Kung Fu Panda 3 set a new high in box office records in China, pocketing 41.26 million yuan ($6.27 million) from more than 1.17 million moviegoers in just three hours during a sneak preview session held nationwide on Saturday afternoon.
The roughly 90-minute animated sequel, by DreamWorks Animation and Oriental DreamWorks, hints at a potential blockbuster debut, especially in China, when it opens on the coming weekend on Jan 29, one weekend before the Chinese New Year weekend.
The third installment of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, a follow-up to Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011, set a new record for previews in China as it topped the box office on Jan 23 during a preview nationwide from 14:00-17:00 pm. Note that China has been struck with pretty harsh weather over the weekend, so it is highly possible that the figure may have been higher, had the temperature been better for viewers to visit the theaters.
The Kung Fu Panda franchise has performed very well in China and the US. According to Forbes, Kung Fu Panda, which opened in 2008, earned $217 million in America, $603 million worldwide and $12 million in China. The sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011, dipped a little bit with $165 million in US, but made up for it from its worldwide sales of $665 million and a whopping $92 million from China. As the protagonist panda Po goes on a quest to find his roots and his biological father, along with the record-setting ticket sales during the preview, and the timing of the coming Chinese New Year break, it is reasonable to expect another big cash-in from Kung Fu Panda 3 from the Chinese market.
In a special move to tailor the film for the Chinese market, DreamWorks crafted two versions of the films, one "normal" version, dubbed by local movie stars and artists, and another "tailored" version, where it is animated differently to more accurately adhere to the mouth movements and body language of Chinese. According to DreamWorks, the customized Mandarin version is not simply a dubbed version, but a redesign and rewrite of the script. Elements such as dialects and more localized puns were added specifically for Chinese audiences.
More than 200 Oriental DreamWorks employees have worked on the film in Shanghai, providing feedback on the authenticity of Chinese elements in the film and fine-tuning the details of the second version of the Mandarin-language script.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of the film, said Chinese artists helped improve the authenticity of the film, as some of the cultural difference between the two nations only came to light after thorough discussions between the Chinese and American staff.
这部电影的导演Jennifer Yuh Nelson表示，中国艺术家的参与有助于提高电影的真实性，因为只有通过两国工作人员充分讨论，中美之间存在着的一些文化差异才会浮出水面。
"We were trying to come up with fun things the characters do – what they eat, how they play. As Western story artists, one of the things we put in was cookies. And the Chinese story artists basically said, 'Ummmm. You can't put in cookies, you have to put in traditional food,'" said Nelson. This eventually led to a change in script.
Kung fu superstar Jackie Chan, who voices Master Monkey and Po's biological father in English and Mandarin and Cantonese, said it was an interesting and challenging experience to dub for two different roles in three editions of the film.
"My character would have a steamed bun in his mouth sometimes. So I put three fingers in my mouth while dubbing. Those details can help enliven the cartoon character. It's very cool," said the 61-year-old action star.
The final number, Try, written and performed by household name singer-songwriter Jay Chou and his protégé Patrick Brasca, is also a rare example where Chinese lyrics are featured in a Hollywood film. Furthermore, the media has praised the film for its comprehensive use of Chinese elements, which pervades the entire film, along with a family film script that can be appreciated regardless of age. Some have compared it with last year's dark horse at the box office, Monster Hunt, which set numerous highs in China's film history. It is definitely a film to look forward to.