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I once famously (infamously) proclaimed that The Legend of Korra is better than Avatar: The Last Airbender, and man, people were not happy. But I stand behind that statement. While I do love Avatar: The Last Airbender with my entire being, I still think The Legend of Korra is the better series. And when I watched The Legend of Korra again for the umpteenth time (this time on the super cool Steelbook collection that comes out on March 16th), I got an even bigger appreciation for the show from all the behind-the-scenes facts I learned on all the special features and commentaries, which appear to have been carried over from a previous home video release of Korra, and are included with this new 8-disc set.
Because while yes, you could just watch the entire series on Netflix or Paramount+ now, there’s really nothing better than hearing the co-creators, directors, actors, and writers go deep into what it took to make this amazing show a reality. And before I checked this out, I forgot how much I missed commentaries and special features. I seriously haven’t listened or watched any special features ever since streaming services became the norm. But as a mega fan of The Legend of Korra, I learned so much about one of my favorite series from all the features on this Steelbook. And here are just five of the things I learned.
The Creators Wanted To Make Korra For The People Who Grew Up Watching Avatar: The Last Airbender
In the hilarious “The Legend of Puppetbender Presents 'The Making of a Legend: The Untold Story Part 1,'” we get a series of shorts where the characters like Korra, Bolin, and Mako are represented as hand puppets. In one particular segment called “Pitching the Legend,” the hand puppets talk about how it was hard to determine which age group to pitch to Nickelodeon. Puppet Bolin (Yes, you read that right) had this to say:
Of course we knew we would be attracting another fanbase, but we wanted to make sure we respected the new, more grown up taste of the first one [Avatar: The Last Airbender].
What follows is a silly fake pitch video of a child watching Avatar who is instantly aged up to an adult and is now watching Korra, cradling an Appa doll and even wearing an Appa hat. Obviously, it’s all played for laughs, but there’s a definite truth to this since The Legend of Korra IS for a much older audience than Avatar: The Last Airbender. Whole articles have been written about how Korra’s demographic was definitely skewed much older than the original series. And this segment just goes to show that you didn’t just imagine Korra feeling like it was made for adults. It kind of, sort of was, and the creators intended it to feel that way.
The Creators Were Deeply Inspired By Other Anime Classics When They Worked On Korra
In the excellent commentary for Book 1: Air, the creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (along with Korra voice actress, Janet Varney) discuss how anime greatly influenced them when they worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. But while one might take one look at the animation style and say, “Duh, that’s not a behind-the-scenes fact,” I don’t mean in the animation department. I mean when it came to the show's themes and ideas.
Both creators cite Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke as a huge influence on them for the idea that there really isn’t any hero or villain in that movie, which definitely spills into The Legend of Korra, especially when it comes to the villains, who all have rational, if not okay, motives for why they do the things that they do. They also discuss Ghost in the Shell when it comes to the music of that film. In the episode, “Skeletons in the Closet,” Bryan Konietzko had this to say about the role that music played in a crucial battle on The Legend of Korra:
I love Ghost in the Shell. You know, there’s just really sparse ambient music, and in a lot of the action scenes, it’s not your typical ‘DUN-dun-dun-DUN-dun-dun-DUN’, you know?
And trust me, I do know. He means that subtlety is key, which is what made that exciting scene in that particular episode so powerful on the show.
When It Comes To The Rules Of The World, Bryan Konietzko Is The "Pedantic" One
Also on the commentary, I learned that Bryan Konietzko, not Michael DiMartino, is the stickler for consistency in the Avatar universe. This is enlightening since I didn’t really know which role both co-creators played. But it seems that Konietzko is the gatekeeper when it comes to the rules. He even said as such in an interview with Vulture when they asked if he was the “Comic Book Guy” of the show:
Ha, if by “Comic Book Guy,” you mean the guy who pedantically defines the rules of the world, then yes, I am usually wearing that hat.
Fascinating stuff. But now I know. Bryan Konietzko=”Comic Book Guy.” Gotcha.
Suyin's Earthbending Style Is More Like Her Mother's, While Lin's Style Is More Modern
Outside of the commentary, there are also these great segments on Book 3: Change called “The Spirit of an Episode”. On one such segment for the episode, “Old Wounds”, we learn from the director of the episode, Colin Heck, that Suyin and Lin, who are both the daughters of Toph Beifong, have very different Earthbending/Metalbending styles.
According to Heck, Suyin’s style is very traditional, while Lin’s style is much more modern. The reason for this is because Lin rebelled more as an adult since she was by-the-book growing up, while Suyin was a rebellious teen and is more by-the-book as an adult to atone for her wilder youth. I swear, the things you learn from special features!
Varrick Was Inspired By William Randolph Hearst and Howard Hughes
Lastly, again in the commentary, I learned that Varrick, who is one of my favorite characters since he’s so odd, was actually inspired by William Randolph Hearst and Howard Hughes. Now, the William Randolph Hearst part made complete sense. He’s a war profiteer, and he definitely engages in “yellow journalism” and propaganda to rally the troops.
But the Howard Hughes part I didn’t quite get until I really thought about it. But yes, his eccentricities are definitely Howard Hughes-esque, and so his character makes a lot more sense to me now that I can clearly see both influences to his character.
Seriously, this Steelbook Collection is amazing, and it even goes really well with all the other The Legend of Korra memorabilia I have scattered around my house. If you’re a mega fan like me who loves learning more about the show, and either you don't already own The Legend of Korra on blu-ray or you can't resist a Steelbook collection, then definitely pick up the Legend Of Korra Steelbook Collection when it comes out on March 16th.