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Kung Fu Panda is a American animated comedy film. It was directed by John Wayne Stevenson and Mark Osborne and produced by Melissa Cobb and stars Jack Black as Po. The film was produced by DreamWorks Animation's studio in Glendale, Californiamarker and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film stars the voice of Jack Black as the panda, Po, along with the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong and Jackie Chan. Set in ancient China, the plot revolves around a bumbling panda who aspires to be a kung fu master. After a much-feared ex-disciple is prophesied to escape from prison, Po is foretold to be the Dragon Warrior by the head of the temple, much to his shock and surprise, as well as the chagrin of the resident kung fu warriors.

Although the concept of a "kung fu panda" has been around since at least 1993, work on the film did not begin until 2004. The idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive. The film was originally intended to be a parody, but director Stevenson decided instead to shoot an action comedy martial arts film in the spirit of Hong Kong action cinema 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.

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 achieved DreamWorks's biggest opening for a non-sequel film, highest grossing animated movie of the year, and the third-largest weekend overall for a DreamWorks animated film, behind Shrek the Third and Shrek 2.

Plot

In an anthropomorphic Chinamarker, 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 wise tortoise Master Oogway and his protégé, the red panda Master Shifu.

One day, Oogway has a premonition that Shifu's former pupil and foster son, the brutal and ruthless snow leopard Tai Lung, will escape from prison and return to the Valley. Shifu decides to hold a martial arts tournament so that Oogway may identify the legendary Dragon Warrior – the one master worthy to receive the Dragon Scroll, which is said to hold the secret to limitless power. Tai Lung had been denied the Scroll years earlier, causing him to decimate the Valley in retaliation and resulting in his imprisonment.

Po is a young giant panda and kung fu fanatic who works in his goose father's noodle restaurant. Upon hearing of the tournament, Po tries to attend as a spectator, but his father directs him to take a push cart and sell noodles instead. By the time Po arrives, the gates are closed and the tournament has already started. Desperate to see the tournament, Po straps himself to a set of fireworks; he rockets into the sky and crashes into the middle of the arena just as Oogway is about to select the new Dragon Warrior. To the surprise of all, Oogway indicates that Po is the Dragon Warrior.

Unwilling to believe that a big fat clumsy panda can be the Dragon Warrior, Shifu attempts to berate and humiliate Po into quitting. He subjects Po to a grueling series of challenges and sparring matches against the Furious Five, culminating in a battle between Po and Shifu that ends with Po being thrown from the Jade Palace. Though the Furious Five despise him as an unqualified upstart, Po receives counseling from Oogway and refuses to quit.

In time, he endears himself to the Five (except Tigress) with his impressive tenacity, culinary skill, and good humor, though he is still unable to grasp the basics of kung fu.

Meanwhile, as Oogway had foreseen, Tai Lung escapes from his prison and heads for the Valley. Sensing that his death is imminent, Oogway extracts a promise from Shifu that he will train Po and then disappears, ascending to heaven in a swirl of flower petals.

Upon hearing that Tai Lung is coming, Po panics and tries to flee the Temple. Shifu refuses to let him go, insisting that he can change Po into the Dragon Warrior, but Po has lost all confidence and Shifu can not explain how he will turn Po into the Dragon Warrior. Hiding nearby and seeing this argument, Tigress leads the rest of the Furious Five to stop Tai Lung themselves. The next morning, Shifu discovers that Po displays impressive agility when he is motivated by food; using the promise of food as a reward, Shifu trains Po into a skilled warrior.

The Five confront Tai Lung over a long rope bridge, but he easily defeats them and sends them back to the Valley immobilized, carried by Crane, to inspire fear.

Feeling that Po is ready to fight, Shifu gives him the Dragon Scroll, which he opens to reveal nothing but a blank, reflective surface. Shifu, despairing, orders Po and the Five to evacuate the valley while he prepares to delay Tai Lung for as long as he can. 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 belief that the soup is special. Po realizes this idea is the point of the Dragon Scroll and returns to face Tai Lung.

At the Temple, Tai Lung confronts Shifu and demands the Scroll; when Shifu refuses, Tai Lung attacks him. In a furious battle, Tai Lung overpowers and nearly kills Shifu before an exhausted Po arrives. Tai Lung can hardly believe that the Dragon Warrior is a "big, fat panda", but as Tai Lung battles Po to take the Scroll, Po uses a combination of his natural clumsiness, his body mass, and Shifu's training to prove himself an unexpected equal.

At one stage of the fight, 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 revelation and his own natural resilience, Po counter-attacks with devastating effectiveness and finally defeats Tai Lung, destroying him with the secret "Wuxi Finger Hold".

The deeply impressed Furious Five accept Po as a kung fu master and their superior. Po returns to Shifu and finds him exhausted but alive, and finally at peace now that Tai Lung has been defeated and peace restored to the Valley.

In a post-credits sequence, Po and Shifu are seen eating dumplings under Oogway's favorite peach tree, where a peach seed Shifu had planted earlier has begun to sprout into a seedling.

Cast









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 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.

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."

Release

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 Theatremarker in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, and on June 26, 2008 at Leicester Squaremarker in London, for the United Kingdom.

Kung Fu Panda was 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, a Kung Fu Fighting music video by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black, a tutorial on how to use chopsticks, 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. The movie can be purchased as a stand-alone DVD or as part of a two-disc pack that includes the companion story Secrets of the Furious Five.

Reception

Kung Fu Panda has received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 156 reviews. The film has an approval rating of 74% 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). The film made more than $600 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing animated movie of 2008 and also the third highest grossing movie of the year. The film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 9, 2008.

Kung Fu Panda was also well-received in China. It made nearly 110 million Chinese Yuan by July 2, 2008, becoming the first animated film to make more than 100 million Yuan in Chinese box offices. 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." 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 led to some Chinese introspection.

The release of the film in the land where it was set was not without 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 earthquakemarker, 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.

Kung Fu Panda had been shortlisted for nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. However, both awards were won by Pixar's WALL-E instead.

By contrast, Kung Fu Panda won 11 Annie Awards (including Best Picture) out of 16 nominations, albeit amid controversy.

Soundtrack

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. Furthermore in some versions, the ending Credit was sang by Rain. 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.

Sequel

A sequel called Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom is currently in pre-production and is slated for release on June 3, 2011. It is set to be in 3-D and will be directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, with the original cast returning. The story features a new villain with a mysterious weapon so powerful it threatens the very existence of kung fu, and Po must additionally confront his past.

An unauthorized direct-to-video sequel to the film was released in China in August 2008, titled Kungfu Master aka Wong Fei Hung vs Kungfu Panda (黃飛鴻大戰功夫熊貓).

Manga

A manga based on the film has been released in Japan in Kerokero Ace magazine. It is written by Hanten Okuma and illustrated by Takafumi Adachi.

Television series

A television series is in development for Nickelodeon and is due to air in 2010. 26 episodes have been ordered and will be made using the same computer-generated process as the film and will feature Po in the lead role. This would be Nickelodeon's second DreamWorks deal, the first being The Penguins of Madagascar.

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, who possesses some basic martial art skills which can be upgraded as the game progresses, must defeat. The game was released on Microsoft Windows, as well as multiple consoles. However the Windows version has been discontinued. The game received mostly positive reviews; it scored a Metacritic rating of 76% from critics and a 7.5 out of 10 from IGN. In 2009, it won the International Animated Film Society's Annie Award for Best Animated Video Game, "in recognition of creative excellence in the art of animation."

Two web games, "The Adversary" and "The Field of Fiery Danger" were created for the film by Solaris Media (now Playniac) for Nickelodeon.

References

External links




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