Big news in the animated panda world: According to The Hollywood Reporter, due to its extended production schedule Rebel Wilson has been forced to leave Kung Fu Panda 3. Taking her place is Kate Hudson in the role of Mei Mei, a “crazy ribbon-dancing panda” who, as the first female panda lead in the series, is predictably a romantic interest for Jack Black’s Po. Even though Wilson has already put in a fair amount of work, the completed scenes will be reanimated to reflect Hudson’s take on Mei Mei—a clear sign that the true character of a panda lies within, or whatever message the film might have us believe.
Hudson joins a cast that includes Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, and Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Lucy Liu back as the Furious Five warriors. Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons are fresh additions as Po’s long-lost father and a supernatural villain, respectively, and there will also be many more “hilarious new panda characters.” Originally slated to release five days after The Force Awakens, the film smartly decided it would prefer not to drown in a fanboy flood, so eager animated panda and/or kung fu fans will have to wait until January 29, 2016 to see it.