Kung Fu Panda 3 marks a new phase for DreamWorks Animation: the start of a $330 million joint venture in Shanghai with China Media Capital and Shanghai Media Group to expand its global reach in the world’s dominant market. This includes an east/west artistic collaboration through the new Oriental DreamWork studio, which will make movies for both China and a worldwide audience. As a result, KFP3 contains two animated versions and separate casts for American and Chinese consumption.
As for the movie, it fittingly wraps up the saga of Po (Jack Black) by looking forward and back through the force of Chi and the introduction of biological father Li (Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston), maniacal villain Kei (Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons) and overzealous ribbon dancer Mei Mei (Kate Hudson). I recently chatted with producer Melissa Cobb and directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni.
Bill Desowitz: It’s such a natural progression for Po to meet his biological father to help fulfill his destiny as the Dragon Warrior.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson: Each of these movies has a moment that tells Po what he needs to be for the next one. So we had to set up what happened to the father, what happened to the pandas and that led us to the third one.
Melissa Cobb: The audience does too. After we went to China after the first one, everyone wanted to know why Po has a goose for a dad, so we had to answer that.
BD: And so you combined everything into one and we enter the spirit realm for a final confrontation.
Alessandro Carloni: That’s exactly what we wanted to do. In Panda, the movie starts with this epic vision of what a legendary warrior is in Po’s mind. And we wanted the spirit realm to be the wish-fulfillment of Po’s vision of the legendary warrior. And so he ends up living the dream of what the Dragon Warrior truly is.
And Raymond Zibach, our production designer, actually used the original design of the dream of Po to paint and create the spirit realm and we recreated that exact environment so he’s living the dream in Panda 1.
BD: Tell me about going to China and collaborating with Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai.
JYN: It’s been very amazing to collaborate with ODW because on the first film we had to research most of our stuff online and in books. On the second film we went and did a lot of research. But this time we actually have artists there and they’re doing designs. In fact, early on, we went to ODW and the first time we met the crew, they were fully dressed in traditional clothing to show us how to design Mei Mei, and everybody did ceremonies to show how these clothes were used for a specific time and not to mix dynasties. And nobody here would know that.
MC: Someone could write calligraphy for you or design something in that traditional style.
BD: It’s a wonderful hybrid of east and west.
MC: Yeah, and it’s a perfect chance to take their skills and apply it to a Hollywood movie.
Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.