The film was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jackie Chan and James Hong reprise their roles from the previous films with Randall Duk Kim reprising his role of Oogway from the first film. They are joined by Bryan Cranston, J. K. Simmons and Kate Hudson in the roles of Li Shan, Kai, and Mei Mei, respectively.
In the spirit realm, Oogway fights against an adversary named Kai, who has defeated other kung fu masters in the realm and taken their chi. Oogway willingly gives in and also has his chi stolen, but not before warning Kai that the Dragon Warrior, Po, will stop him. Kai takes this as a challenge to steal the Dragon Warrior's chi and returns to the mortal realm.
Meanwhile, Master Shifu announces his retirement from teaching and passes the role of teacher to Po. An initially excited Po realizes that teaching kung fu is not as easy as he thought, and the Furious Five are injured as a result. Po is demoralized because of his failure, and begins questioning who he really is. In response, Shifu advises Po that instead of trying to be a teacher, he should try to be himself. Po returns home where he meets a panda, Li Shan, whom they both realize is his long-lost biological father. They quickly bond with each other, much to the jealousy of Po's adoptive father, Mr. Ping.
After introducing Li to Shifu and his friends, Po and the Five defend the Valley of Peace from jade zombies that Kai has created from the chi of past kung fu masters. The team learns through research that in order to defeat Kai, Po must learn to master the use of chi himself, an ability utilized by ancient pandas. Li offers to teach him by taking him to his secret panda village home. Po and Li travel to the village while Shifu and the Furious Five stay behind to deal with Kai; Mr. Ping follows the pandas, worried that he will lose Po's affections to Li. Although Po is eager to learn chi, Li tells him he must first learn the relaxed life of a panda in the village, which he feels grateful to be a part of.
Kai takes the chi of nearly every kung fu master in China, including Shifu and the Furious Five except Tigress, who warns the pandas of Kai's intention to steal their chi. Afraid, Li and the pandas prepare to run away. When Po demands that Li teach him how to use chi, Li confesses that he does not know how, and that he lied out of fear of losing his son again. Po is hurt over his father's misdirection; Mr. Ping, who realizes Po has become happier with Li a part of his life, encourages Li and the other pandas to stay and ask Po to train them so they can fight back. Realizing what had previously made him fail as a teacher, Po agrees and teaches them using their everyday activities as their assets.
Kai arrives and sends his jade zombie minions to capture Po, but they are held off by the pandas, Ping, and Tigress, distracting Kai. The plan works in holding off the army, but when Po tries to use his signature Wuxi Finger Hold on Kai to send him back to the spirit realm, Kai reveals that it can only work on mortals, not a spirit warrior like himself. Kai gains the upper hand in their fight, but Po uses the Wuxi Finger Hold again on himself while gripping Kai, transporting them both to the spirit realm. They fight again, with Kai regaining the advantage to subdue Po. Using what they learned from Po and about who they are, Li, Tigress, Mr. Ping, and the pandas are able to use their chi to revive and empower him. After realizing who he really is, finally mastering chi in the process, Po harnesses the chi to create a giant dragon figure which he uses to overload Kai, causing him to explode, defeating him and restoring all of the fallen masters to normal.
In an ethereal golden pond, Oogway appears to Po and informs him that his journey as the Dragon Warrior has come full circle, declaring Po to be his true successor. By choice, Po wields a mystic jade yin-yang staff bestowed by Oogway to return to the mortal world. He and his extended family all return to the valley, where they continue practicing kung fu and their chi under the guidance of Po and the Furious Five.
In 2010, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that the Kung Fu Panda franchise was planned to have six movies, or "chapters", altogether. In April 2012, Jack Black first spoke to the press about the possible development of another Kung Fu Panda sequel: "I think they're writing it, writing hard as we speak," he shared. "I'd love to [return]. Yeah, it's a blast." In July 2012, Kung Fu Panda 3 was officially confirmed by Bill Damaschke, DWA's chief creative officer.
The film was made as a co-production between DreamWorks Animation and Oriental DreamWorks, a Shanghai-based studio, founded in 2012 as a partnership between DreamWorks Animation and Chinese companies. One third of the film was made in China, and the rest in the United States, at DWA. This was the first time that any major American animated feature film had been co-produced with a Chinese firm. The filmmakers worked closely with SAPPRFT to ensure the film's release in China. The film's co-production status in China allowed the production companies to circumvent the country's strict import quota and take a greater share of box-office revenue than imported films. To ensure the film's success in China, in addition to the English version, the Chinese version of the film was also fully animated, making them the only versions that will have the characters' lips synchronized with their voices.
Kung Fu Panda 3 saw the crew from the second film reunite, including director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, producer Melissa Cobb, screenplay writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, and Guillermo del Toro as executive producer. Initially, Nelson was directing the film alone, but by February 2015, Alessandro Carloni had joined her as a co-director. According to the report, Carloni, who was an animation supervisor on the first film and a story artist on the second, joined Nelson following her request to strengthen "the director's bench" to ensure that the film is completed in a timely manner.
On April 9, 2013, DreamWorks Animation announced that Rebel Wilson, Bryan Cranston, and Mads Mikkelsen had joined the cast of the film. By April 2015, J.K. Simmons had replaced Mikkelsen, whose character had been rewritten. Five months later, Wilson was replaced by Kate Hudson due to an extended production schedule. The studio had to reanimate previously completed scenes to reflect Hudson's interpretation of the character.
In 2017, however, Wilson claimed in a lawsuit that a number of articles published by Bauer Media Group's media entities have accused her of lying about her name, age, and upbringing, and resulted her being sacked from the movie.
The film's antagonist, Kai, is the first supernatural villain of the Kung Fu Panda series. Described by del Toro as "the most formidable villain yet," the creators wanted him to stand apart from his predecessors. Nelson reasoned: "You can't go brawler because Tai Lung was brawler. You can't go smarter because Shen was smarter. Where can you go? You have to go supernatural, bigger, and even more intimidating." Blue Peter presenters Radzi Chinyanganya and Lindsey Russell cameoed in the film.
On July 25, 2014, it was announced that Hans Zimmer would return to score the film. The score includes performances from renowned Asian musicians such as Chinese pianist Lang Lang, Chinese cellist Jian Wang, erhu virtuoso Karen Hua-Qi Ottosson (returned for her third time on Kung Fu Panda 3, this time not only on erhu but also on zhonghu and gaohu), Erhu musician Guo Gan, Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou and Canadian-Taiwanese young singer Patrick Brasca. The soundtrack album was released on January 22, 2016. John Powell, who collaborated with Zimmer on the first two films, did not return for the third installment due to dropping out of the film because of his work on Pan. A portion of the score includes a melody from the song "I'm So Sorry" by the rock band Imagine Dragons. The Vamps recorded a cover of the song "Kung Fu Fighting" for the soundtrack. Chinese pop singer Luhan also recorded the song "Deep" for the movie.
On September 10, 2012, it was announced that Kung Fu Panda 3 would be released on March 18, 2016. On April 9, 2013, the film's release date was moved up to December 23, 2015. In December 2014, the film was moved back to its original release date of March 18, 2016, to avoid competition with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. In April 2015, the release date was once again shifted, this time to January 29, 2016. AMC Theatres partnered with Fox and DWA to play the movie in Mandarin at seven theatres and in Spanish at 14 locations in the U.S and Canada meaning there will be a mix of subtitled and dubbed formats of Kung Fu Panda 3. This will mark the first time that AMC is playing a major theatrical release in dubbed/subtitled Mandarin. The film had a day-and-date release starting from January 28 in China, Russia, Ukraine, Jamaica and Puerto Rico and South Korea and the US and Canada on January 29, 2016. Other markets will follow on March and April. According to Deadline.com, the strategy behind such a staggered release was to take advantage of certain opportunistic dates which presented themselves such as the Chinese New Year in February for China.
Kung Fu Panda 3 was released digitally on May 13, 2016, and was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on June 28, 2016. The film debuted in first place on the home video sales chart for the week ending on July 3, 2016.
Kung Fu Panda 3 grossed $143.5 million in North America and $377.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $521.2 million, and is the lowest-grossing film in the series. According to Deadline Hollywood, the threequel made a net profit of $76.65 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film, making it one of the top twenty most profitable release of 2016.
In the United States and Canada, early tracking suggested the film will open to about $40–45 million, with Box Office Mojo reporting as high as $53 million, which was on par with Kung Fu Panda 2's $47.7 million opening in 2011 but much lower than the original film's $60.2 million opening in 2008. However, DreamWorks Animation and Fox were being more conservative suggesting a "mid-$40 million" opening. The lower end of the projection was because of winter and only 4% of all K–12 schools were off per Rentrak. According to digital data monitored and compiled by Moviepilot from various online social activities like Facebook likes, YouTube views, tweets and Google search among others, it predicted an opening of $48–50 million. Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak said the film, "should land somewhere between the first two installments" noting that after moviegoers – mostly from the East Coast – were affected by the 2016 United States blizzard, patrons, mostly families, would be on the look-out for entertainment movies which Kung Fu Panda 3 delivers. On January 27, two days before the film's release, Fandango reported that Kung Fu Panda 3 was the top advance ticket seller for the weekend, outstripping previous DWA films Home as well as Kung Fu Panda 2 at the same point in their sale cycles. Box office pundits also noted that the film didn't face any serious competition with its counterparts of newly released films such as The Finest Hours and Fifty Shades of Black, as well as holdovers Fox's own The Revenant and Disney/Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as all were expected to gross around $10 million. In China, expectations were high for the film with Nancy Tartaglione of Deadline.com reporting a bigger opening weekend than the US and a bigger total gross. Conservative estimates for its Middle Kingdom opening were at $35 million and rising to well upwards of $50 million. Even before the film's official release in China, it was already projected to emerge as the highest-grossing animated film there, a record held by Monkey King: Hero Is Back ($153 million) at that time, with local box office analysts predicting at least RMB 2 billion ($300 million) for its final gross since it had the added benefit of opening a week before the Chinese New Year, as well as Valentine's Day and debuting amidst the school holidays, the Lunar New Year blackout period in which foreign films are banned from entering the state meaning lesser competition and longer legs, and since it has the special privilege to run throughout the period and is also not limited to running 30 days in theatres.
The film was not screened for Thursday night previews in the US. On its opening day, it made $10.5 million, which is the lowest among the series but nonetheless topped the box office. The demographics on its opening day were evenly split with 56% women, and 58% of the crowd under 25. During its opening weekend, it earned $41.2 million from 3,955 theatres, easily topping the box office and marking the biggest January opening for an animated film (breaking The Nut Job's record), and third-ever biggest January opening, but recorded the lowest opening among the series. It retained the top spot at the box office during its second weekend – during the Super Bowl weekend – after falling 48.5% to $21.2 million and despite facing competition with three new wide releases; Hail, Caesar!, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Choice. This was in line with the second film's 49.9% second-weekend drop. It was finally overtaken by Fox's own Deadpool in its third weekend after adding $19.8 million after the later opened to $132.7 million.
Internationally, the film earned $75.7 million in its opening weekend from six overseas markets with 77% ($58.3 million) coming from China alone. In its second weekend, it was overtaken by The Studio's The Revenant which took the top spot while Kung Fu Panda 3 fell to No. 2. In South Korea, it opened at No. 1 earning $11.4 million from 1.6 million admissions between Thursday and Sunday on 1,364 screens and represented about 65% of the market share. However, this was slightly lower than the last instalment's $12.8 million opening. Roughly $380,000 of the total gross came from 17 IMAX screens. It fell to No. 2 in its second weekend after adding another $4.1 million and being dethroned by A Violent Prosecutor. In Russia, where a flu epidemic was declared in Moscow a week prior to the film's release, it managed to open at No. 1 with $5.1 million on 1,190 screens which is well below the $15 million opening of its immediate predecessor at the end of May 2011. It topped the box office there for two consecutive weekends. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it easily took the top spot in its first weekend with $6.8 million (including $2.29 million in previews) from 583 theatres dethroning London Has Fallen, although this was down from its two predecessors. It also topped the box office there for two straight weekends. Elsewhere, Mexico opened with $4.9 million, Italy with $3.6 million and had the biggest opening for DreamWorks Animation in Germany ($1.8 million), Hong Kong ($1.37 million) and Argentina ($1.27 million). As of February 14, it has grossed $24.1 million and $9 million in South Korea and Russia, respectively. It will next open in Australia and New Zealand.
The film was released in China on January 22, 2016 in a limited release, a week before its United States release. It had a 3-hour special sneak preview where it earned $6.4 million from two different versions of the film topping the daily box office charts. This broke the previous Saturday preview record held by Surprise: Journey to the West. Buoyed by good word-of-mouth, it had a single-day opening of ¥107 million ($16.3 million) from over 15,000 screens which is the biggest of 2016 thus far and second-biggest for an animated movie behind the $18.8 million opening of Minions in 2015 and including previews from its Saturday showings earned a total of $23.1 million (unofficial figure) which is one of the biggest opening and single-day gross in China. It grossed a total of $40–43 million (including previews) in just two days. Through its opening weekend, it earned an estimated $52.2 million (per Entgroup), setting a new record for an animated film (breaking Minions' previous record) from 278,000 screenings in over 15,000 screens viewed by over 9.38 million people accounting for 75% of ticket sales from Friday to Sunday and including previews made ¥384.4 million ($58.3 million). It was No. 1 on Friday ($15.6 million), Saturday ($19.1 million) and Sunday ($16.1 million). It made $3.8 million from 272 IMAX screens, a new record for an animated film besting the previous four-day $2.87 million gross record held by How to Train Your Dragon 2. Despite having an opening weekend much higher than the US, box office analysts felt the figures to be somewhat disappointing given the rapid expansion of the Chinese movie industry, good word-of-mouth and Chinese-American co-production that the film could've benefited from. Jonathan Papish of China Film Insider attributed the mediocre opening to the film's release timing; it opened a week ahead of the Lunar New Year which is historically one of the slowest moviegoing periods of the Chinese release calendar during which millions of Chinese travel back to their hometowns during chūnyùn (春运), the largest annual mass human migration in the world where people devote less time for leisure activities such as going to the movies. The following weekend, it fell precipitously by 70% and added $15.4 million which is the biggest second-weekend drop for a Hollywood film since Spectre dropped 75% in its second weekend in 2015. The huge amount of drop can be attributed to the Chinese New Year since the film struggled to find audiences amidst the holiday. Nevertheless, it has passed $100 million in just two weekends with $101.65 million and remains as the biggest market for the film even ahead of the US and Canada. By February 8, Kung Fu Panda 3 witnessed steep decline in the number of screenings as well as in generating overall revenue. It saw only 8,864 to 9,212 showings since a bulk of the screens were devoted to the arrival of big Chinese films like The Mermaid, From Vegas to Macau III and The Monkey King 2. In comparison, the three films had a combined 186,717 showings. After two straight wins at the Chinese box office, it was finally surpassed by The Mermaid in its third weekend. On February 21, it passed Monkey King: Hero Is Back to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time in China with 975 million yuan ($149.1 million) only to be overtaken by Disney's Zootopia the next month on March 20.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 87% based on 155 reviews and has an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 66 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". In CinemaScore polls, cinema audiences gave the film an average score of "A" on an A+ to F scale. Women as well as under-25s gave the film an "A+" grade.
IGN gave the film score of 8.5 out of 10, saying, "Kung Fu Panda 3 offers a fun-filled, action-packed conclusion to DreamWorks' endearing animated series." Screen Rant awarded it 2.5 out of 5, saying "At times, it's a beautiful movie, filled with likable characters, as well as digestible gags, that should keep kids smiling and giggling – but, with a plethora of more ambitious animated options out there, passable might not justify the money (or time) required for a viewing." Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com awarded it 3 out of 4 stars, saying "In spite of its abundant action – and for all the interspecies mashups, this is as much an action-adventure animated movie as it is a funny-animal animated movie – is a pretty relaxing experience for the adult viewer." Entertainment Weekly awarded it a score of B, saying it was "Just complicated enough to reward steady viewers and just simple enough for parent escorts to enjoy without much prior knowledge." The Hollywood Reporter awarded it a positive review, saying "While the storyline, in which Jack Black's dumpling-downing Dragon Warrior is reunited with his biological father, doesn't quite fulfill its prophecies, dramatically speaking, visually speaking it's all quite impressive — one of those very rare animated features that completely justifies its 3D glasses." The Escapist awarded it 3 out of 5, saying "It's a perfectly fine film, and if all you want is "more of the same," it won't disappoint." Forbes awarded it a mildly positive review, saying "While visually gorgeous and generally entertaining, this third installment of the DreamWorks Animation franchise is a comedown from the first two superb entries." Variety also awarded it a positive review, saying "A winning lightness of touch prevails in this delightful continuation of the durable DreamWorks franchise."
Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends is an RPG martial arts video game that features characters from all three Kung Fu Panda films. Developed by Vicious Cycle Software and published by Little Orbit, the game was released on December 1, 2015, for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The Wii U version was released on December 15, 2015.
In 2010, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said that the Kung Fu Panda franchise was planned to have six films, or "chapters", altogether.
On January 13, 2016, Collider asked the filmmakers of Kung Fu Panda 3 about the possibility of a fourth film. Co-director Jennifer Yuh Nelson said, "It's one at a time. We want to make this a perfect jewel, and then we'll see what happens after that." Co-director Alessandro Carloni said, "With the sequels, we don't want to try to have them feel open-ended. We want it to feel like a completed journey, and we feel this movie does. And then, if a fantastic story presents itself, great."