After dissing Disney and handing Warner Bros. the box office flop that was Lady in the Water, M. Night Shyamalan is packing his bags and heading to Paramount -- or, more specifically, MTV Films and Nick Movies. The writer-director has just inked a three-picture deal to adapt Nick TV's animated kiddie show Avatar into a big-screen, live-action trilogy (or shall I say, potential trilogy). Oh yes, and this comes only a few hours after Fox announced that it had officially greenlit James Cameron's Avatar ... though the only thing both projects have in common is the same title.
If it all goes through, this will be the first time since 1999's Stuart Little that Shyamalan takes on a project that is not based on his own original story (Shyamalan adapted Little from the E.B. White book, but did not direct), and only the second time the filmmaker has decided to work on kid-friendly material (unless you count his so-called bedtime story, Lady in the Water). While I'm not familiar with the toon, Avatar: The Last Airbender (the full title of both the show and the film) is apparently set in an "Asian-influenced fantasy world" and revolves around an irresponsible, care-free Avatar who is placed in charge of stopping the Fire Nation from wreaking havoc on the Water, Earth and Air nations.
It sounds wonderful, but it's not that easy -- see, both Fox and Paramount claim they own the name Avatar. The latter says they registered the name with the MPAA, while the former went all schoolyard bully and noted: "We own the movie title 'Avatar.' There won't be another film called 'Avatar' coming from anyplace." Hell yeah! Something tells me that Fox rep threw in a little "Booyah!" afterwards, yet Variety decided it might be best to leave it out. It's also important to note that Shyamalan is also shopping other projects (the man does have an ego and a rep greater than twelve Fire Nations combined), and so Avatar: The One Where M. Night Bites the Bullet and Takes It Up the You Know Where might not be the next Shyamalan epic to go into production.