The third film in the hugely successful Dreamworks series is breaking box office records for an animated film in China, and has had the biggest-ever January opening weekend in the United States.
The movie features an all-star cast with the voices of Jack Black as Po, J. K. Simmons as Kai, Bryan Cranston as Li, Dustin Hoffman as Shifu, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Lucy Liu as Viper, Jackie Chan as Monkey, Seth Rogen as Mantis, David Cross as Crane, James Hong as Mr Ping, Kate Hudson as Mei Mei and Randall Duk Kim as Oogway.
Late last year KFK were privileged to be among a select few to be invited to a top secret preview screening of the nearly-completed movie.
The animation and action is as good as ever and there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Fans of the old school kung fu films are also catered for with subtle references to the training sequences from old Shaw Brothers movies. We asked the Directors Jennifer Yuh and Alessandro Carloni if that was deliberate, and if they had sought the help of Jackie Chan, who voices “Monkey”, when it came to the martial arts sequences. Although Jackie didn’t have any input into the action, they did use various experts to confirm some of the authenticity of the moves used – and it shows! Jennifer Yuh also recalled films such as “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” and “18 Bronzemen” that they had fun referring to in the films.
Producer Melissa Cobb let us into a little secret that although Jackie Chan voices “Monkey” in the English language version, he is actually the voice of Po’s father “Li” in the Mandarin version! She also let slip that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s children perform the voices of some of the young pandas in the film!
Editor Claire Knight revealed that actress Kate Hudson had a great time recording her role as “Mei Mei”. Sometimes the hardest part in the editing process was cutting out Kate’s laughing at the end of a take!
The key to the success of the Kung Fu Panda films for the whole team is that there has to be a good story with meaningful characters. For this film the hero “Po” finally gets to meet his real father, “Li”, brilliantly characterised by Bryan Cranston. Po himself has evolved, and he must now step up from being the student, to being the Master, and try to teach a secret hidden village of pandas the art of Kung Fu!
No Kung Fu Panda film would be complete without a sinister villain, and for this film, they possibly have their scariest yet in “Kai”, a powerful and vicious supernatural warrior, who was the former brother-in-arms of Oogway, with the ability to steal other warriors’ chi life force. Voiced by J.K. Simmons, he brings real menace to the role, but is also the source of some of the big laughs too.
UK fans of all ages will get their chance to enjoy the Kung Fu Panda fun when the film is released on 11th March. We can’t wait!