After years of waiting and fan speculation, Dreamworks has officially announced Kung Fu Panda 4. This sequel is long overdue, following the events of Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016 and building on the story of Po Ping that started in Kung Fu Panda back in 2008. The studio confirmed that the movie will premiere in theaters in 2024, and that Jack Black will reprise his role as Po.
The Kung Fu Panda franchise has been a big money-maker for Dreamworks for a decade and a half now, with three main-line movies including Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011. It has also found success in the streaming space with Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomess from 2011 to 2016 and The Paws of Destiny from 2016 to 2018. Some fans have wondered if Po would ever return to the big screen, and now they will have their wish. According to Dreamworks, Kung Fu Panda 4 is now in production.
So far, all we know about Kung Fu Panda 4 is that Black is reprising his role and that it is slated for release on March 8, 2024. Even that isn't set in stone, of course, as these far-flung release dates often change. As for Black, he voiced Po in the original three movies and in several video shorts, but not in the two TV shows mentioned above. However, he did reprise the rolethis summer in the series Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight, which aired as a Netflix original series.
The new movie may be a return to old plans made at Dreamworks over a decade ago. In a 2010 interview with Empire, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said that Kung Fu Panda was outlined as two film trilogies – one "student" story arc and one "master" story arc. That means KFP4 could be the beginning of Po's time handing down his hard-earned knowledge.
Katzenberg is no longer with Dreamworks, and later interviews seemed to downplay this idea. Additionally, some fans figured that Kung Fu Panda's success outside of movies may have caused the company to pivot a bit. Its animated series were extremely successful, and its TV specials and short films left a strong impression. The franchise has also spawned many video games at this point.
Some critics have also argued that Kung Fu Panda couldn't be made today as audiences are more sensitive to appropriate casting and representation. A retrospective review by Darren Franich for Entertainment Weekly argues that today's audiences wouldn't be pleased to see Black, Angelina Jolie, David Cross and other white actors playing these characters and making light of Chinese mythology.
With Black at least returning to the role of Po, these conversations are sure to come up again in 2024. Kung Fu Panda 4 is in production now and is slated for release on March 8, 2024.