EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Yuh will not be helming the latest installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise by herself, I’ve learned. DreamWorks Animation has brought in Alessandro Carloni to co-direct Kung Fu Panda 3 with Yuh, the first woman to direct an animated feature solo at a Hollywood studio when she helmed 2011’s Kung Fu Panda 2. Sources tell me that Yuh requested Carloni join her as a director on the pic and DWA execs signed off quickly.
In the case of adding Carloni to the film, the studio wanted Panda 3 to finish in a timely manner. DWA agreed with Yuh that strengthening the director’s bench on the film would ensure it was locked in time for a strong promotional campaign to be rolled out. With some misses and below expectation results in recent years, the company has said it wants to bring out one franchise movie annually going forward to play to its strengths. A strategy that a strong Kung Fu Panda 3 is very much a part of. Besides directing KFP2, the Oscar-nominated Yuh was also head of story and director of a sequence in the first film in the franchise.
A DWA veteran himself, Carloni served as an animation supervisor on 2008’s Kung Fu Panda, a story artist on the first sequel and was head of story on last year’s How To Train Your Dragon 2, the most successful animated film of the year at the box office. Carloni is also set as the director for Me & My Shadow, which was supposed to come out on March 14 last year but was moved back into development in February 2013.
This is the second big change for Panda 3 in just over two months. The Jeffrey Katzenberg -run studio said in December it was pushing the release of Kung Fu Panda 3 from December 23, 2015, to March 18, 2016, a move to stay clear of Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens which will be released just five days earlier.
This KFP3 news comes on top of announcements today by DWA of a big Q4 loss and that it will sell its Glendale campus. Last month the studio said that it was cutting 500 jobs as part of a restructuring amid ongoing stock and strategic concerns. Also, the company’s How To Train Your Dragon 2 came up short in taking the Best Animation prize at Sunday’s Oscars. Having seen Frozen snag the award in 2014, Disney won the category for a second year in a row with Big Hero 6.