Yuh, Black in Seoul for ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

The director and lead voice actor for the upcoming DreamWorks animated feature “Kung Fu Panda 3” are in Seoul to promote the latest installment of the “Kung Fu Panda” series.

Both director Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Jack Black showed particular fondness for the film, perhaps because of their long history with it.

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Jack Black poses for press at the Conrad Hotel in Seoul Thursday. (Yonhap)
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Jennifer Yuh Nelson speaks to press at the Conrad Hotel in Seoul Thursday. (Yonhap)

I think one of the great things about working on these films, we’ve been working on this for over 12 years, is that we know the characters so well that we know in every situation what those characters will do,” Yuh told reporters at the Conrad Hotel in Seoul Thursday.

Jack (Black) is a collaborator. He can help come up with great ideas about what Po can do. … Po is Jack in the scenes. Jack understands how to spontaneously experiment with Po’s performance, so that natural quality of acting is what comes out of knowing the character so well,” she said.

Yuh and Black have been with the globally successful “Kung Fu Panda” franchise since the beginning. Jack Black took charge of the voice of the series’ central panda Po, a tubby bear with big dreams of heroism and boundless admiration for martial arts.

Po is always a symbol for me, of infinite youth and hope and innocence and sweetness. I think back to my youth, when I had my dreams of becoming a rock musician or an actor, and I would look up to my heroes, my Dustin Hoffmans or David Bowies, and that’s where Po is at,” said Black. “He’s looking up to his heroes, his kung fu idols. Whenever I play Po, I think of my teenage years.”

Black said the plot developments in the third installment of “Kung Fu Panda” challenged him to bring some changes to the character of Po.

The challenge I had in this film was relating to having two fathers. That’s a big theme in the movie, and growing up and becoming a teacher,” he said.

The new responsibility of becoming a teacher, having to grow up and be an adult, he’s very scared. All kids are scared when they have to leave home and get a job. It’s very relatable in that way.”

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Jack Black poses for press at the Conrad Hotel in Seoul Thursday. (Yonhap)

Another change is the supernatural powers of the central villain, a powerful bull named Kai. According to Yuh, he was designed this way because “Po was completely unable to face him (and his powers) at this point.” Kai also lent the film an “epic feel” that allowed for “great action sequences.

Korean-born director Yuh, who worked on story and action sequences for the original “Kung Fu Panda” (2008), directed the second and third installments. She not only became the first sole female director of an animated film at a major Hollywood studio, but also picked up an Oscar nomination for the Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

Yuh, who visits Korea every few years “whenever work allows,” said that after “Kung Fu Panda 3” she would “love to try a live-action film someday. I would love to do something action-packed…Korea has a lot of great action movies coming out, so maybe one day I’d love to do something here.”

Black and Yuh’s press conference came the day after the red carpet event for “Kung Fu Panda 3.” Black was scheduled to appear as a guest on the variety program “Infinite Challenge” before leaving Thursday night.

“‘Infinite Challenge.’ I have accepted the challenge. I’m very scared because it’s the biggest challenge. There’s no number bigger than infinity. I don’t know what’s in store for me. I just hope that I survive. I shall face it like a brave warrior,” Black said about his expectations for the episode, which airs Jan. 30 at 6:25 p.m.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” from Dreamworks starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman and J.K. Simmons opens in theaters on Jan. 28 in IMAX.

Ho-jung Won
The Korea Herald