Use Panda3D for a non-interactive, machinima-like 3d app?

Hi all,
I am currently a CS PhD student and my research is on knowledge engineering and particularly on modelling film direction knowledge.

For the purpose of conducting some experiments, I have been searching the web to find a high-level, open-source 3D engine/API, preferably for Java but any other suggestion would be useful, with fair documentation/tutorials and an active community, that will enable me to easily generate some basic “film scene” examples programmatically, without having to go in the deeps of 3D programming. And this has to be done through code, rather than in some 3D platform like 3DMax or Blender.

For example I may need to generate a room, then place some objects (e.g. furniture, everyday-objects) and some human characters in it, and then create basic animations for the characters (e.g walk, sit on a chair or lie on a bed, bend, make simple gestures such as wave, point, hug or grab an object, etc). I will also need to move the characters around, so I need to be able to create motion paths (straight or curved) for translating the characters and the camera in space.

I have spent a lot of time checking out a large number of 3d/game engines and the truth is I have got quite confused… I don’t have any experience in 3D programming and for that reason I need the API to be as high-level and easy-to-understand as possible. Note that I don’t care about audio, networking or high rendering quality. Also I don’t want this to be interactive at all (as opposed to games). I just need to generate a rendered clip through code, according to a number of specific directives.

I came across Panda3D and it sounds really promising! But I am wondering whether Panda3D would be the optimal solution for what I need to do. Is it high-level enough to easily tackle this task? Or maybe it would be overkill?

I will very much appreciate any help/tip/hint!