Although Avatar: The Last Airbender had its series finale over 13 years ago, fans of the Nickelodeon show are still as loyal and committed as ever. Over COVID, the show also enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as its release on Netflix led to a whole new generation being introduced to the Avatarverse. Nowhere was this fan dedication more clear than during New York Comic Con 2021’s Avatar: Braving the Elements panel.

Fans lined up for hours to attend this special panel, which provided attendees with the unique opportunity to be present for a live taping of an all-new episode of Avatar: Braving the Elements. Hosts Janet Varney (the voice of “Korra”) and Dante Basco (the voice of “Prince Zuko”) joined special guest Dee-Bradley Baker (the voice of “Appa,” “Momo,” and so many others) to record an episode of their exciting new podcast and discuss a fan-favorite episode, “Bato of the Water Tribe.”

Janet Varney and Dante Basco

The panel included a read-through of the scene in “Bato of the Water Tribe” where June (on the shirshu), Zuko, Aang, and Appa are fighting. It was quite fun to hear Basco make grunting and fighting noises for Zuko as he “fought” with Aang, but the highlight of that scene was definitely hearing Baker’s depictions of Appa and the shirshu. The way Baker changes his voice from character to character appeared almost effortless and was truly an impressive feat.

Once that scene was completed, Varney suggested that Basco and Baker do another read-through, this time of the scene from “The Western Air Temple,” where Zuko practices his infamous speech that begins with “Hello, Zuko here.” It is such a beloved and amusing scene and getting to see Basco perform it for us in person was truly such a treat. Baker did a fantastic job as the badgerfrog who Zuko is practicing his speech on.

Dee Bradley Baker, Janet Varney, and Dante Basco

Another highlight of the panel was the audience participation section, where fans were encouraged to yell out different animals from Avatar and Baker would immediately voice them. He probably voiced 7 or 8 animals in the span of a few minutes and the time it took for him to transform his voice from speaking as himself to imitating one of these animals was incredibly minimal. It was a true masterclass in voice acting and just mesmerizing to watch.

Varney then announced to the audience that she had received some extra Avatar-themed merchandise and wanted to give it away to some deserving fans. To earn a prize, you had to answer an Avatar-themed trivia question correctly. This may seem simple but given the incredible level of knowledge in the panel room, it was often more a competition of who could shoot their arm into the air first. The prizes ranged from Zuko action figures to Avatar purses and each winner looked ecstatic when they received their item.

The panel concluded with a riveting rendition of “Secret Tunnel,” led by Varney, Basco, and Baker. The room shook as everyone belted out the words to the show’s most infamous song and you couldn’t help but grin at the fact that this moment was happening after the difficulty and heartache that this past year had caused.

It was a perfect treat for any Avatar fan and as the audience walked out of the panel room, it was clear that this was an afternoon no one would forget anytime soon. It was so wonderful to see the level of love these fans still have for this universe.

About The Author

Madeline Knutson is an Entertainment Journalist and Pop Culture Expert for Blast Magazine.

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