One of the most anticipated films of what will eventually be the 2016 year in animation (and one of the earliest arrivals) has had another cast shake-up.
The Hollywood Reporter first broke the news last Friday that Kate Hudson will replace Rebel Wilson as Mei Mei, one of the new characters in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3. This will be the second replacement for the film after J.K. Simmons took over from Mads Mikkelson following a reworking of the film’s villain. It will also mark Hudson’s first animated voice role.
In the film, Mei Mei is a ribbon-dancing female panda who’s said to be romantically obsessed with Po. She is introduced as part of a newly-discovered village of pandas, where Po reunites with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston).
Sources close to DWA told The Hollywood Reporter that Rebel Wilson was forced to bow out due to an extended production schedule. Therefore, previously completed scenes featuring Mei Mei will be re-animated to reflect Hudson’s take on the character. It’s possible that the extended schedule may have interfered with Rebel’s commitment to other films (she’s currently shooting Grimsby for Columbia Pictures).
In any case, this wouldn’t be the first time this happened in any animated film (let alone a major one). Chris Farley was originally going to be Shrek (all of his dialogue were fully recorded) before his unfortunate passing in 1997, with Mike Myers taking up the role afterwards. Despicable Me 2 was only six months away from its Annecy premiere when Al Pacino (the original voice of El Macho) walked away due to creative differences. Pacino’s voice work was also complete as well, only to be re-recorded with Benjamin Bratt. For a more recent example, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur was only five months out from its November release this year when all of the characters (save for Francis McDormand) were recasted back in June to fit the film’s re-jigged story.
Nonetheless, Rebel’s exit is unfortunate, but I do look forward to seeing what Kate (an actress who’s completely fresh to voice acting) will bring to the character.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. The film features the voice talents of Jack Black (Po), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu), Lucy Liu (Viper), Seth Rogen (Mantis), Jackie Chan (Monkey), David Cross (Crane), James Hong (Mr. Ping), and Randall Duk Kim as Master Oogway. New to the cast is Kate Hudson as Mei Mei, Bryan Cranston as Li, and J.K.Simmons as Kai.
Kung Fu Panda 3 lands in theaters on January 29, 2016.
What do you think? Any thoughts on the replacement? How do you feel about Kate Hudson stepping into the role?
Edited by: Kelly Conley