Behind the Scenes with the Avatar Cast and Crew
A more comprehensive behind-the-scenes feature than the previous ones, though it still isn't very long. It's got little snippets of interview footage with Bryke, Eisen, Mae Whitman (Katara), DeSena (<333), Basco, and Sifu Kisu.
The Making of Avatar: Inside the Sound Studios
This features interviews with the sound designers: Benjamin Wynn, Jeff Kettle, Sanaa Cannella. It's amusing to see how a lot of sounds come from "real life" items that are rather far from what the sounds are supposed to represent.
The Making of Avatar: Inside the Korean Animation Studios
This features subtitled interviews with the Korean animators in Seoul, Korea. It's a little difficult to understand. I get the same impression from the Korean animators as I do from interviews I've seen and read of Japanese manga-ka, seiyuu, etc. in my anime/manga obsession: they shy away from making direct statements, so it often feels as if they're using a lot of words to say almost nothing at all. This kind of drives me nuts. I can't help it—much as I obsess over East Asian cultures, I’m an American at heart. Anyway, here's a few things I got out of the interviews:
It's more important to match the character's emotions and the flow of the scene than to match the lip movements.
Similarly, conveying the elements is more a matter of creating an impression (of fire, for example), than in drawing all the details.
Several animators mentioned how they had to learn a lot of new skills and techniques for this show, and had to do some things in a different style from what they were used to with other projects.
They asked the animators which characters they enjoy animating the most. One woman's answer made me think, "Yeah, she's a Zuko fangirl." She hit all the right talking points of Zuko <333.
A couple of the animators mention the influence of anime on their animation style.
One animator talks about the connection between Appa and Miyazaki's Cat Bus from My Neighbor Totoro.
Whew! That one was really long compared to the other behind-the-scenes features.
Avatar Pilot Episode with Audio Commentary
This was an early sample episode of Avatar. A lot of designs and details about the show changed between this and the first real episodes. For example: the Fire Nation navy uniforms look very different; Katara's original name was Kya, which in the real show became her mother's name; Zuko had a pet hawk. Some of the voice actors were not on board yet, but some were; in the commentary, Bryke mention in a scene where Sokka starts going off on Katara, that they learned to trust DeSena early on to improvise dialogue in a lot of scenes.
The pilot is not, as I expected, a rough draft of the first episode. Instead, it's more of a "typical" episode, after the characters and initial setup are established. It's not like any of the real episodes—the plot involves Zuko's Fire Nation rhino riders capturing Sokka, which lures "Kya" into his clutches as well; Aang has to rescue them. It feels like a weird alternate reality of Avatar.
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