For anyone with a place in their hearts for kung fu movies and absurdly cute CGI animals, the release of Kung Fu Panda 2 is cause for giddy excitement. The first film was a critical success that also cleaned up at the box office in 2008 and Dreamworks Animation began work on the sequel shortly after it opened in theatres.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson was key member of the creative/design team on the original Kung Fu Panda and was promoted to director for this second outing.
Speaking to Metro, the filmmaker said she was thrilled to return. “I was always ready to keep going regardless of whether I was the director or not and a lot of the same group stayed on because everyone loved the first movie so much. It was always a passion project for everyone involved and that continued on the sequel.”
Creating a CGI animated film on this scale was a huge undertaking for the director, who worked on the project for three years before it was complete.
“We didn’t start seeing finish animated sequences until about a year and a half out,” admitted Nelson. “It trickles in a little at a time and it’s always a shock when you’re working with rough black and white storyboards that you’re used to and then all of a sudden you see the same scenes in gorgeous colour animation. It’s a big jolt for the crew, because you suddenly realize what the final film will look like.”
To help break up the tedium during the long production, Nelson said the crew would hold “kung fu movie lunches,” watching an endless list of classic titles in the genre to inspire the vast team of animators.
“We’d watch everything from Drunken Master to Kung Fu Hustle,” said the director. “That’s one of the reasons why these movies aren’t parodies. They are a homage to movies that we all really love.”
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