Return of the Panda Warrior

Are you all set with your Kung Fu gear? We sure are. We can’t wait for the third part of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. And we’ve been binge watching the previous two parts.

So just before the release this weekend, we thought of sharing a few things that we know about the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Did you know that the film was called Daydreamer to keep the original title under wraps? Read on for more interesting facts.

Source: DreamWorksTV

Bringing real to reel
Since the story takes place in China, animators spent years studying Chinese art, and travelled to China before the actual production. In fact, all the 2D dream & flashback sequences resembled Chinese shadow puppetry. For the music, John Powell & Hans Zimmer travelled to China to study local orchestra & instrumentation, and spent time with the Chinese National Symphony. The entire team also took Kung Fu & Tai Chi lessons to understand how the characters would move & fight.

The franchise uses a lot of colour symbolism. Gold represents heroism, red represents power, blue represents negativity or evil, and green represents wisdom.

Changing roles
While Kung Fu Panda was directed by John Stevenson (of Shrek fame) & Mark Osborne (of Spongebob Square Pants fame), Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the head of story for the first film, directed Kung Fu Panda 2, making it the first animated blockbuster solely directed by a woman. For Kung Fu Panda 3, she has joined hands with Alessandro Carloni, the animation supervisor of the first film.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of Kung Fu Panda 2 & 3. Source: Google images
Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of Kung Fu Panda 2 & 3. Source: Google images

The filmmakers took inspiration from other popular films & animation.

The rooftop chase scene pays homage to the wirework of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and the interior of the Jade Palace is a nod to the king’s palace in Hero. The fighting style of Mantis was inspired from Hanna-Barbera’s Atom Ant. They liked the idea of the creature being so small that when moving fast, he couldn’t be seen. The Royal Bridge was based on the bridge in Indian Jones & The Temple of Doom.

A global affair
Although a DreamWorks production, the animation team had artists from all over the world, including USA, Mexico, Belgium, Italy, China, Sweden, Philippines, Canada, Ireland, Israel, UK, Spain, Japan & France.

Chinese influence
The film also uses a lot of character names that have relevance in Cantonese & Mandarin. Shifu’s name means ‘teacher master’, a title often used for addressing martial arts trainers. And Tai Lung’s name translates to ‘great dragon’. The name of the prison is Chorm-Gom, which literally translates to ‘sit in prison’. Also, the furious five are based on the five animal forms found throughout Kung Fu.

Kung Fu Panda characters
Source: Google images

Animal spirit
As per the original story, Po was to be lazy in the beginning, and become more confident once the training began. But once Jack Black, the voice of Po, came on board, he suggested that Po be a Kung Fu enthusiast from the beginning to make him more likeable. We sure do like him!

Black got into the spirit of his character. He underwent Kung Fu training, and often acted out the scenes physically while recording. He also added a lot of lines during recording that were maintained in the final films.

Story changes
Early versions of the story gave Grand Master Oogway a mob boss personality. Thank goodness that didn’t make it to the later drafts! Initially, it was also decided that Mantis was to be the villain in the first film. However, it was later changed to Tai Lung, the snow leopard. This was a much better version as snow leopards hunt both giant pandas (Po) & red pandas (Shifu) in real life. Some versions also had Mr. Ping as Po’s stern boss instead of his adoptive father. This was later changed after the suggestion came from one of the storyboard artists.

From 2D to 3D
Before animating the fight sequences in 3D, the animators completed the entire sequence in 2D so that they would have complete knowledge & control over how the animals would move during the sequence. You can never get away from the basics!

Kung Fu Panda
Source: Google images

Tough affair
The animators claim that Viper, in the first film, and Lord Shen, in the second film, were the most difficult character to create. Viper’s model contained 120 different bones, and they used Chinese poetry as the markings on her skin. As per Nelson, detailing Shen’s large body & feathers was like animating six characters, all at once.

A family affair
Remember the smitten bunny in the dream sequence of the first film? Well, the voice actor was none other than Black’s wife, Tanya Haden. And Black’s son & Angelina Jolie’s (voice of the Tigress) children will be the voices of various baby panda’s in Kung Fu Panda 3.

Jackie Chan
We cannot imagine a martial art film without Jackie Chan. And the Kung Fu Panda franchise does not disappoint. Along with giving his voice to Monkey in the English version, Chan also gave his voice to the Cantonese & Mandarin versions of the movies. In fact, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that Monkey uses Chan’s signature double thumbs-up in the movies.

Setting the date
The studio had to change the release date several times. The movie was originally set to release in December 2015. But that clashed with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And the studio is no fool. They realised that Kung Fu was sure to lose in front of the lightsaber. So the date was pushed back to 2016. It is obvious that they wanted the movie to be released at a time when it would get maximum mileage. But have they not thought about the T20 finals, or have they?

Emotion vs action
The first film was about Po realising his true potential. The second one was about Po using his skills & learning for a larger good. Looks like the third film continues on the theme where Po will not only save people but will pass on his teachings & train others in Kung Fu. This movie also promises to bring the story full circle, with Po meeting his real family & discovering his village & people. Will this be the end of Po’s journey or will it lead to new adventures? We’ll have to wait for DreamWorks to answer that one.

Source: Flicks And The City Plus


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