Currently making the rounds on the internet is the seemingly news that Charlie Kaufman has done some uncredited touch-up work on the screenplay for the forthcoming Kung Fu Panda 2 (“If you like kung fu, and you like pandas…”).
This tidbit circulating in part because of the seeming incongruity of it all, Oscar-winning mindfuck screenplay auteur Charlie Kaufman doing hackwork on a Dreamworks animation starring Jack Black as the voice of a panda who does kung fu. But in fact, longtime readers of The L Magazine will have long expected this turn of events.
In the fall of 2008, the L’s Nicolas Rapold interviewed Charlie Kaufman. And, almost accidentally, Nic solicited what I believe must be Charlie Kaufman’s first on-the-record comments about Kung Fu Panda:
Charlie Kaufman: I did a pilot called Ramblypants. I did a pilot called Depressed Roomies. I did a pilot called In Limbo. I did a pilot called Animals Behind Bars.
The L: What was that about?
CK: It was about animals in a zoo… I did a pilot called Astronuts. Which was a title that I was given. That was my assignment. I was in a development deal with Disney and they came to me. “We got a great idea for a show — Astronuts!” So I wrote it. They were so happy, they couldn’t believe how smart they were to come up with this idea. I was like, wow, really?
The L: I guess I would end up seeing a movie called Astronuts at some point.
CK: Well, it’s kind of similar to Space Chimps.
The L: That and Kung Fu Panda were two titles this summer that sounded randomly generated by a computer.
CK: I didn’t see Space Chimps but I did see Kung Fu Panda. Not bad. Better than I thought. When I saw Jack Black dancing with a bunch of guys in panda suits in photographs from Cannes, I was so depressed. I was heading to Cannes the next week. I thought, I could never see this movie. Then I went to Iceland after Cannes with my family, and I was hooked up with the Icelandic distributor of this movie. And he showed us Kung Fu Panda in a special private screening before it opened. And so I saw Kung Fu Panda before anybody, when I swore I would never see it. And I kinda liked it, it made me laugh.
The rest, as they say, is history.