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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yip yip: Watch the unaired Avatar: The Last Airbender pilot

Illustration for article titled Yip yip: Watch the unaired Avatar: The Last Airbender pilot
Screenshot: YouTube

Hello, The A.V. Club here. Whether you’ve long been a fan of Nickelodeon’s epic Avatar: The Last Airbender or you climbed aboard Appa when the series recently landed on Netflix, there’s a decent chance you’re pretty bummed about the news that creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have departed Netflix’s live-action adaptation. Luckily, the fine folks at Nickelodeon are here to offer a balm, a small sip of quenchiest cactus juice in the vast A:TLA desert that stretches out before us.


On Sunday, as a part of the Nick special The Last Airbender: Origins, the network released the unaired pilot for the series, and you can watch it, right this second, for free, just as soon as you’re done cleaning the bugs and muck from Appa’s toes. It’s available via Twitch (and we’ve also embedded it here).

As with many such pilots, the seeds of the show are evident, as are many changes, both big and small. Four differences are particularly striking. First, Aang is voiced by a different actor. Mitchel Musso (of Phineas And Ferb and Hannah Montana) was later replaced by Zach Tyler Eisen, who voiced Aang throughout the series, excepting of course the time Rachel Dratch played an actor playing Aang in a play.

Second is the starting point. In the proper pilot, Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena) discover Aang and Appa (Dee Bradley Baker) frozen in an iceberg, a moment that sets the whole series going. Here, that meeting is relegated to the somewhat familiar exposition-y title sequence (say it with us now: “But I believe Aang can save the world!”) and the action instead begins with Sokka, Aang, Katara, and Momo (also Baker)—who won’t show up for several episodes in the series—fleeing from a typically angsty Zuko (Dante Basco). And while this Sokka is the same prickly butthead he is in the first couple A:TLA episodes, his characterization would gradually grow more nuanced until he was, despite all his protestations, much more than the meat-and-sarcasm guy.

Third: Katara’s name. Here, she’s Kya (K-eye-ah, not K-eee-ah), a name that would instead be given to her mother in the series. As with Sokka, both Katara/Kya and Aang feel like rough drafts of the characters we’d meet in the series, presumably because that’s what they are.


Fourth: no one yells “my cabbages.” And okay, that didn’t happen in the final pilot either, but it’s still worth noting. Regardless, while this may not feel quite like watching the Ember Island Players recreate the events of the series, it’s a fascinating look at a marvelous show all the same.

[via Entertainment Weekly]

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!