Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight has just returned for its second season on Netflix worldwide. The DreamWorks Television series, which features Jack Black returning as Po, has been a fan favorite and is among the great list of DreamWorks shows available exclusively on Netflix. Ahead of Season 2’s release on Netflix, we spoke with executive producer Peter Hastings.
Developed by Mitch Watson and Peter Hastings, this series is based on the film franchise that has seen three releases so far with a fourth in development in addition to multiple television shows.
Peter Hastings is a veteran in the animation space, having worked in the industry for nearly 30 years on hit titles like animaniacs, Pinky and the Brainand the first Kung Fu Panda Serie, legends of awesomeness. For Netflix, she worked on The epic tales of Captain Underpants in space and its two spin-offs.
Warning: Possible spoilers for Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight Season 2 are ahead.
What’s on Netflix: It’s pretty rare for TV series adaptations of movies to get the original voice back. Jack Black sounds better than ever before Season 2 and really brings the series to life. Does having the original actors back help bring more life to the show?
WoN: Peter Hastings: Having original cast members, like Jack Black and James Hong, means less explaining and more exploring. They already know the character so we can play and find out more. I don’t need to figure out how Po should read a line or how Mr. Ping should express his emotions, those guys know what to do, so we build on it.
I also notice that you wrote the song yourself according to the credits? Is this the first time you’ve written something like this for a show?
PH: I have a background in music and have been able to write themes for various shows including Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness Y The epic tales of Captain Underpants as well as Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight. The original track I wrote is actually longer and has lyrics, but we decided to keep it short and classy.
WoN: As an animation veteran, how has animation changed in the years you’ve been producing? Has it become easier or more difficult? Are you capable of telling stories now that you couldn’t tell 20 or 30 years ago?
PH: When I started, we were still drawing and hand painting cels and editing on 35mm film. That whole process has changed a lot since everything has gone digital.
Streaming has created a lot of freedom because we are not beholden to advertisers. Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon KnightIt’s much more mature and dramatic than previous iterations, and we’re doing a deep serialized story that can be watched all at once. But fundamentally, as delivery systems change, one thing never changes: the need to just tell good stories.
WoN: Season 2 concludes with a huge 45-minute standalone special, “Epic Lunar New Year.” Why did you decide to end the season that way and was it liberating to be able to get away from the main plot?
PH: Although the episode fits within our show’s story timeline, we wanted to create a Christmas special that would celebrate an aspect of Chinese culture that we could share. It was fun having our regular characters take on new roles to tell the story.
WoN: Season 3 is set at the end of Apok-ta-pokalypse with the gang leaving for England. What can you tease about the future of the show and what we could expect? Will we see what happens to Nian, the dragon from the Lunar New Year episode, again?
PH: Here’s hoping the gang continues their journey across the world and arrives in medieval England, but with some exciting complications along the way. A fun aspect of developing the story is bringing in new characters and delving into the lives of established ones. Sometimes we agree on the destination of a story and then realize how the hell we’re getting there. A lot of big surprises come from that process.
Nian the Dragon has decided to fly away for now, preferring to only make appearances around Lunar New Year!
WoN: Finally, we asked everyone we interviewed, what else are you watching on Netflix? What has been your favorite animated title on the service in recent years?
PH: i love guillermo del toro pinocchio probably about everything. But Netflix can provide so much animated content that I love being introduced to all kinds of new styles.