We’ve known for some time that M. Night Shyamalan would follow The Happening with a take on the American pseudo-anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender. And just to remind us that we know and care about the effort he’s putting forth, Variety reports that Paramount is staking out a date: July 2, 2010. Since that’s only a couple months after James Cameron’s own Avatar will hit DVD (assuming it makes the Dec 18, 2009 release date) Paramount has shortened the title to a more awkward The Last Airbender.

(Side note: the trade makes no mention of this film being the first of three; Shyamalan had discussed the project as a film trilogy when speaking about it last year.)

Shyamalan, for his part, is approaching the project with characteristic humility and reservation. “In ‘The Last Airbender,’ I see an opportunity to make a live-action version of a Miyazaki film,” he tells Variety.

The creators of Avatar, which in this incarnation will follow “a young hero who has the ability to manipulate the elements and stop a ruthless nation from destroying the three other nations” have acknowledged the influence of Miyazaki, but they also claim Shaolin Soccer as a touchstone. There’s probably no room for Shyamalan to properly honor the artistry of Miyazaki and Stephen Chow in the same feature, so I can see why he’d choose to concentrate on the easy target.