There are many reasons why Avatar The Last Airbender has endured to this day in terms of fan love and people honoring the franchise even though it’s “done”. True, there was the deep characters and stories that made it compelling to the very end, but another key element was the fight scenes. The four nations of Avatar had their own bending style that was directly taken from martial arts, and that lead to some very interesting fights.
Giancarlo Volpe, who was a director and animator on Avatar The Last Airbender, noted that because of the detail they were putting into the fight scenes and the bending styles, it took a lot of work to get it right. He did an interview with Insider and went deep into why these fight scenes worked as a whole. Including hiring real martial artists who used the styles the referenced to film footage so they could go and use those moves for the fights.
How to animate authentic feeling martial arts:
1) Hire martial artists, bonus points if they are extra imaginative
2) Actually pay said martial artists
3) Open the schedule to film non stop kung fu reference meetings
4) Give artists extra time to draw the 100,000 required poses https://t.co/3bFgML6kD7
— Giancarlo Volpe – BIack Lives Matter!! (@Giancarlo_Volpe) January 16, 2021
Fight choreographer and reference actor Sifu Kisu was also a major part of the team as he helped deliver other materials that were used for the fights that fans know and love. And lest you think that fans are “overselling” how good those fights were, then you need only look up fights like Zuko vs Azula, Aang vs Ozai, Zuko vs Zhao, and so on and you’ll see the blend of style and real martial arts to make everything stand out.
The series did many things that in its own right was revolutionary, and that’s why it was able to get a live-action movie (which was terrible and blasted by fans and critics), a sequel series via Legend of Korra (which was much maligned and interfered with by parent company Nickelodeon) and a potential live-action revival on Netflix (which has lost the original TLA creators because of creative differences).
The show is being enjoyed to this day, and that means a lot.