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"The movie is definitely different [from the TV series], but if we would’ve done the same thing as the cartoon, what would be exciting about that? It’s fun to change that and do something new."
Noah Ringer to Starlog magazine, June 24th 2009[1]
M10:17

M. Night Shyamalan Interview by Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino

After M. Night Shyamalan was attached to the film trilogy, he was "interviewed" by Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino

In the video "interview" of M. Night Shyamalan conducted by Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, the film trilogy was planned to be 6+ hours long, which gave 2+ hours for the first movie (though the final running time is 103 minutes). Due to the short allotted running time, the film does not cover the entire first season of the original animated series, even though the film was titled "Book One: Water". With such a rich and complex story elements, rather than a "comprehensive adaptation" like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, elements from Avatar: The Last Airbender were selected and rewoven into its own story and direction, similar to a "selective adaptation" approach with a long series like Spider-man and X-Men. However, some fans mistaken the film as poorly executed "comprehensive adaptation" and insisted on a direct comparison with its original animated series.

"The first outline I made of the movie I bought Mike and Bryan to my house and said, "I have an outline of the movie, what do you think?" And they said, "This is like 10 hours long. You have to cut stuff." And I thought, "I can't. I love everything." The first outline was so long..."
Roundtable discussion with M. Night Shyamalan

Shyamalan collaborated with Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino to identify these essential elements and work out a plot for Shyamalan to write a screenplay with.

"You know they are the greatest guys, Mike and Bryan. I met them and we just started talking about what were the important story lines. I said we should pull this out, and they said we should yank this out, and we just made decisions."
— M. Night Shyamalan in The Last Airbender Revealed

The bending arts were reworked with Shyamalan new story parameter of Firebenders requiring sources of fires, which "evens the (playing) field"[2]. Appa's arrow was removed, although as far as not needing wings to fly like Momo, Shyamalan said, "Appa can just fly. It was too much to change the entire structure of that creature to make it appropriate to physics."[3]

Play poster

The negative fan reactions for the upcoming movie were parodied in The Ember Island Players

It should be noted that Shyamalan was attached to the movie in January 8, 2007[4] before Season 3 was completed (i.e. "when I met Mike and Bryan, they hadn't finished season three"[5]). Since The Ember Island Players episode was aired in July 18 2008, the play in that episode was likely in reference of the upcoming movie, before its actual filming began in mid-March 2009. Very likely, the show creators anticipated the negative fan reactions of the film adaptation for Avatar: The Last Airbender, based on their own experience with film adaptations of favorite shows from their own past. However, they remained executive producers for the film and even took part in the BR/DVD documentaries for the movie. Since they have neither publicly praised nor condemned the movie, they may have taken the stance of not endorsing any particular view of the movie, and thus want fans of the original series to make up their own minds with M. Night Shyamalan's film adaptation.

References

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