Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender decree it as one of the best television shows ever made and for good reason. Ever since its debut in 2005, it has received praise for its animation, worldbuilding, and characters. However, the show’s first episode was not the original pilot. Show creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko crafted a different pilot episode that they presented to Nickelodeon. While this led to Nickelodeon funding the project, it never aired on TV. It was only ever available on DVD releases and iTunes. But now, Nickelodeon has released it online for free.
Nickelodeon released a roughly hour-long video on its Twitch channel on how Avatar came to be. The video showcases which real-life fighting styles inspired which nation as well as interviews with animators and sound designers. Several shorts weren’t part of the main series. The whole video is fascinating for anyone who wants to learn more about the show. But the pilot episode can be viewed around 43 minutes in.
There are a few key differences between this and the first episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The main one is that it takes place in the middle of the journey instead of starting at the beginning. It focuses on two separate confrontations between our heroes and Prince Zuko. There are also some key character changes. Katara, named Kya here, isn’t quite as strong-willed as she is in the show. Sokka is a bit more of a jerk and Aang is a bit more aloof and irresponsible. Additionally, Mitchel Musso, who would go on to star in Hannah Montana and Phineas and Ferb, voices Aang. Zach Tyler voiced him in the show.
While the animation isn’t quite as crisp as it would be in the show, the unaired pilot is an interesting piece of history for Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show has seen a recent resurgence in popularity since being added to Netflix earlier this year. Netflix also recently added its sequel series, The Legend of Korra. Not all recent news has been good, however. The original show’s creators recently announced they left Netflix’s live-action series over creative differences.