End of an Era for this One

Hey guys, I’ve been going back and forth on this for quite a well, and as much as I hate to say it’s time for me throw in the reins and move onto my next project. After the new year, Firebender will be an inactive site and no longer updated. The graphics and content will be available online, but I will not longer continue to post new graphics.

For those who don’t know, Firebender and I have been around for quite a long time since June 2006. Originally, Firebender used to be called The Breakthrough but changed names a couple of years ago. I’ve seen fansites come and go—most pop up around the start of a new season and then die during a season hiatus period—now, Firebender is one of them. For years, I kept saying that this will never happen. How could a neglect something I love to work on?  To think that I could still maintain this website and then realizing the impossibility is a blunder to my ego. Nonetheless, I need to close this chapter.

Graphic and web design are passion of mine. Working on Firebender has been a great experience that opened so many doors for my college and professional career. What started as a little project for an awkward twelve year girl to keep busy during the summer of 2006 turned into something far great. This website expanded and grew into a well known Avatar fansite. It was a playground for me to experiment in Photoshop and Dreamweaver. It introduced me to the world of Design, Development, and Digital Marketing. I gained new skills and knowledge while meeting so many great people along the way.

I always wanted to get some nod of recognition from the creators, but what the hell that wasn’t why I was here. I was here to make things. To make it with the tools of my trade and group of great people who supported me even through my goofy mistakes. So, my dear friend, its time for me to take what I learned over the years and apply it to my remaining year of college and future career.

Thanks to Avatar: the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, I was able to find what I love to do. I hope it let you found what you love.

As of right now, I finished the fall semester of my junior year at RPI and work as User Experience and UI Designer for a software company most of you have probably heard of. ;]

Best of luck wherever you go and Merry Christmas,

Adriana (Pon De Replay)

Perceptual Bending

My extreme Avatar fanaticism used to shock me at times, but at this point I have embraced it. I’m currently a freshmen in college finishing up my Intro to Communication Theory course. For our final, we had to write a comprehensive essay that applied any communication or persuasion theory to our subject. And me being the crazy Avatar fan who is eagerly awaiting recognition wrote, and daresay turned in that essay that analyzed Amon’s persuasive tactics. I got an A on it.


Republic City’s external conflicts have internally enflamed a proletariat revolution between the haves and the haves-not that threatens to dismantle the social and government institutions of the city; however, this proletariat revolution is not a socioeconomic conflict between classes but an entirely different struggle for power between benders and non-benders. Amon is the leader of the Equalists, a political terrorist group, who believes that he and the non-bender community have been oppressed by benders and is determine to overthrow the bending establishments such as the council and police force. Amon’s tactics to revolutionize the cultural, economic, and socio-political institutions of Republic utilize terrorism, propaganda, and mass communication in order to persuade non-benders to follow his cause.

Situation Analysis

A social scientific approach is used to analyze Amon’s persuasive tactics to revolutionize the socio-political environment of Republic City. Amon’s schemes have widespread influences on different societal echelons and governmental institutions. An empirical collection of evidence is rationalized in order to apply the elaboration likelihood model to this case study.

Revolutionists vindicate their cause through manipulation and perceptual distortion of information and reality while instigating conflict. Amon’s means of propaganda and terrorism to persuade and terrify Republic civilians follows the principles of the elaboration likelihood model. According to Dainton and Kelly (2011), “the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) views persuasion primarily as a cognitive event, meaning that the targets of persuasive messages use mental processes of motivation and reasoning (or a lack thereof) to accept or reject persuasive messages” (p. 126). The elaboration likelihood model explains the purpose and perceptual process behind the revolution’s political propaganda and social doctrines. In the elaboration likelihood model there are two directions of persuasion, the central route or peripheral route. Centrally routed messages target individuals who are highly motivated and are able to cognitively process the message, and will often feature evidence to support a rational argument (Dainton & Kelly, 2011). On the other hand, peripheral messages rely on pathos to effectively persuade untargeted recipients who are incapable of relating to or understanding persuader’s cause. Amon’s tactics to persuade and instill fear apply the central and peripheral routes of persuasion depending on his target audience.

Amon uses central routed messages to create a positive cognitive response in the minds of the recipients that align their beliefs with his. Oppressed, jaded, and agitated members of the non-bending community are the targets Amon is determined to persuade since they are victims of the bending elites and are easy to appeal to. During the Equalists rallies, Amon constructs elaborate arguments that are not only filled with passion and anger, but logically place the blame on benders. In his most famous speech he states that

“As you know, the Avatar has recently arrived in Republic City. And if she were here, she would tell you that bending brings balance to the world. But she is wrong. The only thing bending has brought to the world is suffering. It has been the cause of every war in every era. But that is about to change. I know you’ve been wondering, ‘what is the revelation?’ You are about to get your answer. Since the beginning of time, the spirits have acted as guardians of our world and they have spoken to me. They say the Avatar has failed humanity. That is why the spirits have chosen me to usher in a new era of balance. They have granted me a power that will make equality a reality, the power to take a person’s bending away, permanently” (DiMartino & Konietzko, 2012).

 

His speech uses strong arguments in order inoculate the audience against counterpersuasion (in this case, pro-bending arguments) and to recreate a long-term attitude change that leads to their devotion. He argues that bending “has been the cause of every war in every era.” During the communication process, his statement arouses memories of suffering from the imperialistic Fire Nation’s hundred year war, and his receivers rationally link these two indication, their suffering and his reason, together.  He repeatedly states that bending has been cause of all of the world’s suffering and that the Avatar has failed humanity. Generally, the Avatar is considered to be a savior of unquestionable physical power and unadulterated morality. However, Amon asserts a counter opinion that places the blame on the Avatar and uses her as a scapegoat.  His listeners process the evidence rationally and ultimately realize that the Avatar has failed to protect them. She embodies everything they despise about the bending society; therefore they will no longer view her as a holy deity but as an enemy.  They logically realize that there are no powerful figures to represent them as sides from Amon. By stating himself as an act of providence, Amon develops a cult following. The non-bender’s hatred towards the Avatar aligns them closer to him because they view as him savior who will “usher in a new era of balance.” His repetition of the Avatar’s errors enhances the persuasive effect of his strong argument. His use of logos and pathos generates a committal cognitive response from the receivers of his message.

Amon’s peripherally routed messages rely on psychological warfare to sway non-benders into following his cause and to terrorize the benders. His psychological warfare tactics include propaganda and public displays of power. According to Taylor (1987), psychological warfare is defined as “ the planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objects”. In the elaboration likelihood model, peripheral routed messages rely mainly on aesthetics and cues to target participants who are unable to rationally process Amon’s arguments. The primary purpose of Amon’s propaganda is to portray himself as the liberator and benders as the enemies.  For example, on the Equalists’ recruitment posters, Amon is depicted as godlike figure raising his hand to sky beckoning for the sun to come through. The depiction of him stresses for reverence and makes him an adored figure non-benders should faithfully worship. The national objective of his organization is to bring equality to Republic City, thus the beaming sun symbolizes a new era of peace and equality. As for the public demonstrations, he brandishes his anger and power in order to shock benders into submission.  During his Revelation rally, Amon publically exhibits the strength of his power by fighting a captive criminal Firebender who was leader of the Triple Threat Triad, a gang notorious for exploiting non-benders. As the ultimate scare tactic, Amon conquers the Firebender by taking his firebending away with a blow to head. The demonstration portrays him as vigilante seeking divine retribution. The peripheral messages rely on the receivers’ emotional involvement, whether their emotions are adoration or trepidation. Depending on the content of Amon’s message, they recipient will either feel either protected or threatened.

Differing communication processes further divide Republic City’s societies. Amon’s propaganda and arguments utilize a rhetorical message design logic that benefits both him and non-benders but not benders. For example, Amon weaves a story in order to justify his cause and to appeal to his followers:

“My quest for equality began many years ago. When I was a boy, my family and I lived on a small farm. We weren’t rich and none of us were benders. This made us very easy targets for the Firebender who extorted my father. One day, my father confronted this man. But when he did, that Firebender took my family from me. Then, he took my face. I’ve been forced to hide behind a mask ever since” (DiMartino & Konietzko, 2012).

 

Amon is an enigmatic figure whose personal history is still a mystery. Nonetheless, his peripherally routed lies evoke sympathy from non-benders and allow them to superficially evaluate the content of Amon’s messages, and with hopeful feelings they align themselves with the opposition. On the other hand, benders perceive Amon’s story to be deceitful and his communication hostile and threatening. As the Equalists continue to grow in size, the number of conflicts between benders and non-benders grows, as well. Each group has developed their own distinct ideology and belief-system towards the issue. These in-groups serve as social affiliations to which an individual feels belonged. The anti-bending and pro-bending groups communicate their social identity by either supporting the Equalists or Republic City’s government. Amon’s persuasion has created a divide amongst society that will escalate into a civil war.

Conclusion

            The elaboration likelihood model provides an open-ended heuristic approach to analyzing the persuasive tactics of central and peripheral routed messages. Although the model is able to describe the process that results from an individual’s motivational state of, the elaboration likelihood is limited in the way it predicts the motivational state. Amon’s propaganda and public speeches might have been able to previously persuade non-benders, but those same tactics are not a guaranteed indicator that they will be effective in the future. The elaboration likelihood model does not acknowledge other external factors that might influence an individual’s decisions. Additionally, multiple peripheral cues may be considered to be a centrally routed message. When Amon publically displayed his ability to take a bender’s bending away, this can be viewed as a central routed message. Benders will logically perceive him to be threat since his demonstration revealed that he is powerful threat that cannot be stopped.  Despite its few limitations, the elaboration likelihood model provides a relatively straightforward process in analyzing persuasive content.


 

References

Dainton, M., & Zelley, E. D. (2010). Applying communication theory for professional life, a practical introduction. (2 ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

DiMartino, Michael Dante (Writer), Konietzko, Bryan (Writer), Ryu, Ki Hyun (Director), & Santos, Joaquim Dos (Director). The Revelation. DiMartino, Michael Dante (Producer), Konietzko, Bryan (Producer), The Legend of Korra. Burbank, California: Nickelodeon Studios.

Taylor, Phil. (1987). Glossary of Relevant terms & Acronyms Propaganda and Psychological Warfare Studies. University of Leeds. http://icswww.leeds.ac.uk/papers/vp01.cfm?outfit=pmt&folder=64&paper=665

Let’s see, where are we heading to next?

Hey guys! Firebender is still undergoing an open revamp and will continue to undergo changes for the next few weeks. At this current moment, I’m still prepping the site for its fabulous makeover, but my client work has to come first. I’m currently in the midst of designing a new layout for Avatar Portal, redesigning a few club websites at my college, and building an e-commerce site for another client. And to top if all off, I’m training for a few races and am halfway through completing a short summer session of courses in New York (classes will end in roughly two and half weeks and it’s back to good old Virginia). So as you can see, there are quite a few things I have to get done, but fear not, Firebender is one of my top priorities.

A Little Clarification on the Site Name

Before I delve deeper into explaining the site’s revamp and update there is one issue that needs to be clarified. Formerly, Firebender was known as Breakthrough Designs. Although Breakthrough Designs is still up and running these two sites are completely separate. Breakthrough Designs is my portfolio and network website that houses Firebender, The Dai Li, and my other Avatar sites. The site you are currently viewing is not called Firebender Breakthrough Designs, just simply Firebender with no mention of “Breakthrough Designs” in the title. I have considered buying the old firebender.com domain but I’m a broke college student. Maybe one day I’ll buy a full domain for this site.

Graphics, graphics, graphics…

If you have been keeping an eye on our RSS feed Laforeze and I have been hard at work designing new graphics for your use and enjoyment. Once the new layout is up I’ll post a large update that details the new additions and such. Firebender will now be offering textures, panshots, and web layouts. Yes, I am working on Avatar layouts for your use. Here are few characters you can look forward to seeing in new graphics: Iroh, Korra, Bolin, Mako, Tenzin, Asami, Chief Bei Fong, Amon, Aang, Sokka, Toph, Metalbender Cops, Tarrlok, Ty Lee, and more. Please keep in mind that I refuse to design any graphics related to M. Night Shyamalallamllama’s film catastrophe The Last Airbender.

All right, well I’m heading back to the drawing board and to work on a few more things. Visit Firebender daily for the latest graphics and additions! Cheers!

Ready for Firebender 2.0?

Just a heads up, Firebender will be undergoing some renovation in the next couple of weeks so the site is going to look a little odd. Here are a few things to look forward to:

  • New Interface (Sorry, Ozai. You have reigned long enough)
  • New Content (More web layouts, GIFS, Textures, Book Scans)
  • Legend of Korra Articles & Reviews
  • Mako Fanlisting
  • Tenzin Fanlisting
  • and plenty of gorgeous graphics that you can’t find anywhere else
  • And anything else you want

Interview: Paging, Dr. Fight! A Chat With ‘Legend of Korra’ Art Director and Co-Executive Producer Joaquim Dos Santos

They call him “Dr. Fight.” No, there’s no degree program or anything to follow to earn that title, but if you’re responsible for choreographing kinetic, energetic fight in animated productions like Justice League Unlimited and our subject today, The Legend of Korra, then it’s a name that kind of sticks. Joaquim Dos Santos has served as a director, art director, and co-executive producer on both Avatar: The Last Airbender and its new followup series, and in a recent interview he talked to MTV Geek about bridging the action between Avatar and Korra, realizing the new world, and blending MMA and bending powers.

In spite of the success of the original, he says the response from fans of Korra has been pretty overwhelming for himself and the crew. I asked him if there was any trepidation from anyone about heading back into the Avatar universe given how well received The Last Airbender remains, but for Dos Santos this wasn’t really much of a concern, even as he acknowledges that the original series presented “very big shoes to fill”: “I was just happy more [episodes were] being ordered up by Nick and Mike and Brian [Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko] were heading it up… The cool thing aboutKorra compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender is that it’s created by predominantly the same group of people so it has this feeling that harkens back to the original series.” For Dos Santos, this has allowed Korra to have that strange alchemy that gave The Last Airbender its successful mix of humor, action, and drama.

At the same time, Dos Santos acknowledges that Korra presents a new direction for theAvatar universe. Obviously, there’s the gap in time between the two series that seen the cast of the original replaced with new characters, but more broadly still, the technology and shape of the formerly warring kingdoms has changed tangibly. Bending isn’t exclusively a tool of war any longer and it’s now used by professional athletes. Dos Santos says that this has allowed the show’s writers and artists to explore the benefits and problems of new technology as well as the new social complexities that come out of the end of constant war. “t think the original series was pure adventure,” he explains when I ask him about the differences between the two shows, “and with The Legend of Korra, you can kind of feel encroaching in on these characters’ lives and them sort of getting caught up in the comings and goings of the world.”

Dos Santos says that the new world of the show has affected the action as well, influencing the styles of martial arts used by the characters, which are no longer kingdom-specific styles, but more blended fighting techniques. This is particularly evident in Korra‘s Probending circuit, where teams of benders bring together various fighting styles in configurations that might not have been seen Aang or any of the characters in Avatarpulling off. To this end, the martial arts in the series will be more recognizable as their real-world counterparts but also stripped down, Dos Santos explaining that “[The fighters] have sort of hybridized all of their styles. So you’ll see a little bit of Western boxing, you’ll see some Muay Thai, you’ll see more straightforward, streamlined attacks that don’t necessarily focus on the flourishes and the bigger movements.” He allows that the action will still keep elements like elaborate flips to keep the action more cinematic. As an artist, Dos Santos says there’s a particular thrill in the challenge of visualizing a short jab or quick attack, while making it look exciting for the viewers.

If you’ve watched the fluid, stylish action from The Last Airbender and Korra, would probably won’t be too surprised to learn that both series have employed real martial artists for visual reference when choreographing the series’ fights. Dos Santos says they look to the pros’ movements from the storyboarding process all the way up to the final animation. Fight instructor Sifu Kisu has returned to lend his support to getting the fights looking right in Korra, along with MMA fighters Jeremy Humphries and Mac Danzig, who Dos Santos credits with “providing a lot of the moves you’ll see in the Probending arena.” Meanwhile, Steve Harada and Jake Huang bring along the stylized flips and acrobatics of “tricking” toKorra, which involves dynamic character moves away from the camera. Dos Santos says that he finds Harada and Huang’s work in particular “amazing,” and that “it’s like hanging out with Spider-Man.” Of the duo, he says “they do the craziest moves and blow it off like it’s nothing… They’ll do a 360 twist in mid-air right in front of you and then just drink a coffee like it’s nothing.”

“I’m a huge mixed martial arts fan—I have been for years,” Dos Santos tells me when I ask what fighting style is his preferred one to get onscreen as an animator. “To me, there’s something beautiful in the simplicity of a punch, the body language that goes on when a person throws a punch or a kick.” He says that for him, one of the most exciting parts ofKorra‘s production was getting real mixed martial artists in to perform for the show’s video reference, and that MMA as a field of fighting is really close to his heart as both a fan and artist. He joked that the athletes were probably fed up with him by the end of the reference shoots as he would try to capture their motion from seven or eight different angles.

Exclusive: The Legend of Korra Extended Action Sequence

Finally, Dos Santos drew a line between his Korra/Avatar work and the earlier superhero titles he’s worked on in the past: while his DCU Animated work dealt with scenes involving “heavier” perhaps darker scenes, he appreciates the more effervescent touch that goes into his latest gig. “One thing that I find refreshing about working on Avatar is when the drama kicks up a notch, it’s always cut with a really good sense of humor. And just when you think the series is going to take itself just a little too seriously, there’s a good amount of humor.” Dos Santos says that for the people creating Korra, they attempt to tie this to every aspect of the show’s storytelling, providing that mix of humor and drama as part of the fights, and of course the plots. And for him, this is how the show is able to reach all audiences the way it does.

The Legend of Korra airs Saturdays at 11:00 AM on Nickelodeon.

 

Original interview can be read here