All of us can remember those moments in our childhoods where our imaginations took on a life of their own, taking us into majestic worlds filled with sci-fi innovations and magical dragons. Action heroes and adventure, mystery and revelation - being a child is one of the greatest adventures of them all. For The Last Airbender writer, Aaron Ehasz, his child-self wanted more of this and to carry it with him through the years.
As a kid, Ehasz mentioned that he would watch every show with rapt interest and that the worlds created within these fictional structures were inspiring to him - they drove him - and he later became a part of quite a few magical projects of his own.
In a new feature from Polygon, Ehasz opened up about his past creativity, his drives, and what exciting plans he has for the future. When discussing his early roots with his favourite TV shows, he said:
"I would literally watch the credits and try to figure out who the producer was, and then I would try to call them. I'm this kid calling from California. 'Hey, where can I get these toys?' Our friends would talk about rumors. 'Oh, the toys are going to be available here if you get your mom to take you,' and there was nothing. I was definitely aware of the 'missing-ness' of that part of the franchise as a kid."
This drive for "more" and accessibility helped pave the way for his now-flourished writing career. What began with a popular show called Futurama, eventually led to a leading writing position for the hit Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even with his own creations, he says he still experienced that wondrous rapture of being lost in a different kind of world. It's obvious that the man is brimming with creativity. Luckily, so is his colleague, Uncharted director Justin Richmond.
The birth of Wonderstorm
Because of a shared love of building fantastical universes, both Richmond and Ehasz came together to create a new studio: Wonderstorm. The studio has big plans for the future, including new games as well as a new animated series for Netflix. They've even pulled in some other big names, including Riot's Justin Santistevan.
So how did Ehasz and Rhichmond meet? In between concurrent projects, the pair eventually met when they worked together at League of Legends studio Riot Games. The two began discussing vision and their own work within the fields they loved - and magic happened:
"Even though I've worked on a number of shows in my career, [The Last Airbender and Futurama] are the two that had some kind of spark of magic where it resonated with an audience, continues to resonate for longer than it was ever expected to, and where it feels like you made something meaningful," Ehasz says. "You start to ask yourself 'what's the difference between the productions we've worked on that have been magical, that mean something, and the ones that were awesome but didn't have that magic?'"
The pair both have decided that authenticity is important with this new venture - something fans can believe in, cherish, and eventually "latch onto." In order to do just that, the duo looked to previous new studios and their development success and failures to learn from experience and set up Wonderstorm's own success. Ehasz said that in order to stay focused and coherent that, "Writers and artists are literally working alongside designers and engineers, and we're all engaged with these characters and this world. It's really a delightful situation. A lot of contributions are coming from corners you don't expect."prevnext
Richmond's sci-fi beginnings and character revelations
Though Ehasz mentioned his love of fantasy started with a more wide-scoped interaction, Richmond's was a little more specific. For the Uncharted director, his uncle owned a bookstore back in the 1980s where he spent most of his time. Being surrounded by all of the fictional books with different worlds to explore instantly enthralled him. When the store eventually shut down dude to an economic downturn, Richmond was given a box full of select sci-fi titles, including Lovecraft, and from there - the eternal love was officially birthed.
Both men are passionate about this brand of creativity, and more than just some profit bottom line. Both are extremely invested in the way worlds are shaped, molded, and held together. Because of this, their new projects in the works have an incredibly solid foundation.
"The thing I take away from Futurama and The Last Airbender is that the audience is very, very smart," Ehasz says. "All the details, nuance, and things you build into a story and characters? There may be people who don't appreciate it, but there are so many out there who do and are paying attention. We're spending all this time on this series and game making sure those details feel right, and that there are things to discover, and that things beneath the surface are worth it because there are tons of people out there who want and deserve that. We need to make something good enough for them."
But it's not just about the worlds, it's the characters within them. Ehasz mentioned that it thrills him when fans tell him they identify with one of his characters, that despite the background - there is something organically relatable within these fictional worlds that the fans themselves see themselves in. Even the lesser known characters can reach out to someone unexpectedly:
"At some point, I received a letter from a younger woman who said she related to Mai as a darker, depressed character, and she said that of so many things she'd watched, that dark character is made fun of or loses in the end," Ehasz says. "She felt like Mai had a happy ending without having to change her identity. She could have that identity and still find happiness without changing who she was. Those experiences are amazing, when someone takes a minute to tell you that something affected them, you just feel lucky you were able to have a positive impact on someone."prevnext
Thoughts on the move to television and fan reflection
Richmond himself is familiar - he was a part of the team behind the infamous Nathan Drake, after all. One fan in particular stood out to Richmond regarded the PlayStation adventurer while at a press event in Poland:
"He was so excited to talk to us about Uncharted," Richmond says. "His experience with it was like 'this is what I play after school, it gives me an escape, and I want to be an archaeologist' and all this stuff. For some reason, that one always makes me go 'oh my god, we've provided this experience for this kid, and he was so thankful, can we please live up to this?' How can we make sure we live up to this kid's hopes and dreams for what this series is?"
The mystery game in the works, it is apparent, will be built with that love and intimate connection in relation to the fanbase - a strong start for the duo and their future endeavours. As far as the upcoming television series, Ehasz is no stranger to taking creative risks for a TV audience.
"I think in the end, most people would agree some of those successfully resonated, and some of them didn't, but coming from where I was on the show, it felt like we got this audience's attention, now how do we make sure everything else we're bringing is worthy of their time?"0comments
As the pair goes forward with their endeavors with Wonderstorm, their creativity and desire for a wonderful experience is at the forefront. Those feelings that series like Star Wars inspired in them will carry their direction going forward. We don't know what the future holds for the new studio, but we can tell it's going to be something big!