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Kung Fu Panda
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Stevenson
Mark Osborne
Produced by Melissa Cobb
Screenplay by
  • Jonathan Aibel
  • Glenn Berger
Story by
  • Ethan Reiff
  • Cyrus Voris
Music by
Editing by Clare Knight
Studio DreamWorks Animation
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) May 15, 2008 (2008-05-15) (Cannes Film Festival)
June 6, 2008 (2008-06-06) (United States)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $130 million
Money made $631.7 million

Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 American computer-animated wuxia 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 an evil kung fu warrior named Tai Lung is foretold to escape from prison, Po is unwittingly named the "Dragon Warrior", that was destined to defeat him.

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 upon release. 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 film at the American and Canadian box office, behind all three Shrek sequels. 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, Po is a fan of kung fu, and idolizes the Furious Five–Tigress, Monkey, Crane, Viper, and Mantis–a group of kung fu masters trained by Master Shifu. However, Po is unable to pursue his dream of learning kung fu while he helps his adoptive father, Mr. Ping the goose, in his noodle restaurant.

Grand Master Oogway, Shifu's mentor, has a vision that Shifu's former protégé, the evil Tai Lung, will escape from prison. Oogway fortells that Tai Lung will return to the valley to exact his revenge for being denied the dragon scroll, which is said to hold the secret to boundless power. Panicked, Shifu sends his messenger, Zeng the goose, with a request for the prison to tighten its security. He then holds a tournament for the Furious Five so that Oogway can identify the Dragon Warrior, the one kung fu master worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll. Po arrives too late to enter the arena; desperate to see the Dragon Warrior, Po straps himself to a set of fireworks and launches himself into the middle of the arena. He crash-lands in front of Oogway as he points towards the Dragon Warrior. To the astonishment of everyone present, Oogway proclaims Po as the chosen warrior.

Believing Oogway's decision to be an accident, Shifu tries to dispose of Po with a harsh training regime, while the Furious Five berate Po as an enthusiast with no potential in martial arts. Po considers resigning, but after receiving encouragement from Oogway, he endures his training and gradually befriends the Five 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.

Meanwhile, Tai Lung escapes from prison by picking his locks with one of Zeng's feathers. Shifu learns of Tai Lung's escape from Zeng and informs Oogway, who extracts a promise from Shifu to believe in Po, and then passes on to the heavens in a stream of peach blossoms. Still unable to grasp the basics of kung fu, Po despairingly admits that he has no chance of defeating Tai Lung. Overhearing this, Tigress leaves to stop Tai Lung by herself being joined by the remaining members of the Furious Five before she departs. However, Shifu discovers that Po is capable of impressive physical feats when motivated by food. Using food as positive reinforcement, Shifu successfully trains Po by incorporating these feats into an innovative kung fu style.

Meanwhile, the Furious Five return after being 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 while he faces Tai Lung. As Tai Lung arrives and fights Shifu, a distraught Po finds Mr. Ping. In an attempt to console his son, Mr. Ping reveals that the secret ingredient to his famous "secret ingredient soup" is "nothing", explaining that things are special when believed to be. Po realizes that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll (as the scroll reflected him) and goes back to confront Tai Lung.

Po proves himself to be a formidable challenge for Tai Lung, frustrating him with confusing fighting techniques. Additionally, his excessive body fat bestows on him an incredible ability to absorb damage and grants him immunity to Tai Lung's nerve strikes. Tai Lung momentarily beats Po and retrieves the scroll, but he is unable to understand it and continues attacking Po. Eventually, Po defeats Tai Lung in combat by using the mysterious Wuxi Finger Hold to vanquish him. Po is praised by the Valley of Peace and earns the respect of the Furious Five, who fully acknowledge him as a true kung fu master, while Shifu finally attains peace.


Further information: List of Kung Fu Panda characters
Kung Fu Panda The Five
From left to right: Viper, Monkey, Mantis (on Monkey's head), Shifu, Tigress, and Crane. The Furious Five are homages to the actual Snake, Monkey, Praying Mantis, Tiger, and Crane styles of Chinese martial arts.
  • Jack Black as Po, an energetic yet accident-prone giant panda and die-hard kung fu fan.
  • Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, an elderly and stern red panda and kung fu master to the Furious Five and Po.
  • The Furious Five:
  • Ian McShane as Tai Lung, an arrogant and aggressive snow leopard who was formerly Shifu's adoptive son and student.
    • Riley Osborne voices a younger version of Tai Lung
  • James Hong as Mr. Ping, Po's adoptive father, a happy-go-lucky Chinese goose who runs a noodle restaurant.
  • Randall Duk Kim as Grand Master Oogway, an ancient Galápagos tortoise and Shifu's mentor.
  • Dan Fogler as Zeng, a timid Chinese goose and Shifu's messenger.
  • Michael Clarke Duncan as Commander Vachir, a hubristic and boastful Javan rhinoceros who is the warden of Chorh-Gom Prison, where Tai Lung is imprisoned.


The sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2, was released on May 26, 2011. 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.


  • 2008: Susan Korman: Kung Fu Panda - The Junior Novel (Novelization), HarperFestival, ISBN: 978-0-0614-3463-1


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 Disney Lion King coloring book. 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.

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