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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda official movie poster
Directed by Mark Osborne
John Stevenson
Produced by Melissa Cobb
Written by Jonathan Aibel
Glenn Berger
Starring Jack Black
Dustin Hoffman
Angelina Jolie
Lucy Liu
Seth Rogen
David Cross
Ian McShane
Jackie Chan
Music by Hans Zimmer
John Powell
Cinematography Yong Duk Jhun
Distributed by DreamWorks Animation
Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) North America:
June 6, 2008
June 26, 2008
United Kingdom:
July 4, 2008
Running time 91 min
Language English
Budget USD$130 million[1]
Gross revenue Domestic:
Official website
Allmovie profile
IMDb profile

Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 animated film about a bungling panda who aspires to be a kung fu warrior. Kung Fu Panda is directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne and produced by Melissa Cobb. Although the concept of a kung fu panda has been around since at least 1993,[3] the idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance,[4] a DreamWorks Animation executive. Work on the film did not begin until 2004 with the film premièring at the 61st Cannes Film Festival in May 2008 and seeing general distribution in summer. The film was produced by DreamWorks Animation's studio in Glendale, California, and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

The film stars the voices of Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Ian McShane.

Dreamworks are currently in talks to make a sequel to Kung Fu Panda.[5]


Po (Jack Black) is a panda who works in a noodle restaurant owned by his goose father Mr. Ping (James Hong). Po is a kung fu fanatic with secret dreams of becoming a great master in the discipline. However, his weight and clumsiness seem to make his goal unattainable; Mr. Ping hopes instead that Po will one day take over the restaurant, and waits for the perfect opportunity to disclose the secret ingredient to his family's noodle recipe.

The tortoise Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) has a premonition that the evil snow leopard warrior Tai Lung (Ian McShane), the former student of his own protégé, the red panda Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), will escape from prison and return to threaten the Valley of Peace. While Shifu sends Zeng (Dan Fogler), a messenger goose, to Chor Ghom Prison to have the security increased, Oogway orders a formal ceremony to choose the mighty Dragon Warrior who can defeat Tai Lung. Everyone assumes that one of the Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) — a quintet of supremely skilled martial artists trained by Shifu,[6] will be chosen for this honor.

While the Five demonstrate their skills at the ceremony, Po arrives too late and finds himself locked outside the walled palace square. As a last-ditch attempt to get in, he ties several fireworks to a chair and ignites them, which sends him crashing into the center of the arena. Inspired by this sudden appearance, Oogway designates Po the Dragon Warrior. Despite Po's protests and Shifu's pleas to reconsider, Oogway stands by his decision.

Revolted at having Po under his tutelage, Shifu attempts to make him quit by berating and humiliating him. The Five similarly dismiss Po as a worthless interloper. Although he becomes aware of Shifu's true intentions and is deeply hurt by his heroes' disdain for him, Po endures their abuse willingly for the dream to become something more than the disaster he thinks he is. Master Oogway, still certain that Po is the right choice, gives him sage advice to believe in himself. Eventually, Po endears himself to the Five (except for Tigress) with his tenacity, good cooking, and sense of humor. At this time Tigress reveals to Po how Tai Lung came to be evil. Shifu raised him from a cub and treated him like a son. When Oogway refused to make Tai Lung the Dragon Warrior, he became enraged and laid waste to the Valley. He then tried to take the dragon scroll. Shifu tried to stop him, but could not bear to destroy what he had created. Tai Lung was defeated by Master Oogway and imprisoned. Tigress ends her story by saying that Shifu loved Tai Lung like he never loved anyone before, or since.

Meanwhile, Zeng's errand backfires when a tour of the prison given to him by the overly confident head of security, Commander Vachir (Michael Clarke Duncan), inadvertently enables Tai Lung to escape. Tai Lung orders Zeng to send word of his arrival to Shifu. In the Valley of Peace, Oogway passes away and ascends to the heavens, leaving his final wish that Shifu train Po. However, upon learning of Tai Lung's return and realizing that he has to face the evil warrior, Po attempts to flee. Shifu stops the panda and promises to train him if he is truly destined to be the Dragon Warrior. When Po confesses his belief that he may never be a match for Tai Lung, Shifu is at a loss for a solution. Overhearing this argument, Tigress takes it upon herself to intercept Tai Lung, and the rest of The Five follow her to assist. The following morning, Shifu discovers that Po is capable of impressive physical feats when motivated by food. He leads Po to the countryside for an intensive training regime in which Po is offered food as a reward for learning his lessons. As Shifu hopes, Po swiftly becomes a skilled combatant.

The Five battle Tai Lung but are eventually defeated. All except Crane are paralyzed by a special nerve-striking technique, and he manages to carry his friends back to the valley. When they return, Shifu decides Po is ready to face the villain and gives him the sacred Dragon Scroll, which promises great power to the possessor. When Po opens it, he finds nothing but a blank reflective surface. Stricken with despair at the scroll's apparent worthlessness, Shifu orders his students to lead the villagers to safety while he stays to delay Tai Lung for as long as he can.

As Po participates in the evacuation, he meets his father, who tries to cheer him up by telling him the secret ingredient of the family's noodle soup: nothing. Things become special, he explains, because people believe them to be special. Realizing that is the very point of the Dragon Scroll, Po rushes off to help Shifu. At this time, Tai Lung arrives at the palace. He blames Shifu for not granting him the title of Dragon Warrior just because Master Oogway did not choose him, and the two begin to fight. For his part, Shifu is crippled by his profound feelings of guilt and responsibility for his former protégé whom he loved and raised like a son, turning to darkness.

When Tai Lung discovers that the Dragon Scroll is gone, he attempts to kill Shifu in anger. But before he can, Po finally arrives and challenges him. Although Tai Lung scoffs at Po's abilities, the ensuing fight proves Po to be a formidable opponent. Despite Po's skill, Tai Lung temporarily stuns him and gains the Dragon Scroll, but is unable to understand its symbolism. Po tries to explain the wisdom of the scroll to Tai Lung, but in frustration he tries to subdue Po with his nerve strikes. The attacks prove useless on the panda, as his nerves are difficult to affect under his thick layer of body fat. Emboldened, Po counter-attacks with an improvised combat style that takes advantage of his girth to absorb and deflect the force from Tai Lung's attacks back at him. In the end, Po uses the Wuxi Finger Hold on Tai Lung (a technique Shifu had previously threatened to use on Po), defeating him in a large explosion of golden light that ripples through the valley.

The Five return to the valley to investigate and find a slightly dazed but triumphant Po. Deeply impressed by Po's victory, Tigress leads the Five to acknowledge him as a Kung Fu master. Po suddenly remembers that his teacher is badly wounded, and rushes back to Shifu. At first the master appears to be dying, and Po panics. But it turns out that he is only trying to rest after such a terrible battle with Tai Lung.

At the end of the credits, Shifu and Po are seen eating together by the sacred peach tree. A peach seed planted by Shifu before Oogway's passing has sprouted into a new plant.


Voice Actor Role Animal
Jack Black Po Giant Panda
Dustin Hoffman Master Shifu Red Panda
Angelina Jolie Tigress South China Tiger
Jackie Chan Monkey Gee's Golden Langur
Lucy Liu Viper Green Tree Viper
David Cross Crane Red-crowned Crane
Seth Rogen Mantis Mantis
Ian McShane Tai Lung Snow Leopard
Dan Fogler Zeng Chinese Goose
Randall Duk Kim Grand Master Oogway Tortoise
James Hong Mr. Ping Chinese Goose
Michael Clarke Duncan Commander Vachir Javan Rhinoceros



"...we love martial arts movies. I wasn't interested in making fun of them, because I really think martial arts movies can be great films, they can be as good as any genre movie when they're done properly […] Let's try to make it a real martial arts movie albeit one with a comic character and let's take our action seriously. Let's not give anything up to the big summer movies. Let's really make sure that our kung fu is as cool as any kung fu ever done, so that we can take our place in that canon and make sure it's a beautiful movie, because great martial arts movies are really beautiful-looking movies and then let's see if we can imbue it with real heart and emotion."
—co-director John Stevenson on the comedic approach to the martial arts film.[7]

Publicized work on the film began before October 2004[8] at about the same time the PlayStation 2 videogame Ribbit King was released with its kung fu panda character, "Pan-Pan."[9] In September 2005, DreamWorks Animation announced the film alongside Jack Black, who was selected to be the main voice star.[10] Initially, the idea for the film was to make it a parody and spoof, but co-director John Stevenson was not particularly keen on the idea so instead chose the direction of simplistic comedy.[7] Reportedly inspired by Stephen Chow's 2004 martial arts action comedy, Kung Fu Hustle,[11] 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.[12] Zibach said some of the biggest influence of him are the more artful martial-arts films such as Hero, and House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.[12] The aim for the film, which took four years to make, was to make it 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."[13] In November 2005, Dreamworks Animation announced that Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane would join Jack Black in the cast.[14]

This film also helped to promote the 2008 Summer Olympics.


As with most DreamWorks animated films, composer Hans Zimmer scored the film. Zimmer visited China in order to absorb the culture and got to know the Chinese National Symphony as part of his preparation; in addition, Timbaland also contributed to the soundtrack.[15] The soundtrack also includes a partially rewritten version of the classic song, "Kung Fu Fighting", performed by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black for the end credits.

Though Zimmer was originally announced as the main composer of the film, during a test screening Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, announced that composer John Powell would also be contributing to the score. This marked the first collaboration in eight years for these two, having previously worked together on Dreamworks' The Road to El Dorado and the action thriller Chill Factor.

A soundtrack album was released by Interscope Records on June 3, 2008.[16]

Traditional animation

The hand-drawn animation sequence at the beginning of the film was made to resemble Chinese shadow puppetry.[17] The opening, which was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and produced by James Baxter, was praised by New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis as "striking" and "visually different from most mainstream American animations."[18] Other reviewers have compared the opening to the evocative style of Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack.[19][20] The rest of the film is modern computer animation, which uses bright, offbeat colors to evoke the natural landscape of China.[17] The end credit sequence also features hand-drawn characters and still paintings in the background.


Reception and performance

The film premiered at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, where it received massive and sustained applause at the end of the film's screening.[21][22] Kung Fu Panda has received very good reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 134 reviews. The film has a rating of 75% from select top critics and a rating of 89% from users of the site.[23] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 12 reviews.[24]

Richard Corliss of Time Magazine raves the film by stating the picture: "provides a master coursed in cunning visual art and ultra-satisfying entertainment."[25] The New York Times states: "At once fuzzy-wuzzy and industrial strength, the tacky-sounding “Kung Fu Panda” is high concept with a heart," and the review called the film "consistently diverting" and "visually arresting."[18] Chris Barsanti of states "Blazing across the screen with eye-popping, sublime artwork, Kung Fu Panda sets itself apart from the modern domestic animation trend with its sheer beauty...the film enters instant classic status as some of the most gorgeous animation Hollywood has produced since the golden age of Disney."[26] The Chicago Tribune states: "It’s one of the few comedies of 2008 in any style or genre that knows what it’s doing."[27]

On the other hand, Robert W. Butler of Kansas City Star criticized the film by stating: "Kung Fu Panda” is one gorgeous movie. If only the story and comedy were half as absorbing." Though the reviewer praised the film as visually spectacular, the reviewer find the film's dramatic aspect flat and predictable.[28] Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal concurs by stating the film's elegant and inventive animation is not enough to overcome its predictable story.[29]

The film was released in 4,114 theaters, and grossed $20.3 million on its opening day, and $60.2 million for the weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It is also DreamWorks Animation's biggest opening for a non-sequel film, and the third-largest opening weekend overall for a DreamWorks animated film (behind Shrek the Third and Shrek 2).[30][31][32]


Zhao Bandi, a Chinese artist and fashion designer who specializes in panda-related designs, launched an online petition suggesting that the film should be boycotted.[33][34] Of the reasons Zhao Bandi claimed in his petition includes that Hollywood is seeking to profit from Chinese culture especially right after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, the film was in poor taste to be released after the Earthquake (given that pandas live in the quake zone), and protested against the fact that the film was produced by DreamWorks, which is owned by Steven Spielberg, who withdrew from his role as an adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics over concerns about China’s role in Sudan (although Spielberg is not one of the producers of Kung Fu Panda). Zhao Bandi also admitted that he had not seen the film himself prior to the petition.[35] However, while postings on his website both praised and criticized the film, many others said there was no reason to boycott it and Zhao's complaints have prompted a backlash online asserting that an entertaining film paying tribute to Chinese heritage would be welcome at this difficult time[36], and some even questioned whether this is just a publicity stunt by the artist.[35] Regardless of the controversy, the film's opening was enthusiastically received in China[37], making nearly 110 million Chinese yuan by 2 July 2008 and with Chinese director Lu Chuan saying "When can the Chinese animation industry make such a good movie? From a production standpoint, the movie is nearly perfect. Its American creators showed a very sincere attitude about Chinese culture." [38][39] With the film's major success at the Chinese box-office, this led to some people within China questioning the quality of China's domestic animations. The fact that such a successful film based on Chinese culture was created by the American movie industry has lead to some Chinese introspection.[40][41]

Franchise development

Jeffrey Katzenberg has publicly stated since that the film's premiere exceeded expectations, a Kung Fu Panda series of up to six films is likely depending on the overall performance of the initial film's release.[42] With the subsequent strong box office performance of the film, preproduction of the first sequel is underway.[4