (Bolin) and Seychelle Gabriel (Asami); producer Joaquim Dos Santos and voice director Andrea Romano. Hit the jump for a panel recap, including a tease of Book 2: Spirits. .
The panel started off with a highlight reel from season 1, and it must be said, The Legend of Korra looks amazing in clip reel form. (Beifong tears the roof off the airship! Korra masters airbending!)
The panel made great use of director Romano. Her first task was to run through a table read of selected scenes from season 1:
- Scene 1: Korra meets Bolin and Mako.
- Scene 2: Mako meets (i.e. is run over by) Asami
- Scene 3: Asami brings uniforms to Korra, Mako, and Bolin at a Fire Ferrets practice
- Scene 4: Mako and Bolin talk about the prospect of Korra as a girlfriend
- Scene 5: Mako carries the girlfriend conversation over to Korra
- Scene 6, Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami form Team Avatar
- Scene 7, Mako and Asami get in a fight over Korra
- Scene 8, Mako and Korra have a moment, but walk away from it before things get too heavy
I love watching table reads, and seeing the actors perform the characters outside the typical environment. It was fun to see all the character combinations above interact live. I’m bummed I was too far away to see them emote clearly. Whether you could see him or not, P.J. Byrne gets all the laughs. That said, this section probably went on a tad too long.
The panel quickly recovered by diving into the next season with plot hints and concept art. Nickelodeon recently picked up The Legend of Korra for 52 total episodes split up into four books. (For the uninitiated, a “book” is the Avatar word for “season.”) The creators revealed that the title for Book 2 is Spirits: “We’re going to take a little journey into the spirit world.” In fact, there will be “two very special episodes” in the middle of next season that will be “unique” in the series. The show will explore the mythology of the spirit world and how the Avatar line began. That is very exciting, but the creators warn there will be “no shortage of spirits. You will be spirit-ed out.” Try me, guys.
Republic City will still be a main location, but the universe of the show will be explored more next season. The concept art showed a colorful, snowy festival in the southern water tribe, a grand banquet hall made of ice, a scary tundra desert, and (of course) glimpses of the spirit world. As we visit the southern water tribe, we will become much better acquainted with Korra’s family, and specifically “how Korra’s fate ties into her whole family.” Korra’s uncle is a chief of the northern tribe, which provides the opportunity to explore both the relationship between Korra’s father and uncle as well as the relationship between the northern and southern water tribes.
The writing for Book 2 is done and the voices are recorded. The production team is animating as we speak, so they have just enough material to show us a clip of animatics:
- Bolin gives a rousing speech to the Fire Ferrets, who are on a losing streak. Then we see that he’s talking to two new Fire Ferrets that we don’t know. Where are Mako and Korra?
- Well, Mako is a cop now. Cut to him chasing a criminal on his bike. He takes a ramp to jump over the truck, turn around in mid-air, and throw fire at the windshield to stop them before tossing off a one-line and sending them to jail.
- Asami lands a plane wearing and hops out wearing these great Amelia Earhart duds. Her new mission: “putting Future Industries back on top.”
- Korra races the airbender kids on Aang’s patented whirling orb of air. They are neck and neck until Korra goes into the Avatar state and speeds ahead. Tenzin properly scolds her: “The Avatar state is not to be used as a booster rocket.”
- The best sequence showed the “first of many” spirits rising out of the ground. The ethereal spirit pins Korra against the wall, so she goes into the Avatar state, kicking off a great fight. I can’t wait for more of the spirit world.
The time at the end that might have been reserved for fan questions instead went to a much cooler idea that again made great use of Romano. Romano can only fit five people into her recording booth, and so wanted to make use of the crowd of 4,000+ people in front of her. I don’t know if they’ll ever use it, but Romano directed us to record different crowd reactions. She requested crowd chatter, a gasp, an “aww”, a big laugh—first with just the men, then with just the women. Romano tried to get a laugh with just the under-16 age group, but there was a pitiful response. DiMartino pointed out, “They were only four years old when Firefly came out.”
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