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How Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender brought Appa and Momo to life | IGN Fan Fest 2024

How Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender brought Appa and Momo to life |  IGN Fan Fest 2024

In a new film, executive producer/director Jabbar Raisani and VFX Supervisor Marion Spaats explain how they translated some of Avatar: The Last Airbender's beloved characters into live-action — and of course, we're talking about Appa and Momo.

“In the world of Avatar, almost all the animals are hybrid creatures,” Raisani says in the video below. “It's a fun detail that the fans really love, and I really love it. So we started with images from the animated series and said, 'Okay, what are realistic representations of these visual ideas?'” From there, we built the library of visual information and language that we would then use to inform physical and digital architectures. For all creatures.”

Speaking of that hybrid nature, Speights says the team looked to different animals when building Appa's live look. They particularly wanted the flying silhouette of the sky bison to remain similar to the animated series, using the manatee as a reference for its tail. For his eyes and horns, they used buffalo as inspiration.

As actress Katara Kyawentiyo explains, on set, Appa is essentially a “halfback on a mechanical bull,” with footage showing the massive platform Appa had on set.

“I spent some of my best days at Appa,” says Soca actor Ian Owsley. “It feels like you are flying through the air, which is a childhood dream.”

“On set, we had Appa’s full-sized head, but he had no emotion to it,” Raisani explains. “Gordon [Cormier, who plays Aang] He did a great job with that thing, and our VFX team did a great job bringing those emotions to Appa's character, so it matches what Aang is doing in the scene.”

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When it came to everyone's favorite winged lemur, Momo, Rissani made sure the creature still looked real. Spitz points out how “emotional” Momo's eyes in particular are.

“We reference a lot of different monkeys and lemurs in the shows, because we didn't want to lose all that character,” says Risani.

Then there's the badger, which the team uses as a reference, especially regarding the creature's weight. Meanwhile, ostrich horses take the form of a stunt vehicle on set, with a stunt driver underneath the actors on a saddle.

“Audiences will love the characters, the emotional journey, the story, the epic action, and the humor,” says showrunner Albert Kim. “But I have a feeling they'll like Appa more. Or Momo. One of them.”

To learn more about Avatar: The Last Airbender, check out our digital cover story, season 1 review, and exclusive clip. And get a recap of what you can expect from the rest of IGN Fan Fest 2024 here.

Alex Steadman is IGN's senior news editor, overseeing entertainment reporting. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her reading fantasy novels or playing Dungeons & Dragons.

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