For two Kung Fu Panda animated movies, Po has believed that all his bear kin were in panda heaven – that he was the lone survivor. But Kung Fu Panda 3 proves Po wrong. The new film is a Panda-palooza.
“There is great joy,” says Jack Black, the voice of Po. “Lo and behold, there’s a secret panda village. There’s intense rejoicing as I am reunited with my people. There are even cute baby pandas. Those guys are going to be the life of the party, for sure.”
Po has a chance run-in with his long-lost panda father Li (Bryan Cranston), who brings Po back to an enclave where the pandas have been living since the fierce panda attack alluded to in DreamWorks Animation’s 2011 sequel.
Po also meets an overeager, amorous young female panda named Mei Mei (Rebel Wilson),who is a wannabe ribbon dancer. This does not turn out to be a panda love story however.
“Po’s a little freaked out, since he’s never been around a female of his own species,” says Black. “I don’t think he has game in that realm yet.”
Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson even visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan, China, to study playful panda behavior for use in the film.
“That is the most shockingly adorable place — there are nurseries filled with gaggles of baby pandas,” says Nelson. “A lot of how the pandas play was inspiration for the movie.”
It’s not all fun. The biological father/son reunion causes concern for Po’s adopted father, the noodle shop-owning duck Mr. Ping (“He feels very protective,” says Black). There’s also a menacing supernatural villain called Kai who poses a threat to both the village and the world. Po has to train his fellow pandas in martial arts to fight back.
Kung Fu Panda 3 enlists the original characters from the past hit films, with all the Furious Five kung fu warriors returning, as well as Dustin Hoffman’s Master Shifu. Meanwhile, the new voices are bringing their own talents in the recording studio – Wilson wrote a love poem dedicated to Po and even pulled out pink nunchucks during her first meeting with directors, just to demonstrate how much she was thinking about her animated character.
Her martial art talents were appreciated. “We were blown away, she does play a nunchuck-wielding panda,” says co-director Alessandro Carloni. “But I wanted to point out (to her) that this is an animated film.”
Kung Fu Panda 3 is set for release on 26th January 2016.