In Kung Fu Panda, there was Tai Lung (voiced by Ian McShane), a leopard raised and trained in kung fu by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who sought revenge for being denied the role of Dragon Warrior. In Kung Fu Panda 2, there was Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock who slaughtered pandas by the masses and was exiled from Gongmen City, which he was the heir to, as a result. Eventually, Shen sought to reclaim his former home by force with cannons.
Looking ahead to Kung Fu Panda 3, the next villain will be Kai (J.K. Simmons), a bull who is especially notable because he is the first supernatural big bad of the series. “He’s somebody that’s beyond Tai Lung, beyond Shen,” says co-director Jennifer Yuh Nelson of the new antagonist, who has large horns, leather armor, and uses two jade swords with chains attached as his go-to weapon, according to USA Today, who unveiled the character last month. “He’s a villain that Po is completely ill-equipped to face.”
The decision to go supernatural was made, in large part, because it allowed Kai to stand apart from his predecessors, in a very big way. “I drew a little chart that had a picture of Tai Lung next to Po, a picture of Shen next to Po, and a picture of this new villain coming in,” Nelson says of the early stages of the film, when she and her fellow filmmakers were deciding where to take it, “and it was like ‘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.”
If the above art is any indication, it seems as though that’s exactly what Kai is, which is sure to make for something very exciting when he inevitably faces off, in one way or another, with Po, Master Shifu, and the Furious Five warriors: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). “That dynamic of a new villain, new energy, and new abilities that challenge Po is what makes it interesting for us—and makes for some cool fight scenes,” Nelson says, but she adds that there’ll be laughs too. “J.K. brings humor to a really intimidating bad guy, so we can go really intimidating with him and not scare the kids out of the theater.”
Kung Fu Panda 3 will be released on Jan. 29, 2016. Check back for more news about the film.