There are already rumors about plans to make a sequel to the hugely successful Kung Fu Panda, which means that Jack Black will soon have another opportunity to accidentally reveal future Angelina Jolie pregnancy details to the press, McDonald's will get more perfect Happy Meal figurines of characters that were obviously invented because they would make perfect Happy Meal figurines, and Dreamworks will get to hire dozens and dozens more writers to insert jokes wherever possible without changing anything.
Dan Harmon, who is one of the creators of Channel 101 and of the very funny Heat Vision & Jack, and who also worked (for a while, anyway) on Kung Fu Panda, explains:
(From Channel 101, via MarkLisanti)
My hats off to anyone that can write a Dreamworks Animation film. They have a unique process.
First they storyboard the entire film. That is the first step. Not kidding. No writers, no script, just a story, and an entire film drawn on pieces of paper.
Then Katzenberg watches an animatic of the boards and says, surprisingly, "this needs a lot of work. You have a month."
Then they hire their first writer. And spend that month changing as much of the storyboards as they can, which is about 20 to 30 percent. If the 30 percent change isn't the right kind of change, people get fired. Maybe the director, maybe the writer, maybe both…
I came in about four writers into the process. It's kind of hard to write a "better" scene than the last writer when the rules are that you can only change 30 percent of each scene or completely change 30 percent of the scenes, per Katzenberg screening. So, for instance, in this scene, the panda comes up a flight of stairs carrying a bucket of water, slips on a banana peel, says something to two geese and does an air guitar. The good news? There can be anything in the bucket. Your mission: make the movie better.
I haven't seen Kung Fu Panda, but "the panda comes up a flight of stairs carrying a bucket of water, slips on a banana peel, says something to two geese and does an air guitar" is basically a synopsis of the entire movie, right? (Give or take a few Matrix-y frozen in air mid-karate-kick shots and several utterances of the word, "Awesome!")
So, the question remains, if you were writing Kung Fu Panda (And who knows? Maybe next year you'll be writing the sequel!) what would you put in the panda's bucket to make the scene 30% better? Here are a few suggestions:
—A series of increasingly smaller buckets (Meta!)
—Some really funny color of paint. Like neon blue paint, or something.
—Life-giving water that the panda was carrying to a village full of dehydrated children. Uh-oh!
—Poker chips (Panda's running an illegal casino, you see, and needs Kung Fu to save him from his downward spiral.)
—15 DVDs of Center Stage, Panda's favorite movie because it taught him anything is possible through dance. (This gives his character depth.)
—Several dozen severed human fingers. (What's going on with Panda? This adds intrigue.)
—Nothing. (This is symbolic of the emptiness within our hero Panda that he must fill with Kung Fu.)