Like Scooby Doo and Inspector Gadget before it, this weekend’s The Last Airbender first saw the light of day as an animated television show. Director M. Night Shyamalan first came across Avatar: The Last Airbender, when his daughter said she wanted to be one of the characters, Katara, for Halloween.
After that, watching the show became “a family event in my house,” says the director. “When I saw the cartoon, I thought it was so well thought out in term of mythology. It had Buddhism, martial arts and CGI (and it was) character-based. I knew it would make a great feature film … I knew we could do something that wasn’t going to be just a great treat for the eyes, but also for the mind and the soul.”
Shyamalan is shooting high, hoping to turn The Last Airbender (they had to drop the Avatar part of the TV show’s title) into a trilogy. “I have always wanted to develop a long mythology-based franchise like The Lord of the Rings,” he says.
One television-cartoon-to-big-screen adaptation that lasted more than one installment was The Flintstones. The animated modern stone-age family (with friends Barney and Betty Rubble) ruled Saturday morning television for six years, before making the leap to the big screen in 1966 in The Man Called Flintstone, a musical James Bond parody.
After that, the show came back to TV in various incarnations — one even featuring the Marvel Comics superhero The Thing — but a return to the big screen took almost 30 years. In The Flintstones, the 1994 live action version, John Goodman Yabba-Dabba-Dooed his way through the film as Fred. Unable to leave well enough alone a prequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, followed in 2000. Soon though, Fred and Wilma will be back where they belong, in an animated film, set to be released in 2011.