The mist flooded through the ancient trees and slowly enshrouded us at the top of Mt. Qingcheng.
After an hour-long hike and one of the most scenic cable lift rides imaginable, we are resting at this holy site – considered the birthplace of Taoism and one of the most cherished mountains in China.
EXPLORE: Get all the details on CI's panda survival plan.
A production team from DreamWorks Animation is here as part of a research visit to Sichuan Province in Southwest China. They are working on the sequel to the blockbuster animated movie Kung Fu Panda and paying homage to the area responsible for most of the world’s pandas.
THE REAL THING: Check out the real animals behind the Kung Fu Panda movie.
Conservation International (CI), a partner of DreamWorks Animation, was invited to discuss with the team, which included CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, how CI and its partners are going to protect pandas with their generous $1 million donation.
CI experts and scientists were on hand all day to lend scientific support to the team during their time in Sichuan Province.
Rolling, Wrestling, Climbing Pandas
The morning was spent among the precocious and surprisingly active pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding or, more commonly, the panda base.
CORRIDORS: Pandas thrive in bamboo forests. Learn more about how we're working to reestablish large swaths of forest for their survival.
The base is internationally renowned for its groundbreaking work on panda breeding and research. During the trip, the panda base officials honored the movie Kung Fu Panda – and the awareness of pandas it has raised worldwide – by naming one of their panda cubs “Po,” after the beloved lead character in the movie.
The team watched as young pandas wrestled, climbed in trees, tackled their handlers, hung upside down, and did somersaults down grassy meadows for no reason other than pure joy.
PANDA CAM: Check out what pandas do when no one is looking.
The team sketched, photographed and filmed as much as they could during their time – gaining crucial first-hand experiences with pandas in preparation for their work on the sequel.
Touring Famous Sites Post-Earthquake
After visiting the base, the team was invited by the government to visit other famous sites around Chengdu. Sichuan Province was hit hard by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2008, that killed more than 70,000 people and destroyed large parts of Sichuan.
ON THE GROUND: Aid the China Support Effort
In addition to the devastating loss of human life and property, more than 80 percent of the total panda habitats were affected. Tourism is down and the communities are still picking up the pieces. But Chengdu is eager to get people coming back, and the pandas are one of the biggest draws.
As we sit here sipping warm green tea on top of Mount Qincheng the cold mist turns to a light rain. Exhausted but invigorated by the pandas, the endless forest, the dreamlike setting in which we currently sit, we understand what a special place this is for the whole planet. Losing this Chinese treasure would be a loss for the world.