The beloved Dreamworks animated franchise is coming back to the big screen as Universal now sets Kung Fu Panda 4 for release in March 2024. With the film in early production, no plot details of the fourth installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise were given, but with a confirmed release date, fans can now officially anticipate the return of their favorite characters on the big screen.
Po has come a long way since his introduction in 2008’s Kung Fu Panda. Even though he was unexpectedly named the Dragon Warrior at the beginning of the movie, which started DreamWorks’ lucrative franchise, the many feature films, shorts, and TV shows in it have long detailed how Po came to earn his title. Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 cemented Po in his roles as the Dragon Warrior and one of the Kung Fu Masters of the Jade Palace, letting him develop his abilities as a teacher and as a protector of the Valley of Peace.
Two theatrical sequels were released in 2011 and 2016 which expanded on Po’s backstory as he adjusts to his new role as the Dragon Warrior. The popularity of the films led to several short films and three spin-off shows; Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness on Nickelodeon, Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny on Amazon Prime Video, and Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight on Netflix.
The first “Kung Fu Panda” film was DreamWorks’ highest-grossing original animated film, earning $631 million at the global box office. The films in total grossed $1.8 billion and spawned a franchise that includes several animated TV specials and three series, including “The Dragon Knight,” which premiered its first season on Netflix last month. Beyond their financial success, the three “Kung Fu Panda” all received generally positive reviews from film critics. In a review for Variety in 2016, film critic Justin Chang called the third film a “delightful trilogy capper,” writing that it brought the trilogy’s “long-running themes of perseverance and self-knowledge to satisfying fruition.”
Confusion at DreamWorks Causes Delays
Former DreamWorks Animation Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg told Empire in 2010 that there would be six Kung Fu Panda films in total. However, after DreamWorks Animation was purchased by NBCUniversal in 2016 for almost $4 billion, Katzenberg resigned as CEO and was appointed Chairman of DreamWorks New Media, which included both DreamWorks Animation’s interests in AwesomenessTV and Nova. He later stepped down from his DreamWorks career completely for unknown reasons.
Two years later, in 2018, Kung Fu Panda 3 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson told Metro that she didn’t know if there would be a follow-up to Kung Fu Panda 3, saying, “For me, it had always been a trilogy, in terms of the exact arc that we were working on. I really don’t know what the plans are. But the pull is Po. Po is the world. So I am sure something will happen at some point, but it’s just that I don’t know what.” It is unclear by this point if the change in ownership, or something else entirely, led to the delay with Kung Fu Panda 4.
Kung Fu Panda 4 Story: What Will It Be About?
No details are known about Kung Fu Panda 4’s plot yet. Still, Kung Fu Panda 2 focused on Po’s history and how deeply that impacted him in a way that it didn’t let Po find his inner peace, and Kung Fu Panda 3 let Po master the knowledge and use of chi, making Po’s progress as an individual and a Kung Fu Master central in both instances. Kung Fu Panda 4 will probably further advance Po’s path as a Kung Fu Master and as the Dragon Warrior, making Kung Fu Panda’s fourth installment especially interesting, as the TV shows didn’t advance Po’s story as much.
The Cast: Who Will Return?
While not a lot is known about Kung Fu Panda 4 besides when it will release, Jack Black will likely return to voice Po, as he did not only for all of the Kung Fu Panda feature films but also most franchise short films, the 2010 holiday special, and Netflix’s 2022 Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight. The Furious Five’s Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Mantis (Seth Rogen) will also likely return, as they were almost as central as Po in Kung Fu Panda 1 to 3. Finally, Kung Fu Panda 4 wouldn’t be complete without Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) or Po’s father, Mr. Ping (James Hong). Po’s biological father, Li Shan, might also make an appearance, although it’s unclear whether it would be Fred Tatasciore or Bryan Cranston to voice him at this stage.
Also, no directors of the upcoming animated feature have been announced yet.
Kung Fu Panda 4 Cast Release Date
Universal has set a March 8, 2024, theatrical release for the fourth installment of Kung fu Panda 4. That is right; after years of waiting, the sequel to the 2016 film Kung Fu Panda 3 is finally getting a follow-up.
Kung Fu Panda 4 Production is Just Beginning
Kung Fu Panda 4 is actually just embarking on its early development stages, which is why it won’t be released until 2024. Animated movies take time to voice act, draw, animate, and produce. At the time of this writing, no directors or producers have been attached as yet to Kung Fu Panda 4. Po the panda, whose passion for kung fu is only rivaled by his ravenous desire for dumplings, will undoubtedly continue his escapades in Kung Fu Panda 4 as he explores more of ancient China.
While the key details about the cast for the fourth movie are under wraps, we can, however, expect to see Jack Black as Po, Angelina Jolie as Master Tigress, Lucy Liu as Master Viper, Jackie Chan as Master Monkey, Seth Rogen as Master Mantis, David Cross as Master Crane, and James Hong and Mr. Ping, if the actors all reprise their previous roles. Until the new film releases, fans will just have to make do with the current movies and the slew of television expansions, like Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight, which began airing on Netflix in July 2022.