Kung Fu Panda Mark Osborne & John Stevenson

Kung Fu Panda Mark Osborne & John Stevenson
Kung Fu Panda was this summer’s animation hit because it was fun for kids, smart for adults and charming to all. Jack Black is the voice behind a tubby slacker panda named Po, who toils in his dad’s (James Hong) noodle shop but yearns for kung fu stardom. His prayers are answered when he crashes the ceremony where Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is to choose a kung fu master from one of the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). As the lovable but clumsy Po struggles to convince Shifu and the Furious Five that he is indeed a kung fu artist, a former Shifu disciple, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), breaks out of his prison and comes running after Shifu. The ferocious snow leopard wants revenge after Shifu denied him the title of kung fu master after training him all his life. It’s up to Po to defend everyone. Can he do it? The CG animation is dazzling and the star-studded cast of voices is spot-on. Standouts are Jolie, whose Tigress threatens to steal the spotlight; Hoffman who plays the wise, old teacher; and Black, whose underachieving Panda is always likable and sympathetic. The DVD scores high marks for its many good bonus features. The audio commentary will probably bore the kids but fascinate parents, as co-directors Osborne and Stevenson discuss the long and complex animation process. Three behind-the-scenes featurettes reveal not only the CGI work and the celeb voice recordings but also sound design, that neglected yet essential aspect of filmmaking. All the featurettes offer many examples and interviews without ever talking down to viewers. Strictly for fun is a live-action segment of a Chinese chef making noodles like those that Po serves. For educational purposes, there’s the video "How To Eat with Chopsticks.” For the kids, there are five simple videogames to test Po’s martial arts prowess that I couldn't get the hang of. For mindless filler are a series of music videos from other Disney films like The Bee Movie and Shrek 3, and a kid-friendly video for "Kung Fu Fighting.” More fun are the fake tattoos and pop-up cards that parents can print and assemble by popping the DVD into their computers and following instructions. While in the computer, the DVD also offers easy-to-read PDFs to explain the Chinese zodiac and kung fu basics. Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of the Kung Fu Panda DVD. (Dreamworks/Paramount)