Shyamalan talks The Last Airbender at Licensing International Expo

Nickelodeon kicked off the Licensing International Expo 2008 today at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City with star power, including a presentation by special guest M. Night Shyamalan and Nickelodeon Movies’ and Paramount Pictures’ executives, where attendees got a preview of Shyamalan’s July 2, 2010, theatrical film in the making, The Last Airbender.

During the presentation for The Last Airbender, Academy Award®-nominated writer/director Shyamalan commented, “Casting has begun and we’ve seen thousands of kids. I believe we’ve found the next superstars.” In recounting his excitement about the project and how he got involved, Shyamalan recalled, “I called up my agent and said I have a movie I want to do. We phoned Paramount and Nickelodeon, and told them that we think they have the next STAR WARS.”

Shyamalan also discussed how he came to work on the Avatar film, crediting his daughter as his first introduction to the action-oriented series. “I sat down and watched four television episodes back-to-back with my kids. We were riveted. I said, ‘This would make a phenomenal movie!’ My wife said, ‘This is the one you’ve been waiting for.”

Cyma Zarghami, President of Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, began the morning’s presentation, touching on the strength of the Nickelodeon brand and future plans for the hit property. “We’re tremendously excited about the growth potential as new audiences meet our hero in live-action form in The Last Airbender,” she said. “[Nickelodeon] is developing initiatives to super-serve the show’s hardcore super-fans in anticipation of The Last Airbender’s premiere.”

Also present were Paramount Film Group’s President, John Lesher, and Paramount Pictures’ Vice Chairman, Rob Moore, who voiced their anticipation of The Last Airbender. Both Lesher and Moore cited the film as “one of those rare event movies that moves audiences globally and ensures the franchise a long, prosperous future.”

Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products (NVCP) President, Leigh Anne Brodsky, closed the presentation remarking about potential future Avatar licensing and merchandising programs. “We’re especially optimistic about this movie’s prospects given The Last Airbender’s already rabid, global fan base. The Last Airbender is a living, breathing, organic brand that’s poised to explode, [and] our strategy is to work with partners who want to authentically build the brand around the globe.”

Following the Avatar presentation, attendees stopped by an exclusive CD signing by Miranda Cosgrove, star of Nickelodeon’s tween live-action hit iCarly, which launches a consumer products line later this month. The series’ first iCarly album hits shelves today and apparel, electronics and stationery will all become available at retail later this summer. iCarly follows a cast of characters on and off webcam as they create webcasts featuring everything from comedy sketches and talent contests to interviews, recipes and problem- solving. Kid viewers can interact with the TV characters at real-life companion website

NVCP also announced the debut of new product lines for Ni Hao, Kai-lan — the first animated preschool series to incorporate Chinese culture and Mandarin Chinese language — and Neopets — the world’s most youth-engaging virtual world and one of the stickiest on the web. Additionally, NVCP unveiled the first of many Slime! branded products, along with expansion programs for Nickelodeon’s most popular characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, The Naked Brothers Band and Go, Diego, Go!.