Kung Fu Panda 3, the third film in the animated franchise from DreamWorks Animation, picks up where Kung Fu Panda 2 left off, as Po (Jack Black) reunites with his presumed-to-be dead father, Li (Bryan Cranston) – an event shown in the first official U.S. trailer. Eventually, the pair reportedly face-off with the series’ first supernatural villain in Kai (J.K. Simmons).
Previous Kung Fu Panda films have evoked the Chinese martial arts sub-genre of films, visually imitating them through with distinctive aesthetic choices and remarkable computer-animation artistry. The third film in the series promises to deliver even more on that front, with lush interpretations of Chinese geography and martial lore.
EW has posted an exclusive series of Kung Fu Panda 3 concept art pieces and cinemagraphs of the panda village teased at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2. Kung Fu Panda 3 production designer, Raymond Zibach, says the panda village will be featured front and center, with much of the panda village taking direct inspiration from the crew’s 10-day visit to Sichuan, China (in addition to being influenced by the idea of Shangri La, with the pandas hidden from the rest of the world):
“We used [Sichuan] as a jumping off point for what you saw at the very end of the second film, and then we kept drawing from that experience. We try to experience this through Po’s eyes, so we want to make it really special for him. The fact that he comes back to other pandas and is going to learn their way of life was kind of magical to him because he thought none of this ever existed.”
After falsely assuming that his fabled family and heritage had been destroyed in an act of mass genocide by the villainous peacock Shen (Gary Oldman) in the second film, Kung Fu Panda 3 will find Po as he interacts with other pandas like himself for the first time. All of this will, however, make for a certain artistic challenge for the filmmakers, as co-director Alessandro Carloni (who will be joined in the task by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed the second film) makes note:
“From a cinematic point of view, it was interesting because we used to cut from a panda to a duck to a tigress to a snake, and now we’re cutting from panda to panda. Every single moment is about making that place as beautiful as possible.”
Hopefully things will all work out for DreamWorks Animation with the making of Kung Fu Panda 3‘s lushly interpreted landscapes, and the multitude of pandas depicted won’t prove to be visually homogenous. After all, as co-director Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes note in her remarks on the production of the film:
“[Kung Fu Panda 3 is] a really great opportunity because you get to see what makes Po, Po, what makes him different, what makes him the same, and [we get to] really explore this entire world of pandas.”
Kung Fu Panda 3 will begin a theatrical release in the U.S. on January 29th, 2016.