Avatar: The Last Airbender James Cameron

Nickelodeon Had To Add ‘Last Airbender’ To Title As James Cameron Owns ‘Avatar’ Rights

Before James Cameron’s Avatar built a legacy around the world of Pandora and the Na’vi warriors, there was another similar-sounding series that also went on to be a legend in its own right – Avatar: The Last Airbender. The coincidence has always prompted fans to wonder if a connection between the two titles existed, and Giancarlo Vorpe, who directed 19 episodes of the animated series, now surfaces with the answer.

According to the animator, Nickelodeon was blocked from naming it simply Avatar, because Cameron already had rights to the title – despite being late to the party. The movie was released in 2009, which is around four years after Avatar: The Last Airbender started airing in February 2005.

“In 2004 we learned that we had to change the name of our show from ‘Avatar’ to ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ because James Cameron already had the rights to a movie called ‘Avatar,’” Volpe wrote on Twitter. “Now the sequel is called ‘The Way of Water.’ If part 3 is called ‘The Firebending Masters,’ we riot.”

The tongue-in-cheek comment is a reference to the role of the natural elements in the series, which each season takes after. The first arc, for instance, is titled ‘Book One: Water’, with the subsequent parts named ‘Book Two: Earth,” and ‘Book Three: Fire.’ With water serving as centrepiece of Cameron’s sequel, Volpe took the golden opportunity to poke fun at the coincidental use of the element.

While Avatar took some time to get off the ground, it had been in development since 1994, so Cameron has always maintained the rights to the title. This meant that the Nickelodeon series had to change its name to include “The Last Airbender”.

In any case, both Avatar franchises are poised for major comebacks. Avatar: The Way of Water is hitting theatres on 16 December and will be followed by at least one more sequel, with Avatar 4 already in the filming stage. If the follow-ups underperform, however, the project may be canned together with the fifth entry.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, meanwhile, is also gearing up for its release on the silver screen with its first animated feature film. Slated for debut on 10 October, it will feature Aang and his group of friends as young adults, and is the first project to come from the newly-created Avatar Studios founded by series creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Two more animated features are being planned for the pipeline as well.