Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 American computer-animated action comedy martial arts film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne and produced by Melissa Cobb, and stars the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, and Michael Clarke Duncan. Set in a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic talking animals, the plot revolves around a bumbling panda named Po who aspires to be a kung fu master. When an evil kung fu warrior is foretold to escape from prison, Po is unwittingly named the chosen one destined to bring peace to the land, much to the chagrin of the resident kung fu warriors.
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 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 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. A sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2, was released on May 26, 2011, along with a television series, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness later that same year as a part of a franchise. The third installment called Kung Fu Panda 3 will debut in January 2016.
Kung Fu Panda premiered in the United States on June 6, 2008, and has since received favorable reviews from critics and much of the movie-going public. The film garners an 87% "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 became DreamWorks' biggest opening for a non-sequel film, the highest grossing animated film of the year worldwide, and also had the fourth-largest opening weekend for a DreamWorks animated film at the American and Canadian box office, behind Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever After.
The story is set in the Valley of Peace, a fictional land in ancient China inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Po, a giant panda, is a kung fu fanatic who idolizes the Furious Five — Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane — a quintet of kung fu masters trained by the red panda Master Shifu. As he helps his goose father Mr. Ping in his noodle restaurant, Po is unable to pursue his dream of becoming a kung fu master himself.
Grand Master Oogway, an old tortoise and Shifu's mentor, has a vision that Shifu's adoptive son and former student, the evil snow leopard Tai Lung, will escape from prison and return to the Valley of Peace to take revenge for being denied the Dragon Scroll, which is said to hold the secret to limitless power. Shifu is alarmed and sends his messenger, the goose Zeng, to prevent Tai Lung's escape. He then holds a kung fu tournament for the Furious Five so that Oogway may identify the Dragon Warrior, the one kung fu master worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll and capable of defeating Tai Lung. Forced to take a cumbersome noodle cart to the tournament, Po arrives as the arena doors close and is unable to enter. Desperate to see the Dragon Warrior chosen, Po straps himself to a set of fireworks, rockets into the sky, and crashes into the middle of the arena and opens his eyes to see Oogway pointing his finger at him. To everyone's surprise, Oogway proclaims Po as the Dragon Warrior, much to the Furious Five's dismay.
Believing Oogway's decision to be an accident, Shifu tries to get rid of Po by ridiculing him into quitting kung fu training coupled with a torturous training regime. The Furious Five similarly despise and mock Po as an upstart with no skill in kung fu. After receiving encouragement from Oogway, however, Po endures his grueling training and slowly begins to befriend the Five with his tenacity, culinary skill, and good humor. Meanwhile, Tai Lung escapes from prison as foreseen by Oogway, ironically picking his locks with one of Zeng's feathers. Shifu learns of Tai Lung's escape and informs Oogway, who extracts a promise from Shifu to believe in Po and then ascends to the sky in a cloud of peach blossoms. Still unable to grasp the basics of kung fu, Po despairingly admits that he has no chance of defeating Tai Lung. Shifu, however, discovers that Po is capable of impressive physical feats when motivated by food. Using food as positive reinforcement, Shifu successfully trains Po to incorporate these feats into an effective kung fu style.
At the same time, the Furious Five set out to stop Tai Lung themselves, only to be overwhelmed and defeated by Tai Lung's nerve strikes. Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, but the scroll reveals nothing but a blank, reflective surface. Believing the scroll to be useless, Shifu orders Po and the Five to evacuate the valley. As Tai Lung arrives and fights Shifu, the distraught Po finds his father who, in an attempt to console him, reveals that the long-withheld secret ingredient to his famous "secret ingredient soup" is nothing, explaining that things become special if they are believed to be. Po realizes that this concept is the entire point of the Dragon Scroll, and goes back to confront Tai Lung before the leopard is able to kill Shifu.
Po becomes a formidable challenge for Tai Lung as he tries to protect the Dragon Scroll, using his unorthodox fighting style to confuse his opponent and his body fat to block his nerve strikes. Tai Lung momentarily bests Po and retrieves the scroll, but is unable to understand or accept its symbolic meaning. Po ultimately defeats him using the mysterious Wuxi Finger Hold. Po is praised by the Valley of Peace and earns the respect of all the Furious Five, who fully acknowledge him as a true kung fu master. Po then finds Shifu, who finally attains inner peace with the valley safe once more.
- Jack Black as Po, an energetic, yet accident-prone, giant panda. He is also a die-hard fan of the Furious Five and kung fu, although his father wants him to take over the family noodle shop. To everyone's surprise, Po is chosen as the Dragon Warrior by Master Oogway, and in the end, he defeats Tai Lung with the Wuxi Finger Hold.
- Dustin Hoffman as Shifu, an elderly red panda who is the stern kung fu master to the Five and (unwillingly) to Po; he is troubled over mistakes in the past. He is Tai Lung's adoptive father and former master.
- Angelina Jolie as Tigress, a South China tiger and leader of the Furious Five. She is the most sarcastic to Po when he's chosen as the Dragon Warrior, but eventually accepts him when he defeats Tai Lung.
- Ian McShane as Tai Lung, a muscular snow leopard who was denied the Dragon Scroll by Oogway. After rampaging through the Valley of Peace for being denied the scroll, Tai Lung was sent to Chorh-Gom Prison for twenty years, after which he escaped and returned for revenge. He is Shifu's adoptive son and former student.
- Jackie Chan as Monkey, a Gee's golden langur and member of the Furious Five; he has an easygoing attitude, and like Sun Wukong, the Monkey of Chinese folktales, he is adept with a staff.
- Seth Rogen as Mantis, a Chinese mantis and member of the Furious Five; he is extremely strong for his size and is also experienced in acupuncture.
- Lucy Liu as Viper, a green tree viper and member of the Furious Five; she is kind and the most good-natured to Po when he is chosen as the Dragon Warrior.
- David Cross as Crane, a red-crowned crane and another member of the Furious Five; he tends to be both practical and sarcastic.
- Randall Duk Kim as Oogway, Shifu's mentor and the wise leader of the Jade Palace. He is an ancient Galápagos tortoise.
- James Hong as Mr. Ping, Po's father, a happy-go-lucky Chinese goose who runs a noodle restaurant along with his son, who is unwilling to follow in his father's footsteps.
- Dan Fogler as Zeng, a Chinese goose who is Shifu's nervous messenger.
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Commander Vachir, a Javan rhinoceros who is the boastful warden of Chorh-Gom Prison, where Tai Lung is imprisoned.