Everybody’s Kung Fu fighting.
And now YOU have the theme song in your head too. You’re welcome.
It is time for the student to become the master. Can you reach inside yourself and overcome doubts, and be the best you that you can be?
This is what Kung Fu Panda 3 is all about.
So recently I received an email from a media company asking me if I wanted to preview Kung Fu Panda 3, interview the two directors and tell my readers about it.
Uhm, sure? This is the fun side of blogging!
I immediately started thinking of questions to ask these directors- Jennifer Yu and Alessandro Carloni. Both of whom worked on Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2. AND Jennifer is the first female lead director on a Dreamworks animated movie with Kung Fu Panda 2, that was also nominated for an Academy Award. Kind of a nice resume.
My first question I thought of was will there be snacks at the interview? Okay, I know. That’s not really a question, but you know how my mind works. Then my second question was Why Kung Fu Panda 3? Aren’t we done already?
Well, let me explain.
Here’s the gist of the film- Master Shifu tells Po that he needs to pull his weight. Po will now be the master and do the teaching. That’s right. Well, that’s a tall order for a Dragon Warrior who likes to eat dumplings and high five the villagers all day like he’s a rock star. Because by now, Po IS a rock star where he lives and folks love him. It’s the same gang back- Tigress, Crane, Monkey, as well as a new villian- OF COURSE.
But since the KFP2 movie finished with a clip of a panda looking off in the distance wondering if Po was his lost son, director, Jennifer Yuh felt that story arc needed to finish and for Po’s panda dad to find him.
Thus, we get to meet Papa Po, Li, and it’s a fun reunion that really connects audiences with the way Po has his adoptive father, Mr. Ping, and meets and gets to love his biological Panda dad. Big stuff regarding adoption that is beautifully handled in the story line to make everyone happy.
A new villian, Kai enters from the spirit realm and is stealing the chi that flows from Kung Fu masters in order to take over the world. Kai is headed to destroy the panda population, who are the Masters of Chi, and Po must save his village from the evil Kai.
This requires Po to travel with his panda father to the secret panda village in order to learn the ways of being a Chi Master. When they arrive and Po can see every little baby panda, old panda, grandpa panda, chubby pandas, roly poly pandas- he feels right at home.
Here’s where when you’re watching the movie you say in your head, “wow Dreamworks, way to nail the merchandising.” There are adorable pandas everywhere. Panda babies galore. Dang are they cute. And roly poly. And cute. And they love dumplings. And finally Po is back where he belongs with his people, er pandas.
But wait. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are many lessons learned, there’s good over evil, and there’s self acceptance. Pretty great for kids of all ages to see played out. Oh, and parents, don’t worry- NO ONE DIES! You don’t have to worry about any trigger moments for your kids going in to this because, thank goodness, it’s not going to have a giant zinger at some point that makes you scream at the screen going, “REALLY?” and comfort your kids or have any crazy explaining to do.
When I sat down with Jennifer and Alessandro, I had a great time asking my questions, and I think they enjoyed answering them. Here’s my interview:
Me- Why KFP3?
Jennifer- We wanted to finish the coda of what we started in the movies all along and have Po meet his Panda father. We wanted to bring the story full circle to Po’s origins.
Me- What’s your favorite message of the movie?
Alessandro- That the struggle within continues. Even when you triumph over one thing, there’s always something else to tackle. You’re never finished.
I asked Jennifer about Dreamworks’ future plans for more female lead characters in their animated films. Jennifer was the first Dreamworks female lead director to work on Kung Fu Panda 2.
I found that Alessandro’s answer was the most interesting. He said that he talked to actress Geena Davis, and she said the day we can accept our leading ladies with flaws is when we’ll have more female characters. Po is very flawed, and chubby, and obnoxious. And when we can portray women like that without any offense, we’ll level the field. Because both Jennifer and Alessandro agreed, that of course, more lead characters should be female. But also to hopefully come to a time when we’re no longer keeping score of boy versus girl because great stories are not gender specific.
Jennifer also loves when she can talk to film students about their work and their passion. She says whenever she talks on campuses, there’s a large majority of female film students and she loves to inspire and make those future colleagues proud.
I asked both of them who their favorite characters from the stories are- Tigress is Jennifer’s answer. Why? Because she’s a bad ass, of course! Alessandro’s answer was Po. But when he described his reason for it, I had to agree, even though mine is Tigress too. He said he loves how Po is enthusiastic about everything. He has joy in his friends, his Kung Fu, his appetite! All of it. I brought up the example of how a dog is happy to just go outside and doesn’t look at it as ‘oh I have to do this run now’, but instead, ‘Yay! Outside!’. That’s how Po is. A happy panda that comes to life with 100% enthusiasm.
When I asked both of them how they feel when they see the finished product, I was surprised by their answer. Coming from my personal background of writing, or even performing on stage, I’m highly critical of my individual work. I asked if they watch the movie with a lense of how it could be better, or do they sit back and enjoy it.
Both of them, and especially Jennifer, shared how much they appreciate the finished product. And it’s because that they have a team. A whole army of animators, creators, writers, and more that put their work and love and life into the project. When they see these gems of gold or treasures throughout, even they are in awe of the finished work. In their words, they still ‘geek out’ over the results!
Jennifer described even the score that went into this movie. She said that they were sitting in on the orchestra scoring the final battle and culminating scene and they were literally composing it as they went. Honing it, fine tuning it (for lack of a better phrase!) as she sat there and watched the screen and heard the music simulatenously. She said it was such a goose bump moment that she truly appreciates every piece that goes into the final work.
My last question had to be about food. There were no snacks during the interview. Just water. But THAT’S OKAY. Really. Even though every time I watch a Kung Fu Panda film or even see a trailer, all I want is Dim Sum. I asked Jennifer and Alessandro if they could only eat one thing for a year, which would they choose- noodles or dumplings?
Jennifer- Noodles. (That’s my girl! I’m a noodle lover too.)
Alessandro- Dumplings. And he said that every time Jack Black came in to the studio, they always had a big platter of dumplings that they would eat! That’s the job I want! Because basically, Jack Black IS Po, and Po is Jack Black. I mean right?
If you can’t wait to take your kids to see Kung Fu Panda 3, it will be in theaters, January 29th. I got to see it in 3D and it was truly beautiful and entertaining. If you don’t want to shell out the dollars for 3D, I don’t blame you. You’ll enjoy it just as much in 2D. And then save that money to go out for Dim Sum after!
Thanks Jennifer and Alessandro! I look forward to your future Dreamworks projects.