Behind-the-Scenes: Korra & Asami in the Spirit World

Brock Otterbacher, Creative Director, Toys & Collectibles

If you're are a fan of Nickelodeon's THE LEGEND OF KORRA, then the final few moments of the series finale sticks with you to this day - two friends, who were getting closer and closer as the final season's main battle was drawing to a head, decide to take a vacation together in the Spirit World. As they enter the portal to that realm, they do so holding hands and at last, facing each other, no longer just friends but now as two people in love.

It's a wonderful moment in a series of wonderful moments, and was always in the forefront of my thoughts when contemplating what to do as a statue for the series. I knew what I didn't want to do - Korra, posed badass using all the elements in a super tough-looking statue that showed the power of our hero. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I want someone to do that statue so I can have it! It's just that it didn't feel like that's the statement I wanted to make.

So what to do? At first I thought maybe taking that last moment from the series and just have Korra and Asami facing each other, but immediately rejected it. While I think it's a beautiful shot, it really only works in 2D and from a very specific angel. So then I thought, well, what happens next for the girls? And then it hit me - why not show them actually on vacation, with Korra showing Asami all the wondrous sights of the Spirit World?

I contacted Eric Siebenaler, who had helped us out on a few other animation-based projects, and described to him what I wanted - Korra, excitedly showing Asami something amazing off in the distance (what that was is up to the viewer's imagination), and Asami awestruck at this amazing thing. And oh, yes, we need to add the cute little Leaf Spirit being mischievous and pulling out a Pai Sho board from their bag, and heck, why not have the previous Avatars as a motif on the base.

And Eric did just that. Here you can see his concepts, starting with roughs trying to find the composition, all the way to the final colored concept.

Siebenaler did a great job and nailed exactly what I was asking for. Problem was, what I was asking for just didn't quite work. 

Enter Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of THE LEGEND OF KORRA and AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. When we sent them the concept, I think they liked the spirit (ahem) of what we wanted, but felt there was a more concise way to show it.

A week or so later, Bryan sent this:  

And then this revised version:

And it's perfect. It's everything I wanted to convey but simplified to something more core to the characters. It's an intimate moment between a couple taking in the wonders of the world (but now with the Leaf Spirit joining them and an Onion Spirit becoming the mischievous one for the exclusive version). Even the four Avatars on the base have been simplified to just the four elements, making it less distracting and a more natural part of the piece. 

With a great concept in hand, we turned to Joe Jung, a fantastic sculptor with a diverse style, to help bring the girls to life. Joe is a traditional sculptor, so everything is done by hand. Here are some in-progress shots showing Joe's process. What I love about his style is a focus on nailing the form and pose before going for the details (a lot of sculptors try to put in details too early before they've locked in on the form of a subject, which often leads to awkward looking sculptures). Note how in the early stages Joe uses his wife and daughter as placeholders for the characters' portraits.

And some images with Konietzko's notes on them:

At last, the (almost) final sculpture:

Paint duties went to the fantastic Mara Ancheta, who is amazing at nailing very specific looks (wait until you see what she did for our PREACHER pieces, but that's for another time!), and came in swinging with this piece:

Before this year, we had shown the piece a couple of times publicly - once at San Diego Comic Con and once at the last MondoCon. People who saw images of the statue online noticed a difference in the portraits. This is due to us wanting to refine the look of the piece further once we saw it painted (often un-painted portraits can look one way and then totally different after being painted). In this case, we decided to hedge our bets and have Trevor Grove do alternate portraits, so we could decide which we wanted to use for the two characters.

In the end, we decided Korra would have Grove's portrait, and Asami would have Jung's original portrait, and this is the final look of the piece:

Projects like this are complicated and are constantly changing, but when all is said and done, as long as those changes are working toward the goal of making the piece look the best it can, then it's all worth it. 

As the pre-order for the exclusive version of Korra and Asami in the the Spirit World draws to a close, I wanted to thank everyone who supported us in buying the piece. It's been very satisfying, to say the least, to see so many people react positively to the girls, and it's been one of the more gratifying projects I've ever worked on, artistically and emotionally. 

I want to leave the last words to one of the co-creators of the show, who not only helped us hone in our concept (by literally doing the concept!), but was incredibly helpful and supportive throughout all stages of development:

"Mike and I were thrilled when Mondo wanted to make a statue of Korra and Asami together on their post-series vacation in the Spirit World. As we all know, statues have been used since time immemorial to commemorate heroes, battles, supernatural beings — lots of larger-than-life, grandiose things. And modern, collectible, pop-culture statues usually follow that historic trend. But here was an opportunity to portray something small, everyday, and intimate: two people (albeit heroes) in love, in the act of simply sharing their lives together. Their particular brand of love also hails from time immemorial, but in our day and age it is something that needs commemorating. It is something ordinary, real-life heroes have to fight for every day. With all of that in mind, I tailored the original concept to be even more tender, and less grandiose — a tiny, fleeting moment frozen in stone (er, polystone). Korrasami Forever!" 

– Bryan Konietzko, co-creator of THE LEGEND OF KORRA (and certified first Korrasami shipper)