Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight EP Peter Hastings explains why the show is darker than the DreamWorks movies. DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda franchise kicked off in 2008 with a feature film that saw the clumsy panda, Po, save his valley and impress the martial arts trainer Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). The movie proved to be a critical and commercial hit, and its popularity warranted two sequels, Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011 and Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016, which were both quite successful. In all the movies, Jack Black voiced the anthropomorphic protagonist, although for the animated series, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny, Mick Wingert took over the voiceover duties. Now, however, Black is again set to voice Po for the upcoming Netflix animated series, marking his first return to the franchise since 2016.

Primed to arrive on Netflix on July 14, 2022, Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight will see Po embark on his latest adventure as he tours the world seeking redemption and justice. In his new mission, Po will team up with some returning characters, like his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), but primarily he will be accompanied by the no-nonsense knighted English bear, Wandering Blade, voiced by the British singer Rita Ora. Last month, the Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight trailer teased Po's new adventure, and it included the same entertaining blend of humor and action that is characteristic of the franchise. However, it seems that the show will include some deep and intense scenes as well.

Now, in an exclusive conversation with Screen Rant, Hastings explains why Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight is darker than previous DreamWorks movies and TV shows. As the EP explains, he has incorporated some more serious and introspective elements into the show to accommodate for the transforming outlook of TV. At the core, there is the same boisterous fun and amusing action. But some arcs are more mindfully explored, and the show is more emotional than any other project in the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Read what Hastings said below.

Because of the changing face of TV, we're going a little more mature and a little deeper. We've had dark moments in this series, along with all of the fun action set pieces that we usually have, so I was very interested in bringing a lot more emotion into it. Perhaps more emotion than was in Legends of Awesomeness. There's some more danger.

Kung Fu Panda The Dragon Knight - Wandering Blade

Surely, TV audiences have evolved to grow more receptive to evocative, sentimental stories that leave an impact. And a lack of depth is something that has been frequently cited as a problem with Kung Fu Panda TV shows and movies. In particular, the previous two animated series, although entertaining, could not distinguish themselves from the countless TV shows out there, and their cliche-laden narrative did not necessarily evoke any important discussions. Hence, it is the right approach for  Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight to include some grim plotlines as they will not only supplement character growth but also make the show relevant to audiences who might relate to the circumstances faced by certain characters.

As the Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight trailer had shown, part of the series will tackle the reverberations of fame, as well as the responsibilities that come with being a hero. Po may have become the Dragon Master earlier, but now he sees his title being taken away from him, which will likely cause him to get distressed. Additionally, apart from the two wicked weapon-hunting weasels, Veruca and Klaus, there is a mysterious character who seems to be following Po, and his origins and backstory are also drawing intrigue from fans. That said, how Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight approaches its serious storylines and how audiences respond to that is something that will only become clear once the show arrives on Netflix.