DreamWorks Animation is not only developing a sequel to Kung Fu Panda, due out June 3rd 2011, but they are co-producing a television series for Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon has ordered 26 episodes after the success of The Penguins of Madagascar. The series premiered on the television network on March 28th, and has become the second-most-watched program among kids 6-12 on television, behind only Spongebob.
No details are known about the new show, only that it will be titled Kung Fu Panda: The Series. To me the title sounds like it won’t be a spin-off, but instead follow the future adventures of Po the Panda. I doubt that Jack Black or any of the other A-list talent from the computer animated feature film, will be providing their voice talents for the show.
Television adaptations of animated feature film properties have always bothered me. I really don’t see a difference between say, The Little Mermaid television series and the horrible sub-par direct-to-dvd sequels that Disney was producing a few years back. Pixar opening up a studio in Vancouver is also worrisome, because I get the feeling that they might be headed in the same sort direction.
I understand that there is money to be made off these popular characters, but there is something to be said about not watering down a brand. Why will kids pay to see a new Kung Fu Panda movie if they can watch the television show at home for free? And how will these ancillary shows and dvd sequels affect the legacy of the original film? I’m sure Jeffrey Katzenberg would respond, “They’ll pay to see the sequel, because it will be in 3D!”