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Kung Fu Panda commentary
[The screen opens up to the DreamWorks logo.]
JOHN STEVENSON: I'm John Stevenson, the other director on Kung Fu Panda.
MARK OSBORNE: And welcome to the commentary! It's been a long four years.
[Opening 2-D sequence begins with a panda warrior approaching a tavern.]
OSBORNE: We were really inspired by anime in making this film, so we wanted to start the film not only as an homage to anime, but we wanted to find a new way to create a 2-D look for kung fu. And we're really, really excited with what Ramone and Jen came up with for the look of this sequence.
STEVENSON: Also, I like the idea of starting a computer generated movie with a traditional 2-D sequence. We love traditional animation and hope it comes back. We particularly love it when it's very stylized, as it is in this dream sequence here. We also thought it would be the perfect way of showing the biggest contrast between Po's dream life, where he's free to do all these crazy, heroic things. And contrast that when we go into our computer-generated images with his more gravity-based reality.
OSBORNE: We should also talk about James Baxter, who is the fantastic animator behind this sequence. We were very lucky to have him involved in this. It was a combination of wanting to be limited, look like anime, but we wanted fluid animation. They came up with a great style that was fluid, at the same time had Po's limited quality of anime.
STEVENSON: Also, we've got hugely vibrant, saturated colors, 'cause we're going to make the contrast once we go to what's reality in our film. When we're using computer graphics of a more muted palette when we first see Po. It's really a Technicolor dream that goes to a more subdued color palette when we go into reality. It's worth pointing out that this is the first CG movie at DreamWorks to be shot in CinemaScope.
[The 2-D scene disappears as the panda warrior turns into Po lying on the floor in his room.]
OSBORNE: So here we are coming up on the great reveal that this has all been a dream. And we find Po in the reality that now he has weight. And we get to meet Jack, the real Po, for the first time. We meet him in his environment, it's very different, very quiet. It was something we wanted to show, the contrast between the dream life and the reality as much as possible.
STEVENSON: The other thing worth noting, because it's a visual motif we will be revisiting throughout the film, our first real look at Po, he's upside down. Po being upside down is something we'll see a few times. I'll point them out, they each have a particular significance to us.
OSBORNE: Dan Wagner did a lot of the animation we're seeing here. He's really the master of the Po animation and established what Po would look like early on. The subtlety of his acting, I think Dan did an incredible job of establishing the sensitivity of the character.
STEVENSON: That shadow of Po's father, we put that in the category of one of our way-home type jokes.
OSBORNE: Nobody laughs at it.
STEVENSON: Nobody gets it.
OSBORNE: Hey, can't win them all.
STEVENSON: It's supposed to be a misdirect that that shadow is the shadow of a panda. So, next time see if that works for you. It certainly doesn't work for most people the first time. That's one of our failures, I think, in trying to make an interesting reveal that Po's father is a goose.
OSBORNE: Why? Why is Po's dad a goose? A lot of people come out of screenings asking that question. For us, it was a hilarious thing that one of our story artists came up with. Alfred Gimeno, he always threw out these big, wacky ideas. At one point he had Po's dad as a goose, it was hilarious, we loved it and ran with it.
STEVENSON: Originally, Po was working, had a mean goose boss, when he was working as a short order cook. Afred said, "He's not his boss, he's his dad."
OSBORNE: And he was a caring dad, putting his hat on him, putting his apron on him.
STEVENSON: We should make a big shout out right now for Mr. James Hong, who does an absolutely wonderful job as Po's dad. He brought a lot of warmth and heart and comedy to Po's father, who is a very simple character. He has only got room in his head for two things. There are only two things in the world he loves, his son and noodles. That's it. He can't possibly imagine why Po would ever want to do anything other than noodles.
OSBORNE: People say why doesn't Po tell his dad about his love of kung fu? It's because he doesn't want to break his dad's heart. In the early days of exploring this, trying to figure out who Po was, at one point he lived with his mom down at the Bamboo Forest. He worked at a chime factory.
STEVENSON: There used to be loads of other pandas that lived in a panda village.
OSBORNE: We tried everything until we settled on this idea that he works in his dad's shop.
STEVENSON: And it makes him the outcast, in a sense, there's no other pandas in the film.
OSBORNE: This is our first glimpse of kung fu, with the Furious Five attacking Shifu. This was actually one of the last kung fu sequences we did on the film. At this point, animation knew how to make these characters do all the cool things we see throughout the movie. We wanted to start our introduction of the world of kung fu with a huge, explosive bang. Have the Five attacking this little old man.
STEVENSON: It's also the first time that we show how our camera work is different for our kung fu scenes. It's our rule, when we're just shooting dialogue and character scenes, the cameras are pretty restrained, pretty formal. When we go to our fight scenes, the camera gets more active and dynamic.
OSBORNE: It's a really important contrast, to make sure your guys get a rich experience. Many ups and downs.
OSBORNE: This is the first time we're seeing Dustin Hoffman. We wanted to give you the misdirect that he's the wise, old master. And then we reveal him to be the least Zen Zen Master ever. And we also have the amazing Randall Duk Kim as Master Oogway. We were very lucky to find him. He has such warmth. Every time we played any sequence with Shifu and Oogway, even Dustin was like, "That guys' amazing."
[Fleeting flashback of Tai Lung appears.]
STEVENSON: We went for a very abstract version of Tai Lung, and processed the animation so that it felt almost flat and 2-D. But, it's also the introduction of our evil color. We have a complex color theory in the film. Blue is our negative color, associated with Tai Lung, he's a snow leopard. That's the first very blue sequence. And the petals that are on the Moon Pool, which will tie into Oogway's peach tree, and it's also the introduction of the circle motif.
STEVENSON: And we elected to have, basically, not a common villain, but a scary, driven, in his mind, an emotionally justified villain. But we were making the pact that Walt Disney made with his audience, for all the classic films, which is there is going to be scary stuff and dangerous stuff in this movie, but it's going to work out OK.
[Scene changes to Po waiting tables in the noodle shop.]
STEVENSON: I was in the first recording session with Jack. He started to reveal his more insecure and vulnerable side, something that has been in all of his performances, to mitigate some of the abrasiveness. But he really was bringing that to the floor. That was a huge gift that he brought to the film. And once we saw that, it really made Po as much more appealing character. A guy who was very self-aware, who knew his limitations and... and would often feel very bad about them. We went back and tried to retool the whole film to support that idea which Jack had brought to us.
OSBORNE: Then we have to shackle Po to this noodle cart, as much as he dreams about kung fu, he just can't get away from this noodle burden that his father puts on him. And we see how that plays out at the bottom of the staircase of 1,000 stairs. That becomes a big, running gag throughout the movie. Po and stairs. People laugh.
[Scene shows Po dragging his noodle cart up the steps.]
STEVENSON: Ours is probably the most stair-centric movie we could think of, we're always having Po run up or fall down the stairs throughout the film. There's a reason for it in the end. But, there's a lot of stairs in our movie.
OSBORNE: In this gag, we wanted to be as dramatic as possible in setting up this whole Po climbing up the stairs. We wanted to make it in the hot sun, like he's crawling across the desert. Then we get this great reveal. It was one of the earlier jokes that we trued 1,000 different versions of, and finally settled on this version.
OSBORNE: J.R. Reed... it's amazing. We got all of Tenacious D in our movie.
STEVENSON: The Shaw brothers, a tip of the hat, obviously, to the legendary kung fu film studio that came up with some of the greatest martial arts movies ever made.
[Scene switches to Oogway and Shifu talking at the Palace Arena.]
OSBORNE: So here when we get in there's actually all these great mechanisms the Furious Five are going to battle. You see them just for a split second, but one of the earliest versions of this sequence, you saw the Five battling these giant mechanical beasts and all these really cool things.
STEVENSON: Buy the game, you'll get to see what they look like!
OSBORNE: Yeah, yeah. But for us it was better, story-wise, to stay with Po and to be trapped outside with Po in the shadow of this great event that's happening inside. It gave us a much better stage, you know, for the comedic beats of Po struggling to get in. To not see that stuff.
STEVENSON: There's a couple of lighting choices, like everything inside the auditorium is lit with bright sunshine. Po's outside and he's kept in shadows. So he's away from his dream, from everything he wants. And we also, unapologetically, decided this was going to be a very broad, slapsticky, sort of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones kind of sequence with those kind of visual gags, to establish that we could do that. This is also one of the most technically complex of our sequences. There are so many crowd characters, and they're all wearing incredibly complicated clothing. And we also have other effects, and the shots of the crowd would take, you know, they would be on the render farm for days and days.
OSBORNE: Even when they're out of focus, even when they're in the background, they're just spects of color. They still have to have all their cloth, and everything proper. And it's pretty frustrating, but once we get that stuff right and all those details are right, it really gives a nice, realistic setting.
STEVENSON: I think this sequence took eighteen months to light. It was incredibly difficult.
[Po is trying to get inside the arena to see the tournament.]
OSBORNE: We the audience can't see what's happening inside. And we know it's really cool because we've seen the Furious Five in the dream. It'd be amazing, so these little glimpses we get here are supposed to tease the audience as much as Po gets teased. Now this sequence came up, our story artists kind of teamed up and did a jam on this sequence. So we had every story artist in our whole crew working on coming up with ideas of how we keep Po outside. Because we wanted to basically riff on the idea that he keeps trying crazier and crazier things to get in. And it was Phil Craven who brought up the idea of using fireworks. That Po would finally strap fireworks to a chair.
STEVENSON: And that's based on an urban legend I think. A myth of a sort of low level Chinese official from the Ming dynasty who I think tried to go to the moon by strapping rockets to a chair, so the legend goes, and disappeared. Obviously blew up. But that was sort of a funny story that we thought would actually make sense for Po to try and emulate, in his desperate attempt to try and get in to see his heroes.
OSBORNE: Yeah, he's such a fan. I mean Po is the ultimate fan boy, and so this is an expression of how much he cares about the Five. How much he cares about kung fu. That he's willing to blow himself up to get in there. And it's actually the thing he does that causes him to get into the right spot. He creates his own destiny by being a fan. And sometimes people say, you know, "He landed by accident."
STEVENSON: But as Oogway says, "There are no accidents."
OSBORNE: Early in the story, Po was going to land directly on top of Tigress. We really wanted to make it clear that Oogway was choosing Tigress, and that pointing finger was landing on Tigress when Po landed on her. But it actually a little too much, story-wise, to have him land on her. 'Cause she's a kung fu master, she should be able to have her wits about her, and it became better to have him land directly in front. So it's something we tried a few different ways. But it's one thing we didn't really clarify as much as possible, that Tigress is Po's favorite.
STEVENSON: Yeah. Makes Tigress' kind of fairly cold treatment of him more painful. That was sort of the idea.
[Scene shows Oogway announcing that Po is the Dragon Warrior.]
STEVENSON: All those scenes of celebration are incredibly difficult and elaborate. Sequences involving tons of effects. But our amazing effects crew—
OSBORNE:' — Pulled it off beautifully, yeah. And I think when we first suggested confetti everyone was like, "Do we really need confetti?" And we were like, "Yes!"
STEVENSON: We really needed confetti. And so again, there's Markus Manninen and Alex Parkinson, were hugely responsible for handling all the technical challenges, from clothing to confetti to all the difficult aspects. And we wouldn't have any of the cool stuff without those guys.
[Po is carried away to the palace; an appalled Shifu is approached by Tigress.]
OSBORNE: So this is the first time we get to actually hear Angelina Jolie in our film as Master Tigress. And she really did a really incredible job of creating a really rich character.
STEVENSON: Another thing we wanted to do was we wanted to have really interesting scene transitions. So we worked quite hard on finding creative ways of getting from one scene to another. This change of locale to Mongolia, which is where the prison is set, was very critical. And again, it's sort of the introduction in the body of the story of the blue presence of Tai Lung. The whole scene is lit primarily of blue for Tai Lung. And with contrasting red, which became our power color. But it was very important to do as many things as possible to tell you that you're in a different world now. You are no longer in the Valley of Peace, which is warm and sunny. You're in a somewhat far away, somewhere pretty hostile...
OSBORNE: We wanted to feel not only the threat, and to feel like he was this villain that was sort of kept far away, but we needed to establish Tai Lung as a ticking clock. And we needed to feel like he was as far away from the Valley as possible because we have all this story that we needed to tell of Po, and that needs to happen back in the Valley of Peace. So we needed to have a psychological separation between those two locations.
STEVENSON: And another of our story artists, Rob Koo, came up with the idea of taking the Great Wall of China and wrapping it around the interior of a hollowed out mountain. So those two visual ideas became the basis for Chorh-Gom Prison. And "Chorh-Gom Prison" means "sitting in prison," or "in prison". So that's one of our little in-jokes.
STEVENSON: Commander Vachir, which is a Mongolian name which means "thunder bolt", played by Michael Clarke Duncan, the man with the biggest voice in the world. A voice so deep you can actually rearrange your internal organs as you listen to it. And so we wanted someone hugely powerful, which Michael is. Everything about it, like the rhino commander and his guards all had to be... like, it takes a thousand of these guys to keep Tai Lung in place.
OSBORNE: We should point out too that the armor he's locked in was created by Rob Koo as well, one of our story artists. And he came up with this great ideas that Oogway designed this tortoise shell armor that encased Tai Lung and had acupressure. These pins, these dragon-headed pins kind of poking...
STEVENSON: To screw up his chi flow.
OSBORNE: Yeah, screw up his chi flow and basically paralyze him, and keep him absolutely...
STEVENSON: Plus he's anchored to two huge rocks, apparently chained to his cuffs. Something you'll see a little bit later when he escapes.
OSBORNE: This feather has been falling for quite some time, just gently floating down.
[Scene changes to the Valley of Peace, where Po is being carried into the Jade Palace.]
OSBORNE: And then when we come back, of course we contrast back to good times and happy times, and a great moment to shout out to John Powell and Hans Zimmer, who did an amazing job with our score in helping us to create that contrast. The contrasting feel that we wanted to get from the prison back to the Valley of Peace. And we wanted to use all the story-telling tools we could to make sure we were getting the contrast between the darker moments in our movie and the lighter moments, and we were always playing this yin and yang balance between aspects of the film.
STEVENSON: And John and Hans, you know, gave us what we always dreamed of having in this movie, which was a great, you know, orchestral score. We knew we were trying to create a self-contained universe and a timeless story, that we didn't want to have contemporary songs on the soundtrack. And we were just very, very lucky that Hans and John wanted to work together. And they gave us more score than we could ever dream of. It's a score we love deeply, and it has many, many, very, very beautiful cues.
[Po is excitedly gawking at the artifacts in the Hall of Warriors.]
OSBORNE: And I'll just say this sequence is very special to me because we took inspiration from one of the... I was up at the Skywalker Ranch once. A friend of a friend got me in. And I'm a huge Star Wars geek, and I was creeping around inside the main house and looking at all the artifacts, you know: the lightsaber, Indy's hat. And I just remember being terrified that at any moment someone was going to come in and go "What the hell are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here!" And I'm carefully wanting to soak up as much as possible, and I think it's kind of funny now that I'll see that played out as a panda.
STEVENSON: It was a great way of showing Po, you know, the giant fan boy, in the home of the most sacred artifacts of kung fu.
OSBORNE: Yeah, he knows everything about this stuff. He's read everything, he knows the history of this stuff, and that's why it was really important for Po to run in and kind of be spouting out stats about this stuff. He doesn't have to read the card or anything, he knows exactly what this stuff is.
[Scene shows a disapproving Shifu trying to intimidate Po.]
OSBORNE: And then when he knows what the Wuxi Finger Hold is, that of course is the ultimate, total minutiae as far as kung fu is concerned. That he actually knows all about it, knows who created it, knows when it was developed . And that actually, you can see, it slightly impresses Shifu. But Shifu has much more hated for Po at this moment, that he can't appreciate the fact that this guy actually knows his stuff.
STEVENSON: And the Wuxi Finger Hold actually used to come later in the movie, when Shifu was trying to restrain Po from leaving. And it originally started as a Chinese finger trap. And then Derek changed that to this thing he made up, called the Wuxi Finger Hold. And we love the idea that the most scary thing, the most scary kung fu move in our world of martial arts, is this tiny thing of holding your finger.
OSBORNE: Holding your pinky.
STEVENSON: Holding your finger up.
OSBORNE: How ridiculous.
[Po and Shifu enter the Training Hall, where the Five are practicing.]
OSBORNE: And now we come into, Po gets to witness the coolest thing he's ever seen before in his entire life. He didn't get to see the show earlier, so now he gets to see the Five. And it's his own private viewing of the Five doing kung fu. And we wanted to make this really intense, really hardcore. We wanted to make it very dramatic, we wanted to make it feel like he was stepping into a torture chamber. That these guys can avoid all the torture, but we know what's coming for Po.
STEVENSON: We spent a lot of time looking at movies like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and any of those great movies that have sort of rigorous training... training halls, kwoons, things to really make kung fu heroes work.
OSBORNE: But all our training devices are actually based on animals.
STEVENSON: Because there's no human beings in our world, so we took all things, like Shaolin Wooden Men, and even those spiky things that swing over the... we call them pork swings, or actually porcupines.
OSBORNE: Those snakes that go over the water. They rotate and you have to balance on them, and those are actually based on snakes, and the rings hanging from the ceiling are snakes as well too, with talons.
STEVENSON: With tiger claws. And originally the fire floor, we used to see cutaways of palace geese, underneath the floor, you know, operating the mechanism.
OSBORNE: Pedaling bikes and making fires.
STEVENSON: But it was just too distracting to do that.
OSBORNE: Jack kind of really found Po in this sequence, and in this previous sequence when we were recording early on, you know, we had a more abrasive version of Po. And in this sequence is when he really brought the more insecure character out, and the real vulnerable character and the sweeter character. The character that doesn't think he's gonna just walk in and show everybody how it's done, but the character who's actually terrified to reveal that he doesn't know how to do kung fu.
STEVENSON: So this is actually the first sequence we put into production. We called it our "panhandle" sequence. It was the first scene that had character acting and action and kung fu and slapstick comedy. So it was a very good sequence to try and see all the technical problems we were going to be faced with, and acting problems. It was actually the first scene that was lit as well, and we ended up, many, many months later, going back and relighting it because—
OSBORNE: In a more aggressive style.
STEVENSON: We felt we were being too conservative the first time around.
OSBORNE: We went with a red sky, and really we asked Ramone to really take a chance and make a bold statement, and he was doing such amazing, bold statements in other sequences, that we said let's hit this again.
STEVENSON: Yeah, it's something that happens when the very first things you start with, even the animation often gets more sophisticated, or more subtle or more pushed. So we revisited it to make it stronger, and to use our color theory. Once we decided red was our power color, we hit the scene with red to reinforce the power of the Furious Five. This is their home, contrasting to Oogway's home, which is green in knowledge. This is all about strength and power. And just in case anybody wonders what the words are on the hanging tapestries around the Training Hall say, the words say, "Focus. Harmony. Honor. Sacrifice. Courage. Power. Agility. Speed. Grace", and "Balance".
[Nighttime scene shows the Five talking about Po.]
OSBORNE: This is our great Dewey Finn moment. We wanted to have Po react to overhearing the Five.
STEVENSON: He's a self-aware character who knows that he's out of place. Also, worth another shout out for matte painting. Most of that exterior is all matte painting. There's very little stuff that we actually built there, so the whole bunkhouse and all the background is matte painting. It's also, again, the reinforcement of the negative blue color. This is not a good time for Po, so just as we'd use blue for something overtly evil like Tai Lung, we also use blue for when Po is having a negative emotion.
OSBORNE: And the earliest version of this sequence was done by our storyboard artist, Paul McEvoy, and he actually came up with this idea that Po would just be in their bedrooms without them even knowing it. It started with Po just face to face with Mantis, and it was just Po being the creepiest fan ever, you know, kind of lurking around.
[Po stumbles into Crane's room.]
STEVENSON: A huge shout out to David Cross as well, because he plays Crane so perfectly dry in contrast to Jack's nervy energy.
OSBORNE: And a lot of what David did was adlib, too, because there wasn't much on the page, and he kept adding bits here and there.
STEVENSON: We wish there was more Furious Five in our movie, quite honestly. One of the things we're sort of sad is that they don't get more screen time. But we love the Furious Five and everybody who was a member of the Furious Five, which were about the Five Deadly Venoms obviously. But David Cross and Lucy Liu and Angelina and Seth Rogen and—
OSBORNE: And Jackie Chan.
STEVENSON: And Jackie Chan; we loved them all and wished they had a chance to have more screen time. We used to have a bunch of vignettes as Po sneaks down the hall trying to get to an empty room, and we used to have things where we would see into Mantis' room and Viper's room, and we would see that they would hear him coming. And they would do anything to avoid having him come into their room and talk to them, so we had silly stuff like Lucy pouring tea on her...
OSBORNE: Trying to look like she was in the shower. And Mantis hiding.
STEVENSON: And Mantis hiding under the bed, rubbing his... whatever those thingies...
OSBORNE: To sound like a cricket, so it sounded like nobody was in there.
STEVENSON: But we cut it out. Probably for the better.
[A downcast Po is at the peach tree eating peaches; Oogway approaches him.]
STEVENSON: Po eats when he's upset. And the peach tree, we'll talk about it more when we get to that sequence, in the scene we call "Oogway departs", but that became the key location for that sequence. We realized, once we knew that Oogway was going to have this very beautiful death scene, that we had to introduce the peach tree earlier. So we changed the kitchen location to be Oogway's peach tree. The peach is a symbol of immortality in Chinese culture. Peach blossom and peach tree leaves are used in Taoist magic. The wood of the peach tree is said to ward off evil. So in our mythology, it was Oogway who planted the peach tree a thousand years ago when he first came to China, and his staff is made from the wood of the peach tree. And the peach tree is the place that overlooks the Valley, and is this very significant place.
OSBORNE: One other thing to mention is that Oogway brings light. It's a moment of enlightenment between Oogway and Po, so it was a really kind of cool visual thing to have him bring the lantern and leave light behind.
STEVENSON: It was also a good transition, because he's in the same color language, blue and a sort of orange. And we go from the blue of the night sky and the orange of the lantern to the golden orange of Tai Lung's eyes, in the cut to our first big action set piece in the film. And while we're in the land of color, this whole sequence was designed to be a battle between blue, Tai Lung's color, and red, the power color. If you watch the scene a couple of times, you'll notice that as Tai Lung wins each level —'cause the thing is designed a bit like a video game with levels— as Tai Lung wins each level, he extinguishes all red light behind him. So that was one of the big, overriding conceits for the sequence. And also, hopefully, it we make you believe in the physics and the gravity of all the stuff with Tai Lung in the hand-to-hand, you'll accept that he can defy the laws of gravity in the end when he starts to run back up the falling debris, which is obviously a complete and utter cheat, but it is designed to show how amazingly skillful he is.
OSBORNE: We should actually call out the sound designers who did an incredible job.
OSBORNE: They approached this like King Kong, and Transformers, and Lord of the Rings. Gave us a really amazing, huge, epic soundtrack. We really wanted to bring them in as we did with many of out other creative people on our team, to say let's make this a real movie, let's try to push the boundaries of what a family animated film can be. And the first time we get to hear Ian McShane's voice come out of Tai Lung and we realize he's actually a thinking, a very smart and real being, not just a feral beast.
STEVENSON: That was a very conscious choice, to have him just, to not say anything until he's beaten his challenge. That the only thing you would hear would be actual animal sounds, so you might think he was just bestial. Ian is just one of the most amazing actors. He made our joke completely redundant.
OSBORNE: "Could I get a cup of leave, love?"
STEVENSON: Yeah, he comes in as the nicest guy in the world. And then every single take, from A through Z, he'll find every single possible way of delivering a line. And when he's finished he just looks at you through the control room glass and goes, "Did I miss anything, love?" And you'll go, "No. No, that was great. Let's move on." Nails it every time. Brilliantly.
STEVENSON: Halfway through production, we were really trying to find Tai Lung, and one of the things I was looking back at sort of, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and it talks about a hero, that a villain is the hero of his own story. And that's perfect for Tai Lung because he thinks he's been unjustly imprisoned for twenty years, and he wants that Dragon Scroll, that's his third act, in his mind, is that he's going to get that scroll and everything's going to be great, and people will understand, and finally he'll be able to be the hero the way he wants it to be.
OSBORNE: Reconciliation with the father, Shifu is the father figure. And I think a villain's not interesting unless there's a human component to the villain that makes you understand why they believe they're justified in their villainy.
STEVENSON: But we actually freaked people out. That we kept getting the note: "He's too dimensional. He's too human. There's too much going on."
OSBORNE: "I've got too much sympathy for Tai Lung."
STEVENSON: There's a balance we had to strike, because we wanted you to engage with him and believe him as a villain, but at the same time we didn't want him to be totally sympathetic.
OSBORNE: Well, that's why we actually ended up putting in an abstracted version of a massacre in the flashback scene, which will be coming up. Because people actually felt, "Well, I feel bad for Tai Lung". He wanted something and he was denied it, and now he's been locked away in this hideous prison for twenty years. And so we realized we hadn't done a good enough job of justifying why Tai Lung had to be incarcerated. So we put in this abstracted version of him running amok in the Valley.
[Zeng flies away; Tai Lung stares ahead, casting a long shadow.]
OSBORNE: So we wanted Tai Lung to cast a literal shadow over the second act of the movie, and also the Valley, since we weren't going to cut to him traveling back from the prison. So we worked on the transition from his escape into this next sequence. So that just subliminally his shadow burns over the landscape of the Valley to indicate his coming threat.
[Scene shows Shifu and the Five walking to the training courtyard.]
STEVENSON: Another moment with the Five, just a little bit of glue for Po's story, to get us back into his story. And there actually was a great gag where Po was asleep, he had been trying to do splits all night, and ended up falling asleep 'cause he got stuck. But we changed it, it was a little too confusing. Too much story going on.
OSBORNE: Obviously he took Oogway's words to heart, and decided to take the next day as a challenge and come.
STEVENSON: And this is where Shifu has... it's just dawning on him how much of a fan this guy is.
OSBORNE: This guy's not gonna quit.
STEVENSON: And so he keeps trying to turn up the heat, trying to scare him away, trying to raise the intensity of his attack on Po, because he can't do it overtly, because that would be going against Oogway's wishes. So this sequence is all about Shifu slowly turning up the heat, and this gag right here when Po hides the piece behind his back, I think that was something Rodolphe had boarded early on.
OSBORNE: It was a Rodolphe gag.
STEVENSON: It just made us laugh. We got the hugest crew laugh every time, so we worked really hard to make sure we maintained that throughout all the way to the end.
OSBORNE: In the land of reincorporation, seeing Tigress do that combat split kick, and hearing Shifu say "It takes years to perfect a split", obviously is going to payoff later in the movie.
[Members of the Five "train" with Po; Po remains eager and undeterred through the beatings.]
STEVENSON: So here we get some more kung fu coming from the Five. Just snippets, but really trying to continue to establish sort of the slapstick, what happens whenever Po tries to do kung fu, we get this slapstick result. But Po is an indomitable spirit. Just kind of keeps freaking Shifu out to no end.
OSBORNE: That thing where Po is being flipped around, that comes from Atom Ant, an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon where bad guys would get beaten up by this ant that was too small to see. And we kind of just used that for Mantis beating the snot out of Po.
STEVENSON: Yeah, one of his special abilities is he's almost invisible. And we even tried it with a green smear. We talked about it.
OSBORNE: It was a lot less interesting.
STEVENSON: Yeah, it's very funny to not see him.
[Shifu is now attacking the still-eager Po; he eventually kicks him out of the courtyard.]
STEVENSON: And this moment is a pretty intense moment for Po, which starts out bouncing down the stairs running gag that we'll see later in the film. And it should be pointed out that this moment was also heavily scripted over and over again, and we finally figured out what we needed to do here when Seth Rogen adlibbed that amazing line.
OSBORNE: Seth actually ended up rewriting and adlibbing all of his lines, to the betterment of the movie. And he's hugely responsible for... Mantis doesn't have a lot of screen time, unfortunately, but Seth made every moment count. And just his big throaty laugh coming out of a little insect would always make us crack up every time.
STEVENSON: But when he adlibbed there, that was when all the pieces fell into place, around his great adlib about Po bouncing on the stairs.
[Scene shows Mantis trying to treat Po with acupuncture]
STEVENSON:And then this sequence was storyboarded by Rob Koo, and it was another continuation of his acupuncture idea. You know, we've got this acupressure on Tai Lung in the tortoise shell armor, and then this was a continuation of that same idea. And we thought it would be perfect for Mantis. Initially, he was going to use his thingies to do acupuncture, but we felt it was better to actually do needles.
OSBORNE: But also we're laying the pipe for the fact that Mantis can't reach his pressure points with his acupuncture needles. For how he's going to stay invulnerable to Tai Lung.
STEVENSON: Will Tai Lung's nerve touch work on Po? Well, we'll have to find out.
OSBORNE: And Angelina's fantastic in this scene. This is sort of her big acting moment where she reveals she's this fairly tough, stern, unforgiving presence in the film. But you sort of find out that she's nursing a wound. She has a psychic wound of her own.
STEVENSON: We had all this great backstory that Shifu raised Tai Lung, and we didn't want the characters talking about it. So we came up with this idea to actually show it, and to go into, you know, Tigress is a very one-dimensional character, two-dimensional character, to actually give us all this rich backstory. And by accident—she's defending Shifu in this moment—but by accident she ends up revealing all these deep, deep secrets about herself. And it's also Po's awareness of himself, is starting to cause these other characters to have more awareness of themselves.
OSBORNE: It's brilliant, the one-to-one correlation between when Tai Lung is a kid and being trained by Shifu.
[In a flashback scene, Tai Lung rampages the Valley, tries to take the Dragon Scroll, and is stopped by Oogway]
OSBORNE: So again, in the land of visual motifs, just wanted to point out that the nerve touch that Oogway does to Tai Lung is based on a water ripple. We saw an energy version of the water ripple that we saw when he used his staff to still the waters in the Moon Pool. And that same energy ripple will be something that we use again in a very different way towards the climax, which I'll point out when we get there.
STEVENSON: We wanted to mirror Tigress and Tai Lung as children as closely as possible. So she hits the dummy in the same way, but Tai Lung actually knocked a weapon out of the weapon rack, whereas Tigress just caused it to spin a little. So Tai Lung's actually a little bit better than Tigress... Now coming up here we have some great subtle animation between the two of them. This is a fairly subtle moment that gives way to a very slapstick and ridiculous moment, again, boarded by Rob Koo. And this is probably the biggest laugh in the whole movie, when we reveal the pin cushion on the back... And then we segway into a very, very different moment with Shifu. We wanted to show him, the disruption in his life, and how he is not a Zen master. He's trying to be. And Alessandro Carloni did an amazing job of animating the subtlety in this scene of Shifu's amazing kung fu hearing. Disturbing his meditation.
OSBORNE: Also, in that opening shot, you'll see the pressure of the blue, our negative color, pressing down on Shifu's little bubble of warmth, which is about to be popped by the news from Zeng... It's a big thing in a movie, any movie, but particularly in a family film, to make the decision to kill off a character. And when we knew that it was going to be good for the story to do that, it actually changed a lot of the tone of the film. It meant that we were going to have to be...
STEVENSON: It got deeper, it got richer.
OSBORNE: You can't do that when you're in a trivial film.
STEVENSON: But he knows Shifu's struggling, he's seen Shifu struggling for many, many years. And like a great therapist, he doesn't ever give the answers. He's always gently guiding. And I think this is a moment where we like to think it's very clear that right here Oogway makes the decision to leave because he knows that Shifu isn't going to be able to do it as long as Oogway's around to be a crutch and to be relied on. So Oogway knows "It is my time", and Oogway chooses this departure time—look, I'm getting goosebumps—but it's a beautiful, emotional moment. It's a significant moment in the story. And I think again, it was one of those sequences early on that was a real proof of concept for how deep and emotional a movie could be, and how, again, we wanted to make something that was taking the story seriously. And we didn't want to be a parody, we didn't want to be a spoof, we didn't want to be jokey. We wanted to be significant and deep and rich.
OSBORNE: And our actors, Randall Duk Kim and Dustin, we really asked them to dig in for this sequence to make it heartfelt, to make it believable. Dustin had to be anguished and conflicted, and Randall had to be...
STEVENSON: Calm, at peace.
OSBORNE: ...Accepting of... for Oogway, this is a new adventure. This is not a bad thing, that he's moving on. There's a more interesting adventure awaiting him on some other plane of existence, so he's okay with it. It's Shifu's who's very, very not okay, with losing his mentor, his master, and his safety net, really, for everything that's about to come.
STEVENSON: And I think also, there's some backstory where Oogway knows that Shifu's destiny is to be the next Oogway, and I think Shifu spent a lot of his young career probably hoping to be the Dragon Warrior himself. And it wasn't until he believed he failed, or believed he wasn't good enough, didn't believe in himself—which again, is thematic to the film—that he became a teacher. And he thought "I'm going to raise the next Dragon Warrior, I'm going to create the Dragon Warrior." So Shifu's been on this track of "I failed at my mission", but Oogway's known, "No, no, there is a greater mission for you."
OSBORNE: Which is where Oogway gives him his staff and says...
STEVENSON: "You're now me. You need to take over the role of..."
OSBORNE: Which Shifu doesn't get. Shifu doesn't understand.
STEVENSON: He's using it as a weapon, and he'll actually go on to use the staff in a forceful way that is very strange.
[Scenes changes to the barracks kitchen, where Po is sitting at the table with the Five.]
STEVENSON: And now we come to the sequence we cursed early on in production by naming it "Fun in the Kitchen." This sequence was not fun. And it actually is fun now, in the final movie, I would say.
OSBORNE: But for many years it was the absolute opposite of fun. It was the least funny sequence you've ever seen.
STEVENSON: And we knew the core idea of Shifu, after the death of his master, finding Po, you know, doing something ridiculous, that was the core idea. We always wanted to have Shifu coming from this horrible thing into everybody laughing, the Furious Five with their feet up on the tables, and they're eating, they're breaking their kung fu diet. And we wanted to have that reality come slamming into Po, and it was actually I think Phil Craven who first boarded the idea that Po makes fun of Shifu, and then we kind of expanded on that. So Po starts imitating Shifu, and I think it's brilliantly animated. And it's mocking, but yet Po, if you listen carefully, he's actually making fun of himself. He's using Shifu as the vehicle, but he's actually being self-deprecating. And I think that's one of the great things about Jack and Jack's performance in this is that he's never lashing out at anyone but himself. It's kind of this consistent thing that he does. And because we needed this to be fun, we of course, we have the famous joke "The boob bowls."
OSBORNE: The biggest laugh in the movie usually is...
STEVENSON: Back in the day...
OSBORNE: It used to be this sustained laugh that would just go on and on, much to our surprise.
STEVENSON: And we test screened to kids, and kids went nuts, they laughed for a minute straight. And actually, we should put that soundtrack on the DVD's extra as an Easter egg, because they laughed for a minute straight, it was the craziest thing. They were like climbing over the seats, talking to their friends about it.
OSBORNE: And Jeffrey Katzenberg was at that screening, I remember him turning and looking at us, and we just knew there was no way we were cutting that scene out.
STEVENSON: Yeah, it's there forever.
STEVENSON: This next sequence was really the hardest one to get right. We knew we had this big comedic laugh coming when see Po running away, but the actual drama between these guys and what gets said in this moment of sheer panic on Po's part, and truly it's panic on Shifu's part, because he's made this commitment to Oogway and he doesn't know how he's going to pull it off. We did many versions of this sequence.
OSBORNE: This scene existed as a card. There was always a scene that we had to have in the film called "Po and Shifu have it out."
STEVENSON: Jed Diffenderfer did the earliest version when it involved a punching bag, and it was more of a training sequence.
OSBORNE: We went through so many versions of trying to get this scene right, and it was the last sequence we put into production, and we knew that because we were having such trouble trying to get the balance right, it would be the last thing that we did. And we recorded it more times than any other scene with Jack and Dustin.
STEVENSON: Jack was always like, "This one again?"
OSBORNE: "Didn't I do this great already?" And he always did. And it was us, we kept monkeying with it and changing the writing, and trying to change the status. Shift is the status transaction between these two characters. Po, who was desperate to stay, who is now desperate to leave, 'cause he knows his life's in danger. Shifu, who's made this commitment to his master, who is committed to having Po stay and trying to believe in him, and so they've flipped places there. Getting the actual chemistry and balance right was very, very challenging.
STEVENSON: And also finding this no-man's-land to set this in. It's not the dojo, it's not the palace, it's sort of this area near the peach tree, so we're reminded of Oogway in this spot. But really, it's a moment where these two characters bare their souls and reveal their deepest, darkest flaws. Po reveals that he doesn't believe that he can do it, that this was all just a lark and...
OSBORNE: Shifu reveals that he doesn't know how to do it, even though he has committed to believing.
STEVENSON: These two characters need each other to complete their journey. They totally need each other so bad.
OSBORNE: But they don't know how it's going to work at this point. So this is sort of their...
STEVENSON: It's a giving up.
OSBORNE: Their darkest, in a sense, emotionally, this is the darkest point for them.
STEVENSON: And then Tigress will pick up the charge, and I think that is always what we wanted to have. That we saw the fracture earlier in the kitchen when the Furious Five know...
OSBORNE: And she makes the plea to Shifu, "Come on, give me my shot. Let me do it. I'm your best student, we're all trained. You've equipped us to do this." And I think she's completely shaken when he rejects her because of his promise to Oogway.
STEVENSON: So she's defying her master at this point, she's defying Oogway, and she's against everything she's ever learned. I mean, she's the most disciplined, most honorable of all warriors, and also at this moment we get to see how amazing she is. And so we want the audience to believe that, wow, Tigress is going to do it.
OSBORNE: She's going to succeed.
STEVENSON: The Five, they're gonna join up.
OSBORNE: Like a team of superheroes. We want you to think that obviously, this crack elite force going out to take down the bad guy has got a huge chance of success.
[Shifu is seen sitting by the peach tree as dawn approaches]
STEVENSON: This location and moment is affectionately known as "Mopey Mountain" to our crew. Mike Mitchell coined that term because we actually used to have one more instance of Shifu sitting upset and not sure what to do. And we kind of pared it down and went for the simpler, one moment of despair before enlightenment. And that comes in the sound.
OSBORNE: And talking about the sound, yes, Shifu has kung fu hearing, we've established that.
STEVENSON: But he's out of it.
OSBORNE: Theoretically, he should know where the sound is coming from and not go to the kwoon, to see Po's there. He should know where it's coming from, but it actually worked better for him to go to the place he expects it to be, which is the Training Hall. And then to find Po's in the kitchen.
STEVENSON: It's actually very symbolic for Shifu because he's spent his whole life thinking he knows the answer and thinking he knows the right way to do things, so he thinks those sounds should be coming out of the dojo. But really this is the beginning of Shifu starting to look at things in a different way.
OSBORNE: Starting to think outside his box. His box is the Training Hall.
STEVENSON: He had to hit rock bottom in order to be able to be aware enough, have his eyes open enough, to see that Po can maybe do things in a different way. And this moment right here, when he sees Po in the splits...
OSBORNE: Harking back to that split that Tigress did in combat when Shifu says "It takes years to get that right." Po can get it right when he's not thinking about it, if he's thinking about something else.
STEVENSON: Po had this internal ability, he has this natural ability because of his love for kung fu and his obsession with it, and it only can show itself when he's distracted. And right now we get to see him distracted by food.
OSBORNE: So this is part of Shifu's rebirth and re-inspiration as a teacher. He takes him outside of his box, the Training Hall, to our equivalent of Wudang Mountain in China, a very mystical place, home of many Taoist monasteries, and often the home in martial arts movies and stories of the place where kung fu reaches its highest level.
STEVENSON: But it was really important for us to take Shifu as a character out of his normal, everyday life, and he is now changing, it's a rebirth. He goes back to this place.
OSBORNE: This is the birthplace of kung fu.
STEVENSON: It's where Oogway invented it, it's where Oogway probably taught Shifu, and then Shifu went and created the box, the dojo, and started creating a fabricated version of this. So this is a very significant moment for Shifu, to start turning this corner, and becoming more like Oogway, more open to the possibilities of the universe. And then we get to see Oogway actually doing kung fu, which is super cool.
OSBORNE: You'll see there's a lot of lighting stuff in here. The scene starts with being pretty misty 'cause Po's in a fog, he doesn't know where this is going. And then it transitions to the sun breaking through, which is back to our use of gold as a heroic motif, for the flashback to Oogway at the point where he invented kung fu. And also for Shifu's symbolic rebirth and his declaration that he is Po's master, that he is invested and invigorated, and committed to making Po a success, on the same place where Oogway created kung fu.