The Kung-Fu Panda franchise has so far achieved something of a minor miracle – tackling a premise that's extremely ridiculous and actually crafting a pair of pretty decent martial arts films from it. Fast-paced and visually ambitious, both Kung-Fu Panda movies have drummed up box office numbers guaranteed to sustain a prolonged franchise.
Dreamworks is certainly wasting no time in preparing for the production of the third installment in the Kung-Fu Panda series. Already scheduled to debut in 2016, Kung-Fu Panda 3 has begun pulling in actors to provide the voices for a whole new gang of characters.
Variety shares the news that Kung-Fu Panda 3 has hired Bryan Cranston (Argo), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), and Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids). At the moment, it's unknown what characters the trio of actors have been recruited to play. They'll join returning stars Jack Black (Bernie), Angelina Jolie (The Tourist), and Dustin Hoffman (Stranger Than Fiction).
Cranston is a logical pick due to his current Breaking Bad star clout. He's also shown significant ability as a voice actor – he voiced James Gordon in Batman: Year One, a deranged astronaut in season 3 of Archer, and adopted a nigh-unrecognizable Russian accent in last year's Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
Like Cranston, Wilson is a natural choice given her rising popularity and knack for vocal imitation. Able to play both droll and extremely silly, Wilson could be a real casting coup for the film. She has previously lent her voice to a piratical marsupial in Ice Age: Continental Drift.
Of the three newcomers, Mikkelsen is something of the odd man out. He has little previous voiceover experience, playing a part in the English version of Moomins and the Comet Chase (seriously). This isn't to say that Mikkelsen will be a poor fit; his grim, sandpaper voice has helped him craft a Hannibal Lecter almost entirely different than previous incarnations. It'll be amusing to see if he has been cast as anyone other than Kung-Fu Panda 3's heavy.
While the casting announcement does seem to have an eye toward three actors currently in the pop cultural spotlight, it also shows that Kung-Fu Panda 3 is trying to recruit proven talents. Mikkelsen is the only shaky pick of the bunch, but only insomuch that he's an unproven as a voice actor. Though the movie is certainly a long way from beginning production, it looks as if it's starting off on the right foot.
Kung-Fu Panda 3 will crash into theaters on March 18th, 2016.