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Immersed in Movies: How DreamWorks Made Two Versions of ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

Immersed in Movies: How DreamWorks Made Two Versions of 'Kung Fu Panda 3'

The good news for DreamWorks is that Kung Fu Panda 3 is a smash hit in China ($144 million and will soon surpass Star Wars: The Force Awakens), which bodes well for its Oriental DreamWorks studio. In fact, in an unprecedented move, Jackie Chan (Monkey) got to voice Po’s long-lost father, Li, for the Chinese-language version in Mandarin (view our exclusive comparison clip with Bryan Cranston below).

"Jackie Chan is such a huge icon, especially in China, and it was a great opportunity to have him play Li and give his own interpretation," said director Jennifer Yuh Nelson. "The writing is different to reflect the colloquial speech in China, but the characters themselves are different. Bryan has this big, bombastic personality and a crazy laugh. And Jackie is funny in different ways."

Chan had the advantage of shaping his portrayal while some of the character was still being built. In China, DreamWorks recreated the lips and movement to match his specific performance.

"When we see the two versions, Jackie’s is probably a little more sharp and quick. It’s a more temperate delivery," added director Alessandro Carloni. "Bryan was, in fact, quite instrumental in helping us discover who the characer was. We kept joking that after Breaking Bad there was comedy pent up inside him. So whenever there was a funny line, he would laugh and make it so loud." 

Cranston was very much a goofball like his son, Po, warm and cuddly, rather than dealing with a dark, guilt-ridden characterization.

"We tried to create comedy out of the contrasts in the characters," continued Carloni. "If Li was a stern father, we could build a story around it, but with the help of Bryan, we realized we already had contrast with Shifu and Tigress and maybe what Po needed was an ally and the two of them could become partners and play around."

Yuh Nelson suggested that Chan had the opportunity to shine dramatically as never before. "The scene when he talks about losing his son has such intensity. It’s very moving to see that."

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