With maximum folks nonetheless below lockdown, with out a new blockbusters and lots of TV presentations getting behind schedule, streaming has been a shockingly common outlet for leisure. Millions of folks have been captivated through the tale of Tiger King, in spite of everything, however regardless of what number of dozens of recent motion pictures and TV presentations Netflix releases weekly, there may be one display that has persistently stayed on the most sensible 10 hottest presentations at the streaming large — and it aired on Nickelodeon in 2005.
It’s been 15 years since its premiere, and 10 years since M. Night Shyamalan just about killed the franchise, however Avatar: The Last Airbender is surely the most important hit of the summer season. But regardless of how just right the display is as of late (and it stays just about very best), why is the display so common as of late that it continues to make the Netflix most sensible 10? The explanation why has to do with what it did for the animation panorama within the mid-2000s, and the way it stays so other from anything else present in animation as of late.
Avatar: The Last Airbender felt innovative when it aired again in 2005. When it involves kids’s animated TV presentations on the time, the function used to be to easily proceed the tale for so long as humanly imaginable, so the tales had no finish integrated. The Fairly OddParents, Rugrats, Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, and specifically Nickelodeon’s largest hit ever, SpongeBob SquarePants are as episodic as animated presentations get, they usually practice the #1 unstated rule of sitcoms: issues can’t exchange and folks can’t be content material. The second this turns into unfaithful, the display ends and there’s not more cash to get out of it. But The Last Airbender featured an epic tale informed regularly throughout three contained seasons.
From the hole moments of the primary episode, the tale of Avatar Aang had a transparent finishing in sight: Aang must struggle the Fire Lord and produce stability to the arena. This gave audiences a transparent sign that the display would now not merely proceed for years and years till it ran out of news to inform, and as a substitute made them extra within the tale being informed as a result of they sought after to understand how the characters would growth and the way their movements would have an effect on the arena at massive.
It’s exhausting to specific how groundbreaking The Last Airbender‘s approach to storytelling was. There were plenty of other genre animated shows before Aang, like the sci-fi boom of the ’70s and ’80s, and different groundbreaking presentations like Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles, however that they had little in relation to an overarching narrative. And when it got here to Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon by the point The Last Airbender premiered, there have been a number of style presentations like Danny Phantom, My Life as a Teenage Robot, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and others, however they have been comedy presentations first and style presentations 2nd.
The Last Airbender combined its comedy (which used to be very a lot aimed toward youngsters) with a mature and grand-scale tale, leading to a display that each youngsters and adults may just admire. More than that, alternatively, it knew methods to stability episodic content material with serialized storytelling. Each episode of the display, specifically within the first season, feels very episodic. Aang and the gang would fly over to a brand new location, get found out and in bother, they usually struggle whilst doing one thing just right for the folk of town, and the method would get started once more. But what set the display aside used to be that the episodes labored as self-contained tales filled with sharp humor, however additionally they constructed up till apparently one-off characters was primary allies within the ultimate battle. These small connecting dots early on helped ease audience into the extra attached 2nd and 3rd seasons, even supposing the display by no means forgets the price of an entertaining person episode.
This is what makes The Last Airbender stand out as of late. The groundbreaking components that made the display so particular and liked again then have was just about common as of late. Genre-heavy cartoons are all over, from Adventure Time and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, to Harley Quinn and Rick and Morty. Whereas serialized storytelling used to be restricted to 2 or three-part episode arcs within the early ’00s, these days Steven Universe and Trollhunters can escape with telling a unmarried tale throughout a whole season.
The distinction is that we’ve now grown familiar with closely serialized presentations that don’t know or care in regards to the energy of a well-told stand-alone episode. Sure, the “Ember Island Players” episode of The Last Airbender will not be probably the most thrilling option to transfer from a cathartic episode wherein Katara faces her mom’s killer to the sequence finale, nevertheless it is among the funniest and maximum creative recap episodes there may be, and it serves as a refreshing breather prior to the 2-hour ultimate struggle towards the Fire Lord. Similarly, if The Last Airbender used to be a display like 24 and had no house for person tales, we wouldn’t have got “Zuko Alone,” an episode that’s continuously regarded as the most efficient of all of the sequence.
Game of Thrones could have heralded a brand new Golden Age of style TV with its overly bleak and severe tone, and we could have extra kids’s animated presentations with mature topics and tales than ever prior to, however the most efficient ones nonetheless perceive when you need to put at the brakes somewhat and let your target audience giggle. That used to be the name of the game at the back of The Last Airbender‘s success. It sat at the perfect intersection between serious, adult storytelling and goofy yet fun children’s leisure, and it knew when to lean one far more than the opposite.
When the Disney animated display Wander Over Yonder were given canceled in 2016, its author, Craig McCracken wrote about the explanation why his display proved unpopular with the community, “Historically, Networks do not like serialization in comedy cartoons because serialized cartoons do not rate as high in the repeats as the stand alone cartoons do,” McCracken defined. “They have found that once a viewer has watched an episode and got the next part of the story, they tend to not watch that same episode when it repeats. But if the show was just a simple funny cartoon they will watch it again, because they want to laugh at the jokes again.”
That would possibly had been true then, and there may be undoubtedly some degree to be made that Nickelodeon has put far more assets to proceed telling SpongeBob SquarePants tales with motion pictures and now a spin-off sequence as a substitute of more than one Avatar prequels and sequels (but even so the very good The Legend of Korra). The kids’s animation panorama as a complete is shifting clear of comedic, episodic presentations and against the extra mature, high-concept and serialized cartoons that experience pop out within the wake of the good fortune of Avatar: The Last Airbender. But as this occurs, we must additionally imagine that, at the moment, it isn’t a brand new or perhaps a contemporary animated display that has remained within the most sensible 10 hottest titles within the largest streaming platform within the nation, and has been trending just about day-to-day on social media platforms like Twitter and Tik-Tok.
Instead, it’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, the 15-year-old display that, like its titular personality, serves as a bridge between the previous and the brand new. It is the display that brings stability to an ever-changing business and manages to remind adults of the type of presentations they used to experience as youngsters, whilst interesting to youngsters who’re used to the type of presentations recently airing on TV and streaming that was the most important hit of the summer season of 2020.