Jennifer Yuh Nelson Talks Kung Fu Panda 2
BD: You've also expanded the traditional sequences that you oversaw in the original. What was that like?
JYN: It's such a joy to see traditional animation again and to tell a deeper story, because those have always been in Po's mind. What better way of showing his own experiences with his past than to show it in Povision?
BD: What was the biggest learning curve for you as a director?
JYN: I think it's about how to protect the film because a lot of people over the course of the [production] have a lot of great ideas, but you have to hold on to the original story you intended to tell. Which is demanding and hard over three years. That level of stamina involved is a big thing.
JYN: Yeah, I don't know exactly why there are multiple directors on a film. It could just be a tradition. But it didn't seem to be a problem with one director. In fact, it was more streamlined because you only have one person to answer yes or no to any given question. I had a great deal of support from the excellent heads of department and so it wasn't necessary to have more than one director.
BD: And it helps being mentored along the way. Talk about the influence of Brenda Chapman.
JYN: Oh, she was wonderful. I think it showed me that there were enough women directors at DreamWorks that it became really invisible -- it became a non-issue. And because of that gender has never been a factor at DreamWorks -- it's neutral.
And in Brenda's case, she came on when I was contemplating becoming head of story on Sinbad, and she's the one that encouraged me to take that job. I wasn't sure if I was ready or wanted to and she told me that I should do it. I respected her word and I'm glad that she told me to do that.
JYN: Absolutely. I'm not a naturally aggressive person as far as trying to get promoted or anything like that. I'm pretty much happiest if I'm sitting and drawing. So, when the directing thing came up, Melissa Cobb, the producer, and Jeffrey Katzenberg took me aside and said I should really do this. But it was wonderful that they did.
BD: What was it like directing the voice talent?
JYN: They were fabulous -- they are some of the best actors to work with. So how could I possibly go wrong? They were so easy to work with and knew the characters so well, and in Gary [Oldman's] case [as Lord Shen], finding the character was fun. It was a joy.
BD: And it must've been a joy collaborating for the first time with other departments.
JYN: Absolutely. As head of story, I don't get involved with the last half of the movie. And now as a director I get to be with every department and see how they work, and all the things that they contribute. For example, the character effects department: to see all the things they do to make the cloth work and the characters look the way they do is really cool.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.