Universal Slates DreamWorks’ ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ For March 2024 – Topplaywriting
Well, this is a surprise. Universal has just announced that their previously untitled DreamWorks Animation release set for March 8., 2024 is a fourth Kung Fu Panda movie. That will put the animated sequel one week, so says Box Office Mojo, after Walt Disney’s Masters of Fury: The Legend of Sun Wukong (which, so says IMDB, is not a Disney version of The Monkey King but is about a young boy researching famous figures in Black history) and one week before Godzilla Vs. Kong 2.
he latter is interesting as I assume the sequel will expect a few bucks from China. Minions 2 is opening next week as Jurassic World 3 has grossed a huge-for-Covid-era $157 million, but Godzilla Vs. Kong earned $188 million in 2021, second only to Hobbs & Shaw among post-2019 Hollywood imports.
Anyway, this sequel, which I assume will again star Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, James Hong, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and anyone else from the ensemble cast who wishes to return, is hoping to score along the lines of How To Train our Dragon: The Hidden World. That trilogy capper opened five years after its $620 million-grossing predecessor and earned $520 million worldwide in early 2019 right as DreamWorks became property of Comcast.
Kung Fu Panda opened in June 2008 with a boffo $60 million debut, legging out to $218 million domestic and $630 million worldwide, bigger globally than Iron Man, Mamma Mia, Wall-E and Hancock. It also earned strong reviews and showed that a damn good DWA movie could thrive alongside a Pixar gem like Wall-E. Kung Fu Panda 2, DreamWorks’ best movie, earned $165 million domestic but grossed $665 million worldwide in the summer of 2011, more than Cars 2, Fast Five, Thor, X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
This was the pre-Avengers time when Marvel movies were expected to excel but the likes of DWA, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and Harry Potter were expected to rule. Cut to early 2016, where Kung Fu Panda 3 (with DWA now distributed by Fox) moved after The Force Awakens moved from summer 2015 to Christmas 2015. It was the tail-end of when a big-budget animated spectacle was an automatic theatrical event. Nevertheless, the threequel still earned $140 million domestic, $154 million in China and $520 million worldwide.
I like Kung Fu Panda, love Kung Fu Panda 2 (my favorite movie of 2011) and am meh on the lighter, less consequential Kung Fu Panda 3. If DWA wants my advice, and I’m assuming they do not, hiring Jennifer Yuh Nelson back into the director’s chair should be priority number one. Priority number two should be letting her make the movie she wants to make without worrying about parents or online pundits decrying a more dramatic story and darker moments amid a still-PG melodrama.
I’ve often argued that DWA should lean into bonkers bananas comedy (The Boss Baby) and big-hearted action spectacle (Abominable) to differentiate itself from the grounded and life-sized Illumination films. Kung Fu Panda 4 can and should be an action drama first and a wacky comedy second. Either way, we’re getting a fourth Po-centric adventure. I guess I have two years to catch up on Netflix’s Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight.