Kung Fu Panda took four years to make. According to VFX supervisor Markus Manninen, the computer animation used throughout the film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. The first DreamWorks Animation film to be released in IMAX, Kung Fu Panda was the 3rd highest grossing film of 2008.
The film was originally going to be a spoof of the kung fu genre, but one of the directors, John Stevenson, wanted to have a blend of comedy and action to make the film more epic, saying, “I wasn’t interested in making fun of martial arts movies, because I really think they can be great films; they can be as good as any genre movie when they’re done properly.”
The opening scene is an homage to Japanese anime, as both directors are big fan of the genre. They wanted to distinguish the opening dream sequence, so it was hand drawn, whereas the rest of the film (with the further exception of the animation in the end credits) was CGI.
One character that needed revisions was Tai Lung, who continually seemed too sympathetic as the villain of the story. As a result, the producers included the sequence that illustrates the story Tigress told about Tai Lung’s betrayal of his father’s principles, and his rampage after being refused the Dragon Scroll to make him sufficiently despicable to the audience. By contrast, Po was refined by Jack Black and the writers from an unpleasant obsessed fan who unsettled his heroes to an affable martial arts lore devotee, painfully self-aware of his inadequacies.
The Kung Fu/Wuxia convention, where attacks on the correct nerve/Chi points can cause paralysis and other effects, is adopted, although it is not explained in the film, and the jade figurine topped sticks on the shell worn on the imprisoned Tai Lung are positioned at the traditional Chi energy points of the body. The sticks are intended to keep the villain from accessing the power from those points, which is why he was first concerned about removing them before attempting to break his chains.
Kung Fu Panda had a massive impact upon the Chinese audience when it released. To get the ambiance of the film perfect, production designer Raymond Zibach and art director Heng Tang had spent years researching Chinese art and kung fu movies. This effort, combined with the rest of the crew’s extensive research and knowledge of Chinese culture, so impressed the Chinese that there were meetings by official government cultural bodies to discuss why their own country has not produced animated films of such quality themselves.