Kung Fu Panda
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Stevenson
Mark Osborne
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced byMelissa Cobb
Edited byClare Knight
Music by
Distributed byDreamWorks Animation[2]
Paramount Pictures[3]
Release dates
Running time
92 minutes[4]
CountryUnited States
Budget$130 million[5]
Box office$631.7 million[5]

Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 American computer-animated action comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is the first installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Directed by John Stevenson (in his feature directorial debut) and Mark Osborne, 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 is set in a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic animals and revolves around a bumbling panda named Po, a kung-fu enthusiast. When a notorious kung-fu snow-leopard named Tai Lung is foretold to escape from prison, Po is unwittingly named the "Dragon Warrior" - a kung-fu legend that is destined to defeat him.[6]

The film was originally conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive. It was originally intended to be a parody of martial arts films, but director Stevenson decided instead to make an action-comedy wuxia film 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 Animation films, Hans Zimmer (this time collaborating with John Powell) 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 6, 2008. The film received positive reviews for its mature themes, faithfulness to the Chinese environment and tradition, action sequences, and writing. 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 became DreamWorks' biggest opening for a non-sequel film, making it the third highest grossing film of 2008, the highest-grossing animated film of the year worldwide, and also had the fourth-largest opening weekend for a DreamWorks film at the American and Canadian box office, behind all three Shrek sequels.[7] The success of Kung Fu Panda launched a multimedia franchise and a series of two sequels, starting with Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011).


In the Valley of Peace, a land in Ancient China inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, the clumsy panda Po helps his adoptive father Mr Ping to run their noodle restaurant, but dreams of fighting alongside the Furious Five – Tigress, Monkey, Crane, Viper, and Mantis – a group of kung fu masters trained by Master Shifu.

The wise Master Oogway, Shifu's mentor, predicts that Shifu's former protégé, the evil Tai Lung, will escape from prison and attack the valley to obtain the Dragon Scroll, a legendary artefact he had previously been denied. Panicked, Shifu sends Zeng the goose to increase the security of the prison, while he holds a tournament for the Five so that Oogway can identify the Dragon Warrior, the prophesised hero worthy of reading the Scroll, which is said to grant limitless power on its reader. Po arrives too late to enter the arena; desperate to see his idols, he accidentally launches himself into the middle of the arena, where Oogway acclaims him as the Dragon Warrior, to the astonishment of everyone present.

Believing Oogway's decision to be an accident, Shifu tries to dispose of Po with a harsh training regime, while the Five dismiss Po as an enthusiast with no potential in martial arts. Po considers quitting, but after receiving encouragement from Oogway, he endures his training and gradually befriends the Five with his resilience, culinary skill, and good humour. During this time, Po learns that Shifu's cold and distant behaviour stems from his own shame over Tai Lung's betrayal, having raised him from infancy. Meanwhile, Zeng's warnings are ignored, and Tai Lung escapes from prison by picking his locks with one of the goose's feathers and vanquishing the guards. Having learnt about this calamity, Shifu informs Oogway, who makes him promise to believe in Po; Oogway then passes on to the heavens in a stream of peach blossoms.

Upon hearing that Oogway has died and that Tai Lung is fast approaching, Po, still unable to make any progress with kung fu and fed up with the harsh treatment he has endured, makes Shifu admit that he does not know how to train the panda into the Dragon Warrior. Tigress, the preeminent member of the Five, overhears this and leads her team to confront Tai Lung. However, 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, using food as positive reinforcement.

The Furious Five put up a good fight against Tai Lung, but are soon overwhelmed by his nerve strike technique. Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, but the scroll's blank, reflective surface does not reveal any powerful secrets. Believing it to be useless, Po and the Five evacuate the inhabitants of the Valley, while Shifu prepares to face Tai Lung. In trying to console a distraught Po, Mr Ping reveals that his "secret ingredient soup" has no secret ingredient, explaining that things are special if people believe they are. Realizing that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll, which only displays the reader's own face, Po rushes back to help Shifu.

Tai Lung overpowers Shifu, who apologises for being too proud to see who his student was becoming. Po, who arrives with the Dragon Scroll, proves to be more than a match for his opponent, frustrating him with confusing fighting techniques. He is eventually subdued by Tai Lung's greater skill, but, greedy for power, he is unable to understand the message of the Dragon Scroll. 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 removes him from existence using the mysterious Wuxi Finger Hold.[a] Po is honoured by the Valley and gains the respect of the Furious Five, while Shifu achieves a state of inner peace. In a post-credits scene, Shifu and Po share a meal while a peach that Shifu had planted earlier in the movie grows in the background.

Voice cast

Further information: List of Kung Fu Panda characters

From left to right: Master Viper, Master Monkey, Master Mantis (on Monkey's head), Master Shifu, Master Tigress, and Master Crane. The Furious Five are homages to the actual Snake, Monkey, Praying Mantis, Tiger, and Crane styles of Chinese martial arts.[8]
From left to right: Master Viper, Master Monkey, Master Mantis (on Monkey's head), Master Shifu, Master Tigress, and Master Crane.

The Furious Five are homages to the actual Snake, Monkey, Praying Mantis, Tiger, and Crane styles of Chinese martial arts.[8]

Kyle Gass and JR Reed voice KG Shaw and JR Shaw, respectively, two pigs who come across Po before the Dragon Warrior Tournament.[9] Other actors with minor voice roles include Wayne Knight, Laura Kightlinger, and Kent Osborne.[9] The film's directors, John Stevenson and Mark Osborne, also have small voice roles.[9]


... 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.[10]

DreamWorks 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).[11] Publicized work on the film began in October 2004.[12] In September 2005, DreamWorks Animation announced the film alongside Jack Black, who was selected to be the main voice star.[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 is also the second DreamWorks Animation film in which Black and Angelina Jolie have co-starred together, the first being 2004's Shark Tale.[15]

The idea for the film was conceived by Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive.[16] 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.[10]

Reportedly inspired by Stephen Chow's 2004 martial arts action comedy film, Kung Fu Hustle,[17] 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.[18] 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.[18] 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.[19]

The hand-drawn animation sequence at the beginning of the film was made to resemble Chinese shadow puppetry.[20] 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".[21]

Other reviewers have compared the opening to the evocative style of Genndy Tartakovsky's Cartoon Network series Samurai Jack.[22][23] The rest of the film is modern computer animation, which uses bright, offbeat colors to evoke the natural landscape of China.[20] The end credit sequence also features hand-drawn characters and still paintings in the background.[20]

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?"[24] In preparation, the animators took a six-hour kung fu class.[25]

Producer Melissa Cobb said that originally Po was "more of a jerk," but that the character changed after they heard Jack Black.[25] 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.[25] Lucy Liu said that the film "was quite different because it was such a long process."[26] 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."[26]



The film held its world premiere at the 61st Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2008,[27] where it received massive and sustained applause at the end of the film's screening.[28] 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,[29] and on June 26, 2008 at Leicester Square in London, for the UK.[30]

Home media

Kung Fu Panda was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 9, 2008,[31] and on 3D Blu-ray on December 6, 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive.[32] The DVD double pack release of Kung Fu Panda also includes a short animated film Secrets of the Furious Five.[31] 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.[33] As of February 2010, 17.4 million home entertainment units were sold worldwide.[34]


Box office

The film topped the box office in its opening weekend, grossing $60.2 million for a $14,642 average from 4,114 theaters[35] and performing much better than analysts had been expecting.[36] It also was the highest-grossing opening for a non-sequel DreamWorks Animation film at the time.[36] 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.[37] 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.[5] 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.[38]

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 87% of 190 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.10/10. 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."[39] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 36 reviews.[40] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[41]

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".[42] 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".[21] 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."[43] 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".[44] 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.[45] 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".[46]

Kung Fu Panda was also well received in China.[47] It made nearly 110 million Yuan by July 2, 2008, becoming the first animated film to earn more than 100 million Yuan in China.[48][49] 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."[50][51] 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.[52][53][54]


Kung Fu Panda was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature[55] and the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film,[56] 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."[57]

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.[58]

Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards[55] Best Animated Feature John Stevenson
Mark Osborne
Annie Awards[59][60] 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
Dan Wagner Nominated
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Nico Marlet Won
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production John Stevenson
Mark Osborne
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production Hans Zimmer
John Powell
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Tang Kheng Heng Won
Raymond Zibach Nominated
Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Jennifer Yuh Nelson Won
Alessandro Carloni Nominated
Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Dustin Hoffman Won
James Hong Nominated
Ian McShane Nominated
Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production Jonathan Aibel
Glenn Berger
ASCAP Award Top Box Office Films Hans Zimmer and John Powell Won
Critics' Choice Awards[61] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[62] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[56] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Golden Tomato Awards 2008[63] Best Animated Feature Kung Fu Panda 2nd Place
Wide Release 5th Place
Golden Reel Awards[64][65] Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and
ADR Animation in a Feature Film
Ethan Van Der Ryn
Erik Aadahl
Mike Hopkins
Jonathan Klein
Adam Milo Smalley
Peter Oso Snell
Wayne Lemmer
Paul Pirola
P.K. Hooker
Dan O'Connell
John Cucci
Golden Trailer Awards Best Animation/Family Nominated
Huabiao Awards Outstanding Translated Film Won
National Movie Awards[66] Best Family Film Nominated
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards[67][68] Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie Jack Black Won
Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Online Film Critics Society[69] Best Animated Film Nominated
Producers Guild of America[70] Animated Motion Picture Melissa Cobb Nominated
People's Choice Awards[71] Favorite Family Movie Nominated
Teen Choice Awards[72] Choice Summer Movie: Comedy Nominated
Visual Effects Society[73] Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture Jack Black
Dan Wagner
Nico Marlet
Peter Farson
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Motion Picture Markus Manninen
Dan Wagner
Alex Parkinson
Raymond Zibach
Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Motion Picture Markus Manninen
Alex Parkinson
Amaury Aubel
Li-Ming 'Lawrence' Lee


Kung Fu Panda
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 3, 2008
ProducerHans Zimmer
John Powell
The Underdogs (track 17)

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.[74] 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.[75]



A manga based on the film was released in Japan in Kerokero Ace magazine's September 2008 issue.[76] It is written by Hanten Okuma and illustrated by Takafumi Adachi.[77]

Television series

A television series titled Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness aired on Nickelodeon with its premiere on September 19, 2011.[78] From the cast of Kung Fu Panda, only Lucy Liu and James Hong reprised their roles, of Master Viper and Mr. Ping respectively.[79] 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.

Holiday special

The television holiday special, titled Kung Fu Panda Holiday, was aired on NBC Wednesday, November 24, 2010.[80]

Video game

Main article: Kung Fu Panda (video game)

A video game adaptation of the film was published by Activision on June 3, 2008.[81] 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[82] and a 7.5 out of 10 from IGN.[83] 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."[84]


Main article: Kung Fu Panda 2

The sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2, was released on May 26, 2011.[85] It was released in 3-D and was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who directed the 2-D opening sequence of the first film) with the original cast returning. The story features a new villain with a mysterious weapon so powerful it threatens the existence of kung fu, and Po must additionally confront his past.



DreamWorks Animation was sued in 2011 by a writer, Terence Dunn, for allegedly stealing the idea for Kung Fu Panda from him.[86] 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.[86] DreamWorks Animation denied any wrongdoing and after a two-week trial the jurors found in favor of DreamWorks.[86]

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.[87] 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.[88] 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 Disney Lion King coloring book.[89] On November 18, 2016, Gordon was convicted for wire fraud and perjury, facing a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.[90] In May 2017, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.[91]

See also


  1. ^ In Kung Fu Panda 3, it is revealed that using the Wuxi Finger Hold transports the opponent to the Spirit Realm.


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