'Kung Fu Panda 3' to Begin Production in August

"Kung Fu Panda 2"

Now slated for a release in December 2015, the project will see one-third of its production done in China, said the managing director of a company partnering with DreamWorks Animations in the film.

SHANGHAI – With DreamWorks Animations having moved up Kung Fu Panda 3's release date from 2016 to late 2015, one of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Shanghai-based partners has confirmed that production on the film is slated to commence in August.

The latest revelation comes from Peter Li, managing director of China Media Capital (CMC) and a board member of one of the film’s co-producers, Oriental DreamWorks, and follows the April announcement that the film’s release date would be moved to Dec. 23, 2015.

Speaking at a Shanghai International Film Festival Forum panel Monday, Li said Oriental DreamWorks – the Shanghai-based company owned by DreamWorks Animations, CMC, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance – will handle one-third of the production work on the project, with the remainder to be done in the U.S.

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Kung Fu Panda 3 will attain official co-production status in China, a designation that will see the film circumventing the country’s strict import quota and its production companies securing a higher percentage of box-office revenue.

Li was speaking at a panel titled “Chinese Capital’s Long March to Hollywood," in which Chinese media, film and financial executives spoke about their experiences working with their U.S peers – or, in the case of Wanda Group and Beijing Galloping Horse, even injecting money into the acquisition of Hollywood assets.

According to Wang Ran, CEO of the China eCapital investment bank, a Chinese takeover of a second-tier Hollywood film production company within the next two or three years is “possible" due to the the rapid expansion of revenue generated in China’s film market, the volume of which has been predicted to surpass that in the U.S. by decade’s end.

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Sid Ganis, the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who is now working in China to consolidate the online film distribution portal Jiaflix Enterprises, agreed but also qualified his views by stressing potential pitfalls in such acquisitions.

“Of course there will be Chinese investment in American studios, but a much more important issue to address is the cultural issue. … It should be about integration and not conquering Hollywood,” he said.

Reflecting on his time at Columbia Pictures when it was taken over by Sony for $3.4 billion in September 1989, Ganis said the initial fears of the studio’s creativity being compromised “did not materialize” and that the acquisition was the “right thing” to do on the Japanese company’s part.

“Only once did I experience the intrusions of the parent company in what I was doing: it was when we wanted to make a comedy about sumo wrestlers,” he said. “This super Sony executive said, very nicely, ‘Please don’t do that and make fun of our cultural icon.' ”

Meanwhile, executives who have bought U.S. assets in the past year said their primary aim was to gain foreign expertise in order to improve China’s film industry. Wanda Cultural Group vice president Ye Ning said his company’s acquisition of AMC was driven by an admiration of the cinema chain’s management ethos, while Beijing Galloping Horse vice chairman Ivy Zhong said the joint purchase (with India’s Reliance Mediaworks) of visual-effects house Digital Domain was done to increase the overall production quality of her company’s output.

China Media Capital’s Li said the collaboration with DreamWorks in establishing Oriental DreamWorks is also because of a need to “introduce creative process and production conventions into China." “There’s still a big gap between China and Hollywood,” he said.