In the final scene of “Kung Fu Panda 2,” we were teased with a glimpse of a panda village where our hero Po’s long-lost father, Li, is living. Five years and nearly 600 artists later, that village is fully realized, and has become the 8th wonder of the world. As the visual development images show, Li’s home is a stunningly majestic and picturesque world. It’s a living paradise that mixes ancient Chinese architecture with the pure beauty of nature.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is the first co-production between DreamWorks Animation and the Shanghai-based studio, Oriental DreamWorks. The alliance has brought a striking level of detail and authenticity to this panda Shangri-La.
“We worked with Oriental DreamWorks to create a faithful panda environment,” says production designer Raymond Zibach, better known as Ramone. “Many of the details we used to surround the pandas were done by the art department in China.”
“If you look closely, the decorative elements of the panda village were designed by the art department at Oriental DreamWorks,” adds director Jennifer Yuh Nelson. “They researched every meaning behind the symbols, which was incredibly helpful in our quest to achieve authenticity.”
Looking to China’s gorgeous natural wonders for inspiration, the creative team took a 10-day trip to Qingcheng, part of the Sichuan province, to soak up the ambiance.
“It was incredibly inspirational,” says Ramone. “We saw the mystical mountain outside the city of Chengdu, which is where they have a panda reserve.”
“If you’ve ever dreamed of being surrounded by baby pandas, this is where it is!” says Jennifer.
Returning to the States with terabytes of exquisite images, both the U.S. and Chinese teams began creating a digital 3D panda village. The fantastical world could then be explored with a virtual camera.
“We can scout – virtually – any location within the panda village,” explains director Alessandro Carloni. “By creating this panda paradise as a whole set piece, we were able to fly through it and discover fresh new angles.”
“It was a huge technological leap from the first film,” adds Jennifer.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” arrives in theaters on March 16, 2016 from DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.