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Kung Fu Panda

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Titlekungfupanda
Directed by: Mark Osborne
John Stevenson
Written by: Jonathan Aibel
Glenn Berger
Release date: June 6, 2008
Running time: 93 minutes

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"This Summer, Get Ready For The Adventure."
―Tagline

Kung Fu Panda is a film produced by DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures, and PDI/DreamWorks, directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson. The film stars Jack Black as Po, Dustin Hoffman as Shifu, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, and Ian McShane as Tai Lung. It was released on June 6, 2008.

A sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 was released on May 26, 2011.

Plot

In an alternate China (populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals), the Valley of Peace is protected by the Furious Five - Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane - a quintet of warriors trained in kung fu by the tortoise Grand Master Oogway and his protege, the red panda Master Shifu. One day, Oogway has a premonition that Shifu's former student and foster son, the snow leopard Tai Lung (who was imprisoned in Chorh-Gom Prison after turning to evil) will escape from his high-security prison and attack the Valley, seeking revenge on those he felt wronged him. Oogway instructs Shifu and the others to hold a tournament in order to choose the legendary Dragon Warrior, worthy to receive the power of the Dragon Scroll, which is said to give nigh-supreme power to whomever reads it.

Po, a young giant panda and kung fu fanatic who works in his duck father's noodle restaurant, 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 has already started. Desperate to see the tournament, Po tries several ways to get inside. In a final attempt, Po 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, so that Oogway indicates Po as such. Unwilling to believe that a "clumsy, fat panda" can become the Dragon Warrior, Master 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 Master Oogway, he refuses to give up. Soon, he endears himself to most of the Five (sans Tigress) with his impressive tenacity, culinary skill, and good humor, though he is still unable to grasp the basics of kung fu.

Shifu's messenger goes to the prison to warn everybody about Tai Lung escaping, but the commander refuses to believe that Tai lung can escape with his guards saying he has thousands of guards to one prisoner. He goes to show Shifu that his prison is Escape-proof but that night when Shifu's Partner goes to leave they see that Tai Lung has escaped from his chains. The Commander then tries to kill Tai Lung but fails. Tai Lung escapes from the Prison.

Anxious to have the Dragon Scroll himself, he begins his return to the Valley. 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.

Production

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."

Reception

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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