|Kung Fu Panda|
|Directed by||John Stevenson|
|Produced by||Melissa Cobb|
|Edited by||Clare Knight|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$631.7 million|
Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 American computer-animated martial arts comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The first installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise, it was directed by John Stevenson, in his feature directorial debut, co-directed by Mark Osborne and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, from a story by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris. The film stars the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jackie Chan. The film, set in a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic animals, centers on a bumbling panda named Po (Black), a kung-fu enthusiast. When a notorious snow-leopard named Tai Lung (McShane) is foretold to escape at Chorh-Gom Prison, Po is unwittingly named the "Dragon Warrior"—a prophesied hero worthy of reading a scroll that has been intended to grant its reader limitless power.
The film's publicized work began in October 2004 and was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive, originally as a parody of martial arts films. However, director Stevenson instead decided to make an action-comedy wuxia film that incorporates the hero's journey narrative archetype for the lead character, in which the computer animation, this time, was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. The project was officially announced in September 2005. The score for Kung Fu Panda was composed, like most DreamWorks Animation films, by Hans Zimmer, this time collaborating with John Powell: the former visited China to absorb the culture and used the China National Symphony Orchestra as part of the scoring process.
Kung Fu Panda was theatrically released in the United States on June 6, 2008. It grossed $631.7 million on a budget of $130 million, making it the third highest-grossing film of 2008 and the highest-grossing animated film of the year worldwide, in addition to having the fourth-largest opening weekend for a DreamWorks film at the American and Canadian box office, behind the Shrek franchise. It received positive reviews from critics and was nominated for the Academy Award as well as a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Film, but lost both awards to WALL-E. The film's success spawned a multimedia franchise, which includes the sequels Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016), and Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024).
In the Valley of Peace, a land in Ancient China inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, Po is a 35-year-old giant panda who helps his adoptive goose father named Mr. Ping, run their noodle restaurant. Po dreams of fighting alongside the Furious Five – Masters Tigress, Monkey, Crane, Viper, and Mantis – a group of kung fu masters who live in the Jade Palace, where they are trained by Master Shifu, a cranky red panda. One day, the wise tortoise Master Oogway predicts that Shifu's former snow leopard protégé, Tai Lung, will escape from prison and attack the valley to obtain the Dragon Scroll, a legendary artifact he had previously been denied. Panicked, Shifu sends a goose named Zeng to increase the security at Chorh-Gom Prison in Mongolia, where Tai Lung is held.
At the same time, Shifu holds a tournament for the Five so that Oogway can identify the Dragon Warrior, the prophesied hero worthy of reading the Scroll, which is said to grant limitless power to its reader. Po arrives too late to enter the arena; desperate to see his idols, he accidentally launches himself into the middle of the tournament off of a chair propelled by fireworks, Oogway proclaims Po the Dragon Warrior. Believing Oogway's decision to be an accident, a shocked Shifu tries to dispose of Po with a harsh training regimen, while the Five dismiss Po as an enthusiast with no potential in kung fu. Po considers quitting, but after receiving encouragement from Oogway, he endures his training and gradually befriends Monkey, Crane, Mantis, and Viper with his resilience, culinary skill, and good humor.
During this time, Po learns that Shifu's cold and distant behavior stems from his own shame over Tai Lung's betrayal, having raised him from infancy. At Chorh-Gom Prison, Zeng's warnings are ignored, and Tai Lung escapes. Shifu informs Oogway of the event, with the tortoise making Shifu promise to believe in Po as the Dragon Warrior. Oogway then passes on to the heavens in a stream of peach blossoms. Shifu then informs Po and the Five of Tai Lung's escape, and tells Po he is the only one who can stop him. Feeling cheated, Tigress angrily attempts to explain to Shifu that he has been training the Five for many years to prepare for Tai Lung's escape, but Shifu tells her it is Po's destiny to stop Tai Lung. Upon hearing that Oogway has left and that Tai Lung is approaching quickly, Po, still unable to make any progress with kung fu, attempts to run away, but Shifu stops him. Po then makes Shifu admit that he does not know how to train the panda into the Dragon Warrior. Tigress overhears this and leads the Five in a secret attempt to stop Tai Lung themselves.
Meanwhile, Shifu discovers that Po is capable of impressive physical feats when motivated by food, and successfully trains Po by incorporating these feats into an innovative kung fu style. The Furious Five fight Tai Lung; however, all but Crane are soon defeated by his nerve-strike technique. Crane carries Tigress, Viper, Monkey and Mantis back to the Jade Palace, where Shifu revives them and decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll. When Po reads it, he discovers that the scroll is nothing but a blank reflective surface. Despaired, Po and the Five evacuate the inhabitants of the Valley, while Shifu prepares to face Tai Lung alone. In trying to console a distraught Po, Mr. Ping reveals that his "secret ingredient soup" has no secret ingredient at all, explaining that things can become special with belief.
Realizing that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll, Po rushes back to help Shifu. At the Jade Palace, Tai Lung overpowers Shifu and demands to know the location of the Scroll. Po arrives with the Dragon Scroll and challenges Tai Lung to combat. Po proves to be a formidable opponent, frustrating Tai Lung with his confusing fighting techniques. Tai Lung eventually wins, but also despairs over the blank scroll, and takes his anger out on Po. Discovering that his body fat renders him immune to Tai Lung's nerve strikes, Po trounces his adversary with his new kung fu style, and eventually defeating him using the Wuxi Finger Hold technique. Po is honored by the Valley and gains the respect of Tigress and the Furious Five.
In a post-credits scene, Shifu and Po share a meal while a peach that Shifu had planted earlier grows into a tree in the background.
Further information: List of Kung Fu Panda characters
Kyle Gass and JR Reed voice KG Shaw and JR Shaw, respectively, two pigs who come across Po before the Dragon Warrior Tournament. Other actors with minor voice roles include Wayne Knight, Laura Kightlinger, and Kent Osborne. The film's directors, John Stevenson and Mark Osborne, also have small voice roles.
... 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.
DreamWorks Animation had previously produced the PlayStation video game with a similar premise, T'ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger under its defunct video game division DreamWorks Interactive (now known as Danger Close Games). In spring 2004, Eric Whitacre wrote a setting of The Seal Lullaby, the opening poem of The White Seal by Rudyard Kipling, which DreamWorks intended to adapt for an animated feature. A few weeks later, it was decided to abandon the idea and start production for Kung Fu Panda instead. Publicized work on the film began in October 2004. In September 2005, DreamWorks announced the film alongside Jack Black, who was selected to be the main voice star.
In November 2005, DreamWorks announced that Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane would join Jack Black in the cast. This is also the second DreamWorks Animation film in which Black and Angelina Jolie have co-starred together, the first being 2004's Shark Tale.
The idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive. Initially, the idea was to make it a spoof, but co-director John Stevenson was not particularly keen on it and instead chose the direction of a character-based wuxia comedy.
Reportedly inspired by Stephen Chow's 2004 martial arts action comedy film, 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 films to help create the look of the film. Zibach said some of the biggest influences for him are the more artful martial arts films such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Stevenson's aim for the film, which took four years to make, was to make "the best looking film DreamWorks has ever made".
We've had some productions that were stressful, but this one ran very smoothly and DreamWorks is [sic] this production as a template on how they would like future productions to run. We lucked out, and there really was a sense of harmony on the animation. Even the production people. We all seemed like we were on the same page, believing in the film. That doesn't happen very often. I tell animators, you will be working on dumpers for most of your career, but every once in a while you get a gem. Kung Fu Panda was a gem.
—Dan Wagner, Head of Character 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 Cartoon Network series 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 the 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 by 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 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 film held its world premiere at the 61st Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2008, where it received massive and sustained applause at the end of the film's screening. Kung Fu Panda later had national premieres in IMAX in the US on June 1, 2008, at AMC & Regal Entertainment Group in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, and on June 26, 2008, at Leicester Square in London, for the UK.
Kung Fu Panda was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 9, 2008, and on 3D Blu-ray on December 6, 2011, as a Best Buy exclusive. The DVD double pack release of Kung Fu Panda also includes a short animated film Secrets of the Furious Five. With 7,486,642 DVD units sold in 2008, Kung Fu Panda was the fourth highest-selling film and the first highest-selling animated film of 2008, right before WALL-E, which sold 7,413,548 units. As of February 2010, 17.4 million home entertainment units were sold worldwide. The film will be re-released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD for its 15th anniversary by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
The film topped the box office in its opening weekend, grossing $60.2 million for a $14,642 average from 4,114 theaters and performing much better than analysts had been expecting. It also was the highest-grossing opening for a non-sequel DreamWorks Animation film at the time. In its second weekend, the film retreated 44% to second place behind The Incredible Hulk grossing $33.6 million for a $8,127 average from expanding to 4,136 theaters. It closed on October 9, 2008, after 125 days of release, grossing $215.4 million in the United States and Canada and $416.3 million overseas for a worldwide total of $631.7 million. Kung Fu Panda was the highest-grossing non-Shrek film from DreamWorks Animation in the United States and Canada before it was surpassed by How to Train Your Dragon in 2010.
Rotten Tomatoes reports that 87% of 190 critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Kung Fu Panda has a familiar message, but the pleasing mix of humor, swift martial arts action, and colorful animation makes for winning summer entertainment." Metacritic reports the film has an average score of 74 out of 100 based on 36 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.
Richard Corliss of Time Magazine gave Kung Fu Panda a positive review, stating the picture "provides a master course 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 Filmcritic.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." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called the film "one of the few comedies of 2008 in any style or genre that knows what it's doing". However, Tom Charity of CNN criticized the action for tending "to blur into a whirlwind of slapstick chaos" and considered the character of Po too similar to others played by Black. Peter Howell of The Toronto Star awarded the film two and a half stars, considering it to have a "lack of story" that "frequently manages to amuse, if not entirely to delight".
Kung Fu Panda was also well received in China. It made nearly 110 million Yuan by July 2, 2008, becoming the first animated film to earn more than 100 million Yuan in China. 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." The film's critical and commercial success in China led to some local introspection about why no film like Kung Fu Panda had been produced in China, with commentators attributing the problem variously to lower film budgets in China, too much government oversight, a dearth of national imagination, and an overly reverent attitude to China's history and cultural icons.
Kung Fu Panda was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, but lost both awards to Pixar's WALL-E. Jack Black joked about the film's underdog status at the 81st Academy Awards, saying "Each year, I do one DreamWorks project, then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar."
By contrast, Kung Fu Panda won ten Annie Awards (including Best Animated Feature) out of sixteen nominations, which sparked controversy with some accusing DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg of rigging the vote by buying ASIFA-Hollywood memberships (with voting power) for everyone at DreamWorks Animation.
|Academy Awards||Best Animated Feature||John Stevenson
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Effects in an Animated Production||Li-Ming 'Lawrence' Lee||Won|
|Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Best Character Animation in a Feature Production||James Baxter||Won|
|Philippe Le Brun||Nominated|
|Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production||Nico Marlet||Won|
|Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production||John Stevenson
|Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||Hans Zimmer
|Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Tang Kheng Heng||Won|
|Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production||Jennifer Yuh Nelson||Won|
|Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Dustin Hoffman||Won|
|Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Jonathan Aibel
|ASCAP Award||Top Box Office Films||Hans Zimmer and John Powell||Won|
|Critics' Choice Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Animated Feature Film||Nominated|
|Golden Tomato Awards 2008||Best Animated Feature||Kung Fu Panda||2nd Place|
|Wide Release||5th Place|
|Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and
ADR Animation in a Feature Film
|Ethan Van Der Ryn
Adam Milo Smalley
Peter Oso Snell
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Animation/Family||Nominated|
|Huabiao Awards||Outstanding Translated Film||Won|
|National Movie Awards||Best Family Film||Nominated|
|Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie||Jack Black||Won|
|Favorite Animated Movie||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America||Animated Motion Picture||Melissa Cobb||Nominated|
|People's Choice Awards||Favorite Family Movie||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Summer Movie: Comedy||Nominated|
|Visual Effects Society||Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture||Jack Black
|Outstanding Animation in an Animated Motion Picture||Markus Manninen
|Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Motion Picture||Markus Manninen
Li-Ming 'Lawrence' Lee
Main article: Kung Fu Panda (soundtrack)
As with most DreamWorks animated movies, composer Hans Zimmer scored Kung Fu Panda. Zimmer visited China 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 sung 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, who had 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.
A manga based on the film was released in Japan in Kerokero Ace magazine's September 2008 issue. It is written by Hanten Okuma and illustrated by Takafumi Adachi.
A television series titled Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness aired on Nickelodeon with its premiere on September 19, 2011. From the cast of Kung Fu Panda, only Lucy Liu and James Hong reprised their roles, of Master Viper and Mr. Ping respectively. In the series, Po continues to defend the Valley of Peace from all kinds of villains, while making mistakes, learning about the history of kung-fu, and meeting other kung-fu masters. In the United States, the series ended its run on June 29, 2016, with a total of three seasons and 80 episodes. However, prior to premiering in the U.S., the final few episodes first premiered in Germany from December 30, 2014, to January 7, 2015.
Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny is an animated web-television series produced by DreamWorks Animation released for Amazon Prime on November 16, 2018. It is the second TV series in the Kung Fu Panda franchise following Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. Developer Mitch Watson has confirmed that Mick Wingert will reprise his role from Legends of Awesomeness as Po.
A third series, also set after Kung Fu Panda 3, titled Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight, premiered on Netflix in July 2022, with Jack Black reprising his role as Po.
The television holiday special, titled Kung Fu Panda Holiday, was aired on NBC Wednesday, November 24, 2010.
Main article: Kung Fu Panda (video game)
A video game adaptation of the film was published by Activision on June 3, 2008. The game was released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PC platforms. The plot 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."
See also: Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda was followed by Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). It surpassed the box-office take of the first film, and received a similarly positive critical and audience response. A third film, Kung Fu Panda 3, was released in 2016, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 2016. Kung Fu Panda 4 is scheduled for release in 2024.
DreamWorks Animation was sued in 2011 by a writer, Terence Dunn, for allegedly stealing the idea for Kung Fu Panda from him. Dunn alleged that DreamWorks Animation had stolen his pitch for a "spiritual kung-fu fighting panda bear" which he sent to a DreamWorks executive in 2001. DreamWorks Animation denied any wrongdoing and after a two-week trial the jurors found in favor of DreamWorks.
In 2011, another lawsuit was brought against the studio by an illustrator named Jayme Gordon. Gordon had supposedly created characters under the name "Kung Fu Panda Power" and registered them with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2000. He had allegedly pitched this concept work to Disney while Jeffrey Katzenberg, who later left Disney and formed DreamWorks Animation in 1994, was working there. Gordon withdrew his claim just before the trial was due to take place. On December 20, 2015, federal prosecutors charged Gordon with four counts of wire fraud and three counts of perjury for allegedly fabricating and backdating drawings to support the claims in his lawsuit, and for allegedly tracing some of his drawings from a coloring book featuring characters from Disney's The Lion King franchise. On November 18, 2016, Gordon was convicted for wire fraud and perjury, facing a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. In May 2017, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.