Jason Tripitikas is a Boston teenager with a passion for classic kung fu movies. However, when a trip to a Chinatown pawnshop brings him into contact with a legendary Chinese weapon, Jason finds himself transported to a land pulled straight from his favorite martial arts films. The unlikely hero soon learns that the ancient staff he possesses once belonged to a legendary Chinese warrior called the Monkey King, a just leader since imprisoned by the evil Jade Warlord. Joined by a band of master martial artists pulled straight from classic kung fu tales, Jason Tripitikas must travel to return the storied relic to its rightful owner, free the Monkey King, and bring peace and prosperity back to his kingdom.
Produced by Casey Silver Productions, China Film Co-Production Corporation, Huayi Brothers Media, and Relativity Media, The Forbidden Kingdom is a martial arts fantasy film released in both the United States and China. Directed by Rob Minkoff, the director of such critically acclaimed films as The Lion King (1994), the movie draws on several beloved martial arts legends to tell a unique new story. Here are a few interesting facts about the production of The Forbidden Kingdom:
It marks the first on-screen partnership between Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
Although both were well known as talented martial artists and stars of Hong Kong and international cinema for decades prior to the production of The Forbidden Kingdom, the film marked Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s first time acting together. Jackie Chan noted that the pair worked surprisingly well together, stating, “I have not worked with someone whom I’m comfortable with, in terms of movements, rhythm and natural reactions, in the last 10 years.” While partnerships with other martial artists usually required over 10 takes to complete, Chan noted that he and Jet Li were able to perform their fights incredibly efficiently.
It features a story by award-winning screenwriter John Fusco.
After leaving high school early to travel the southern United States, John Fusco performed as a blues musician while earning a paycheck at local factories. He later resumed the academic path that would eventually lead him to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he honed his budding screenwriting skills under the tutelage of writers including Waldo Salt and Ring Lardner Jr. While studying at Tisch, Fusco won the national Nissan-Focus student screenplay award twice in consecutive years.
Once he launched his career, John Fusco drew inspiration from his travels across the United States, often setting his films in rural areas. His most noteworthy films include Young Guns (1988) and its 1990 sequel; Thunderheart (1992), Hidalgo (2004), and he received an Academy Award nomination for his first and only animated feature, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Fusco also turned to his own experience in the martial arts for inspiration, writing The Forbidden Kingdom and, later, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016).
It draws inspiration from classic Chinese legends and literature.
The Forbidden Kingdom honors the history of Chinese martial arts and cinema from its opening credits, which feature images of many famous martial arts movie stars. The introductory sequence calls to mind the visual style of many kung fu movies produced by the Shaw Brothers in the 1980s and includes pictures of numerous actors from the iconic Shaw Brothers Creative Group of martial arts filmmakers, including Bruce Lee, Chia-Liang Liu, Kuan Tai Chen, and The Venom Mob.
In addition to including several homages to martial arts cinema, The Forbidden Kingdom draws influence from a 15th century Chinese novel titled Journey to the West. Written during the Ming dynasty by Wu Cheng-en, the novel tells the story of Tang Sanzhuang, a Buddhist monk on a quest to India to retrieve his faith’s sacred scriptures. This well-known story has provided ample inspiration for modern media, lending characters and concepts to the popular anime Dragon Ball Z (1996) and the 1978 television series Monkey, among others. In some translations of Journey to the West, the protagonist goes by Tripitaka—a name that inspired the surname of Jason Tripitikas in The Forgotten Kingdom.
Throughout his adventures, Jason Tripitikas encounters recognizable characters from a number of classic martial arts tales, including both ancient myths and more modern adventure pulps. His companions include Lu Yan, a revered Taoist immortal who appears as a character in Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master (1978); The Jade Emperor, a figure from Chinese myth; and the White Haired Demoness, a character conceived by pulp novelist Liang Yusheng.
The Forgotten Kingdom showcases the work of a legendary fight choreographer
Action choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen has planned and directed fight sequences in such noteworthy films as Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), The Matrix (1999), and Kung Fu Hustle (2004). The Forgotten Kingdom represented a reunion for Woo-Ping Yuen and Jackie Chan, who collaborated on numerous earlier films including Drunken Master and Twin Dragons (1992). In addition, Yuen Woo-Ping has served as both director and stunt coordinator on many productions, including Iron Monkey (1993) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016). Woo-Ping has received several accolades for his work, including the Asian Film Awards’ lifetime achievement award and the American Choreography Award for outstanding achievement in choreography for his work on Kill Bill: Vol 2.