by John Crumlish
LOS ANGELES, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Starting on June 15, visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood can accompany the beloved animated panda Po in "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest," a first-of-its kind immersive adventure and the premier attraction of the studios' new DreamWorks Theatre.
Jon Corfino, senior director and executive producer for Universal Studios Hollywood Creative, assures an all-encompassing experience for guests as they embark on a 10-minute mission packed with sensory, audio and visual dynamics.
"It's based on immersing guests into the world of DreamWorks," Corfino told Xinhua in a recent interview. "There is a lot of illusion. You'll be taken to places you haven't been before, and there will be a lot of surprises."
Corfino said the global popularity of the "Kung Fu Panda" film franchise made it the obvious first choice as the first spectacle in the lushly appointed, technologically innovative new theatre.
The "Kung Fu Panda" film franchise from DreamWorks Animation consists of three films: "Kung Fu Panda" (2008), "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011) and "Kung Fu Panda 3 "(2016).
The franchise is hailed as not only an excellent contribution to the wuxia (martial heroes) genre, but for its impressively knowledgeable understanding of Chinese culture and heritage for an American movie production.
"It would be better to ask, 'Why not?'" he said. "It's such a great franchise, it's family-friendly, it's very popular and it seemed to hit all the right notes. It's very conducive to what we're trying to achieve inside."
Created and produced by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Creative, "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" features the first-ever integration of interior projection mapping that is designed to engulf guests in 180 degrees of action.
Seven Christie 4K Boxer cinema projectors, 360-degree audio and physical effects envelop guests as the storytelling progresses through encounters with roaring rapids, menacing river pirates, wind, magic, flaming arrows, a cave full of fireflies and plenty of kung fu.
"This was kind of a dream, how we could really transform a complete inner space," said Corfino of the interior mapping.
Given the attraction's spectacular array of optical elements, Corfino said the team understood from the start that the more common three-dimensional (3D) visual perspective would not suffice.
"3D is fabulous but it's primarily designed when you're focused, and things come at you in some way," he said. "We've learned, and a lot of the audience has learned, that 3D tends to shut off your periphery a bit. This show is all about the periphery and immersing you."
In another departure from the more familiar guest experiences at theme parks around the world, the team chose to make "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" a seated journey instead of a ride. The stationary experience is just as thrilling, however, Corfino said.
"We are always trying to innovate, and we thought the opportunity to surround guests and create this great illusion was something that has never been done before," Corfino said.
Although the show's storyline is original, and includes some components not found in the "Kung Fu Panda" films, Corfino said authenticity has not been compromised in the strive for freshness and uniqueness.
"Integrity is absolutely everything," he said. "This is a DreamWorks property, so we worked with their writers, directors and everybody who's had anything to do with this franchise to make sure we were being true to it."
Corfino said guests quickly morph from spectators to active participants when the villainous Kang Wolf hits the Ming Hammer he stole, hurtling guests and characters together into the Spirit Realm.
"You see the entire theatre destroy itself," Corfino said. "The outside is spinning around us and we engage in a massive kung fu fight. Somehow we get back to the emperor, and at end of the show, the theatre rebuilds itself in front of us. It' s an incredibly immersive, powerful experience."
Although "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" was not created to appeal to any particular culture, Corfino said its Chinese setting and themes could well entice more Chinese tourists to visit the studios and specifically the attraction.
"I sure hope so," he said with a hopeful chuckle.
"I think it absolutely will. We enjoy a tremendous demographic visit from Asia, but it's such a great franchise, so I don' t know if it was directly linked to that. It may be a happy coincidence. But I think it's serendipitous, surely," Corfino told Xinhua.
Regardless of ancestry, however, Corfino said everyone relates to the star of the attraction.
"Po is a panda who didn't get any respect, but he engages with the inner magic and the power of himself," Corfino said. "A lot of us want to connect with that kind of sensibility."