- “This Summer, Get Ready For The Adventure.”
Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 American computer-animated action comedy martial arts film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne and produced by Melissa Cobb, and stars the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, and Michael Clarke Duncan. Set in a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic talking animals, the plot revolves around a bumbling panda named Po who aspires to become a kung fu master. When an evil kung fu warrior is foretold to escape from prison, Po is unwittingly named the chosen one destined to bring peace to the land, much to the chagrin of the resident kung fu warriors.
The idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive. The film was originally going to be a parody, but director Stevenson decided instead to shoot an action comedy wuxia film that incorporates the hero's journey narrative archetype for the lead character. The computer animation in the film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. As with most DreamWorks animated films, Hans Zimmer (collaborating with John Powell this time) scored Kung Fu Panda. He visited China to absorb the culture and get to know the China National Symphony Orchestra as part of his preparation. This was the third film to be a part of the Madagascar Comedy Animated Films team. A sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2, was released on May 26, 2011, along with a television series, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness later that same year as a part of a franchise. The third installment called Kung Fu Panda 3 will debut on January 29, 2016.
Kung Fu Panda premiered in the United States on June 6, 2008, and has since received positive reviews from critics and much of the movie-going public. The film garners an 87% "Certified Fresh" approval rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Kung Fu Panda opened in 4,114 theaters, grossing $20.3 million on its opening day and $60.2 million on its opening weekend, resulting in the number one position at the box office. The film became DreamWorks' biggest opening for a non-sequel film, the highest grossing animated film of the year worldwide, and also had the fourth-largest opening weekend for a DreamWorks animated film at the American and Canadian box office, behind Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever After.
In an alternate China (populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals), the Valley of Peace is protected by Furious Five, a quintet of kung fu warriors residing in the overlooking Jade Palace and trained under the founder of kung fu tradition, the ancient tortoise Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), and his red panda protege, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). When the day came for Oogway to choose the legendary Dragon Warrior, he instructs Shifu to hold a tournament where the winner among the Five would receive the power of the Dragon Scroll, which is said to give nigh-supreme power to whomever the chosen Dragon Warrior is once he or she reads it. However, due to Oogway foreseeing that the news of the choosing would attract the return of their first student and Shifu's foster son Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who will would only react by attacking the Valley in revenge on those he felt wronged him, the palace's messenger Zeng (Dan Fogler) is dispatched Chorh-Gom Prison to have the high-security around so that Tai Lung would be unable to break out.
Meanwhile, in the village down in the Valley, Po Ping (Jack Black), a giant panda and kung fu fanatic who works in a noodle restaurant owned by his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong), is anxious to see the tournament, but is instead forced to take a noodle cart up the hill to the Jade Palace. When he arrives, the gates are closed and the tournament already starts. Desperate to see it, Po tries several ways to get inside. In a final attempt, he straps himself to a set of fireworks, by which he propels himself into the middle of the arena just as Oogway is about to point out the new Dragon Warrior, which the tortoise indicates is Po to everyone's horror. Unwilling to believe that a "clumsy, fat panda" can become the Dragon Warrior, Shifu tries to berate and humiliate Po into quitting, subjecting him to a grueling series of matches with the Five, all of whom despise Po as an upstart, a failure, and a nobody. Po is dejected after his first day of training, but when he is given advice by Oogway, he refuses to give up. Soon, he endears himself to most of the Five, except their leader and Shifu's foster daughter Tigress (Angelina Jolie), with his impressive tenacity, culinary skill, and good humor, though he is still unable to grasp the basics of kung fu.
Zeng arrives to the prison to warn everybody about Oogway's vision, but the warden, Commander Vachir (Michael Clarke Duncan) refuses to believe that Tai Lung could ever escape with his guards since he is the only prisoner. He goes to show Zeng that his prison is escape-proof, but when Tai Lung obtains one of the messenger goose's feathers, he uses it to pick the lock of his shackles. Vachir then tries to kill him with explosives but the leopard turns them against the guards, seemingly killing the commander and destroying the prison entrance. Tai Lung sends Zeng ahead to and begins his return to the Valley, anxious to have the Dragon Scroll himself. Meanwhile, Oogway exacts a promise from Shifu that the latter will believe in and train Po and then ascends to heaven in a swirl of flower petals. Upon hearing that Tai Lung is coming, Po panics and tries to flee from the Palace. Shifu refuses to let him go, insisting that Oogway's advice must be followed, but Po has lost all confidence and Shifu is at a complete loss for a solution. After witnessing this argument on the roof of the Palace, Tigress leads the Furious Five in an attempt to stop Tai Lung themselves. The next morning, Shifu discovers that Po displays incredible and impressive agility when he is motivated by food. He, therefore, takes Po for solitary training in the mountains and, by promising food as a reward for learning his lessons well, trains Po into a skilled and capable warrior.
The Five confront Tai Lung over a long rope bridge over a Canyon in which the Five initially seem to win, but Tai Lung ultimately defeats them. Crane flies back to the Jade Palace with the other members of the Furious Five, who have been paralyzed. Feeling that Po is ready to beat Tai Lung, Shifu gives him the Dragon Scroll, which opens to reveal nothing but a blank, golden reflective surface. Shifu, stricken with utter despair at the scroll's apparent worthlessness, orders Po and the Five to evacuate the valley while he prepares to delay Tai Lung for as long as he can, knowing this attempt may lead to his death. During the evacuation, Po finds his father who, in an attempt to console him, reveals that the long-withheld secret ingredient of his famous secret ingredient soup is "nothing" - except the power of conviction. Po realizes that this idea applies to the Dragon Scroll as well and returns to face Tai Lung.
At the temple, Tai Lung confronts Master Shifu and demands for the scroll. When Shifu refuses, Tai Lung attacks and nearly kills him. He notices that the scroll has already been taken. Enraged, he asks Shifu where it is. Shifu tells him that Po is halfway across China by now, too far to chase. All of a sudden, right before Tai Lung lays down his death blow on his former master, an exhausted Po arrives with the Dragon Scroll. Tai Lung can hardly believe that the Dragon Warrior is a "big, fat panda", but as he battles Po to take the Scroll, Po unexpectedly proves himself an equal, which the leopard concludes could only be possible through the scroll's magic. After a frustrating struggle, Tai Lung gains the upper hand and opens the scroll, but cannot comprehend its symbolic value. Po explains that "there is no secret ingredient" other than the warrior's belief in himself, but Tai Lung fails to understand and attacks again. With the combination of his new understanding and his own natural resilience, Po counter-attacks with devastating effectiveness and finally defeats Tai Lung by means of a destructively powerful technique called the "Wuxi Finger Hold".
The Furious Five return with the village to find Po, dazed but victorious. Deeply impressed, Tigress leads the Furious Five in their acceptance of Po as a kung fu master. Po returns to Shifu and finds that he is barely conscious but alive, and finally at peace now that Tai Lung has been defeated and peace restored. In a post-credits sequence, Po and Shifu are seen eating dumplings under Oogway's favorite peach tree, where a peach seed Shifu planted earlier has begun to sprout into a seedling.
- Jack Black as Po
- Angelina Jolie as Tigress
- Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu
- Ian McShane as Tai Lung
- Jackie Chan as Monkey
- Lucy Liu as Viper
- Seth Rogen as Mantis
- David Cross as Crane
- Randall Duk Kim as Master Oogway
- Ming-Na Wen as The Odd Princewoman
- James Hong as Mr. Ping
- Dan Fogler as Zeng
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Commander Vachir
Publicized work on the film began before October 2004. In September 2005, DreamWorks Animation announced the film alongside Jack Black, who was selected to be the main voice star.
Initially, the idea for the film was to make it a spoof, but co-director John Stevenson was not particularly keen on the idea so instead chose the direction of simplistic comedy. Reportedly inspired by Stephen Chow's 2004 martial arts action comedy, Kung Fu Hustle, the co-directors wanted to make sure the film also had an authentic Chinese and kung fu feel to it. Production designer Raymond Zibach and art director Tang Heng spent years researching Chinese painting, sculpture, architecture and kung fu movies to help create the look of the film. Zibach said some of the biggest influence of him are the more artful martial arts films such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The aim for the film, which took four years to make, was to have a good blend of the two, as well as to give it an "epic" feel, unlike other DreamWorks animated features which resorted to "pop songs and celebrity references."
The hand-drawn animation sequence at the beginning of the film was made to resemble Chinese shadow puppetry. The opening, which was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and produced by James Baxter, was praised by The New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis as "striking" and "visually different from most mainstream American animations". Other reviewers have compared the opening to the evocative style of Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack. The rest of the film is modern computer animation, which uses bright, offbeat colors to evoke the natural landscape of China. The end credit sequence also features hand-drawn characters and still paintings in the background.
The computer animation used throughout the film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. When the head of production handed the script to VFX Supervisor Markus Manninen, she reportedly laughed and wished him "good luck". "When we started talking," said Manninen, "the movie was still a high concept. But for everyone that looked at it, it screamed complexity. We launched off saying, how can you make this movie tangible? How can you find smart ways to bring this world to life in a way that makes it a great movie and not feel like the complexity becomes the driver of the story, but the story and the emotion being the driver?"
In preparation, the animators took a six-hour kung fu class.
Producer Melissa Cobb said that originally Po was "more of a jerk," but that the character changed after they heard Jack Black. According to Jack Black, he mostly worked "in isolation", although he and Dustin Hoffman did spend a day together, which Cobb said helped with the scene where their characters face off. Lucy Liu said that the film "was quite different because it was such a long process." Liu said that when she was presented with the project they already had artwork of her character as well as a "short computerized video version of what she would look like when she moved."
- The second DreamWorks Animation film to have a post credits sequence, after Over the Hedge.
- The fourth DreamWorks Animation film to not feature any humans, after Antz, Shark Tale and Flushed Away.
Kung Fu Panda has received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of 163 critics gave the film a positive review. The film has an approval rating of 76% from a select group of critics and an approval rating of 83% from users of the site.
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