Kung Fu Panda 4 director Mike Mitchell and head of character animation Sean Sexton | Interview

by W. Andrew Powell

Jack Black doesn’t just voice Po in the Kung Fu Panda films, “He is Po,” director Mike Mitchell said. “He’s a fanboy… and he could do high kicks and Kung fu himself.”

In Kung Fu Panda 4, Po is on the hunt for the new Dragon Warrior, so he can fulfill his own destiny. There’s just one more adventure to finish before he can complete his journey, and one creature stands in the way.

Alongside Black, the film also features the voice work of Awkwafina, Viola Davis, Dustin Hoffman, and Bryan Cranston, to name a few.

Kung Fu Panda 4‘s Mitchell and the head of character animation, Sean Sexton, sat down to talk about how they worked to make the fights as realistic as possible, working with the stars to bring the characters to life, and what most people don’t realize about making an animated film.

Po in Kung Fu Panda 4
Po in Kung Fu Panda 4

“I’m a black belt in Taekwondo, so this was my dream come true, to be able to have animation and fighting and martial arts,” Sexton said. “But we also had a really good fight choreographer that helped us. His name was Don Thai Theerathada, and he worked with a lot of live action films.”

“He worked on The Gray Man, and he’s worked with John Claude Van Damme, who’s a hero of mine. So it was awesome getting to work with him.”

The team used a lot of tools to bring Po and the characters to life, including shooting reference video (often featuring animal ears and tails, when it was needed), lipstick cameras on their actors, and the whole process took more than 4 years to complete.

Watch the full interview with Mitchell and Sexton above to learn more about their process, the challenges, and why it takes so much work to complete.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is available on Digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on May 28, 2024 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and it features over an hour of extras.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

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