Kungfu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda is an American animated comedy film released in 2008. It was directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne and produced by Melissa Cobb. 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 as the panda, Po, along with Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Ian McShane. Set in ancient China, the plot revolves around a bumbling panda who aspires to be a kung fu master. After a much feared warrior escapes from prison, Po is foretold to be the Dragon Warrior, much to the chagrin of the resident kung fu warriors. Dreamworks is working on a sequel to Kung Fu Panda, which is currently in pre-production.

Although the concept of a "kung fu panda" has been around since at least 1993, the idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive. Work on the film did not begin until 2004. The film was originally intended to be a parody, but director Stevenson decided to instead shoot a simplistic comedy. The computer animation in the film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. As with most DreamWorks animated films, Hans Zimmer 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.

Kung Fu Panda premiered in the United States on June 1, 2008, and has since received very favorable reviews from critics. The film currently garners an 89% "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 has resulted in DreamWorks' biggest opening for a non-sequel film, and the third-largest weekend overall for a DreamWorks animated film, behind Shrek the Third and Shrek 2.

Plot

Po (Jack Black) is a panda who works in a noodle restaurant owned by his goose father Mr. Ping (James Hong), who hopes that Po will one day take over the restaurant, and wishes to disclose with him the secret ingredient of his family's noodle soup. Po is a kung fu fanatic with secret dreams of becoming a great master in the discipline. However, his weight and clumsiness make his goal difficult to attain.

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 Dragon Warrior, a supreme master of kung fu who can defeat Tai Lung. It is assumed 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, will be chosen for this honor. Po, in his attempts to see the Dragon Warrior, finds himself in the middle of the ceremony. Oogway surprises everyone by designating Po himself as the Dragon Warrior despite Po's protests and Shifu's pleas to reconsider.

Revolted at having Po under his tutelage, Shifu attempts to make him quit by berating and humiliating him; the Five also dismiss Po as a worthless interloper. Taking sage advice from Oogway himself, Po endures their abuse willingly, eventually endearing himself to them with his determination, good cooking and sense of humor. Tigress later 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 then 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 disappears in a pedal swirl, his final wish being that Shifu must train Po. However, Po confesses his belief that he may never be a match for Tai Lung. Overhearing this discussion, 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 open the sacred Dragon Scroll, which promises great power to its possessor. However, 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.

Po meets up with his father, who tells 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 point of the Dragon Scroll, Po rushes off to help Shifu. At this time, Tai Lung arrives at the palace to obtain the Dragon Scroll. However, he discovers that the Dragon Scroll is gone, and then attempts to kill Shifu in anger. But before he can, Po arrives and challenges him. 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 a frustrated Tai Lung, who uses his nerve attack on Po, but the panda is impervious thanks to his amply-padded gut. Emboldened, Po counter-attacks, and uses the Wuxi Finger Hold (a technique Shifu had previously threatened to use on Po) on Tai Lung, 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 Shifu 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 beside the sacred peach tree. A peach seed planted by Shifu before Oogway's disappearance has sprouted into a new plant.

Cast

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

Production

Development

Publicized work on the film began before October 2004 at about the same time the PlayStation 2 videogame Ribbit King was released with its kung fu panda character, "Pan-Pan. 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 parody and 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, and 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." In November 2005, Dreamworks Animation announced that Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane would join Jack Black in the cast.

Music

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. 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. Although Zimmer was originally announced as the main composer of the film, during a test screening, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that composer John Powell would also be contributing to the score. This marked the first collaboration in eight years for the 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.

Animation

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?

Release

Reception and performance

The film held its worldwide premiere at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, where it received massive and sustained applause at the end of the film's screening. Kung Fu Panda later had national premieres in the United States on June 1, 2008 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, and on June 26, 2008 at Leicester Square in London, for the United Kingdom.

Since its release, Kung Fu Panda has received very positive and favorable reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 149 reviews. The film has an approval rating of 77% from a select group of critics and an approval rating of 92% from users of the site. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.

Richard Corliss of Time Magazine gave the film a positive review, stating the picture "provides a master coursed in cunning visual art and ultra-satisfying entertainment". The New York Times said, "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". Chris Barsanti of Filmcritics.com commented, "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. The Chicago Tribune called the film "one of the few comedies of 2008 in any style or genre that knows what it’s doing".

The film was released in 4,114 theaters, grossing $20.3 million on its opening day and $60.2 million over the weekend, resulting in the number one position 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). It is the first animated film to make more then 100 million Yuan in Chinese box offices. The film has so far made more than $600 million worldwide. The film will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 9, 2008.

With the film's success at the Chinese box office, some people within China have questioned 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.

Controversy

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. In his petition, Bandi stated that Hollywood was seeking to profit from Chinese culture. The film was aired soon after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and the petition said that the film was in poor taste to be released so soon after the disaster, given that pandas live within the area affected by the quake. Bandi also protested against the fact that the film was produced by DreamWorks, which is owned by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg 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 admitted that he had not actually seen the film prior to the petition. However, while postings on his website both praised and criticized the film, many people said that there was no reason to boycott it. Zhao's complaints prompted an online backlash asserting that an entertaining film paying tribute to Chinese heritage would be welcome at this difficult time, and some even questioned whether this was just a publicity stunt by the artist. Regardless of the controversy, the film's opening was enthusiastically received in China, making nearly 110 million Chinese Yuan by July 2, 2008. The Chinese director Lu Chuan commented, "From a production standpoint, the movie is nearly perfect. Its American creators showed a very sincere attitude about Chinese culture.

Home video

Kung Fu Panda will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on November 9, 2008. The special features include an animated short film starring Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross is created with Kung Fu Panda DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Kung Fu Fighting music video by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black, sound, The Tech of Kung Fu Panda, The Cast of Kung Fu Panda, deleted and alternate scenes, cast interviews and biographies with Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross, The Premiere of Kung Fu Panda, interactive games and more.

Franchise development

Jeffrey Katzenberg has publicly stated that because the film's premiere exceeded expectations, a Kung Fu Panda series of up to six films was likely depending on the overall performance of the initial film's release. With the subsequent strong box office performance of the film, preproduction of the first sequel is underway. On October 2, 2008, it was announced that the sequel would be called Pandamonium and would appear in theaters in June 2011.

In August 2008, a direct-to-video Chinese animation feature entitled Kungfu Master aka Wong Fei Hong vs Kungfu Panda (黃飛鴻大戰功夫熊貓) was released on DVD in East Asia by Vscape Enterprise. The film is an unofficial sequel; it reportedly combines Kung Fu Panda and Chinese martial arts folk hero Wong Fei Hung. In the film, the panda is assigned by god to protect an ancient treasure that could give the bearer the power to conquer the world. Upon losing it, the pair set off on an adventure to retrieve it.

Video game

A video game adaptation of the film was developed and published by Activision on June 3, 2008. The game follows the same basic plot as the film, but with Tai Lung portrayed as the leader of various gangs that surround the Valley of Peace, which Po must defeat. The game was released on PC, as well as multiple consoles. The game received mostly positive reviews; it scored a Metacritic rating of 76% from critics and a 7.5/10 from IGN.

References

External links

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