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Creating An Ancient World
For producer Melissa Cobb, it wasn't only the film's content that intrigued her, it was also the way in which Po's story would be told: "From the very beginning, the directors really saw the film in CinemaScope, a wide-screen format. The CinemaScope frame, with its more expansive view, gave us the opportunity to make a much more epic movie, which was really consistent with the genre of kung fu. It also really gave us a chance to explore the look of China. Our goal was to make a movie that had a distinct look, taking advantage of the latest technology in animation. One of the principles that we came up with early on was based on Chinese art — ‘beauty in emptiness.' We tried to be disciplined in the cinematography and the design. We wanted to maintain simplicity in the shots, to allow the eye to focus on the character and the amazing sets that had been created.”

Black wholeheartedly endorsed the filmmakers' vision. "If you're setting a film in a certain locale, it's important to get it right. Not just because the people who actually live there might think, ‘That's not how it is,' but also because it's interesting. It's like if you really nail it, then the people who go to the movie are traveling to see that place as well. You want to take them somewhere specific and real and special. The way that they captured the beauty of the Chinese landscape and the architecture and artwork is mesmerizing. I have to admit that I've never been to China, but I imagine that when I do go, I'll think, ‘Wow, this is just like "Kung Fu Panda,” kind of.'”

Director Stevenson explains, "We wanted the audience to feel they were getting a big story, not just big action, but hopefully big laughs and big emotion. We wanted a big canvas to paint our story on and CinemaScope was the best canvas to do that. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio of CinemaScope is, to me, what movies should be filmed in. Every kung fu movie that I saw growing up was in ‘Scope,' because it's a perfect format to capture huge, dynamic action.”

Director Osborne continues, "The epic kung fu films have all used CinemaScope. It provides a broader view of the world. And you can actually tell a more intimate story in CinemaScope as well, which seems sort of counter to the idea of this very wide, broad view. But you can tell an intimate story because it allows you to get in really close and tight with the character. At the same time, you're also getting the entire environment around that character.”

Production designer Raymond Zibach and art director Tang Heng began research early in the process to put together the look of the film. Key to everyone was that it be inspired by Chinese art, landscape and architecture and would be, in its own way, true to Chinese culture. In a tale where creatures are dressed and gifted with a mastery of kung fu, it was important to ground the film in some kind of truth. The aim throughout was believability and cultural richness. As a result of these months of intensive research, the film is filled with details that probably only the trained eye may detect.

As production designer, Zibach is in charge of all visuals — from character to location to color to the styling of the whole film. He began exploratory designs about five years ago, mostly with animals and natural structures. He worked with character designer Nicolas Marlet to design the creatures in a somewhat semi human way, to allow them to do kung fu. The team embraced classic Chinese palace and temple architecture. Per Zibach "This film has a charm and individuality, which is different from what everybody else is doing in computer generated film. When we took what we'd done with our characters and put it next to something traditional like the beautiful architecture of China, it actually showed off our characters even more, lending to the whole fantasy of ‘Kung Fu Pan

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