These days it is pretty common for any animated feature that does well at the box office to keep the characters going, but often they lose their spark with each new entry. When Kung Fu Panda hit theaters in 2008 it was an instant hit so it was no surprise that they quickly moved forward with a sequel aptly titled Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011. While both have been released for some time, Dreamworks is now bringing them back just in time to celebrate the release of the third entry into the series with both getting the Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness treatment.
In the original film, Po, a lazy, irreverent slacker panda must somehow become a Kung Fu Master in order to save the Valley of Peace from the villainous snow leopard, Tai Lung by becoming the legendary Dragon Warrior. This series features a great voice cast including Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan, Wayne Knight, Ian McShane and Jack Black as the Kung Fu Panda himself Po. This film stood out for having such a great story mixed with humor, heart and awesome martial arts action. The clever writing of these characters and bringing actual styles of kung fu to life with the Furious Five makes this film work on every level. The animation and character design are some of the best out there with unique looks to them all while still making them obvious to the animals they are. The voice work is superb with each of them bringing their own thing to their roles, but it is Black, Hoffman and McShane that really shine. Black was born to play this character and not only embraces it he brings him to fun life like only he can. Hoffman brings all the necessary insight, leadership and confidence to the role with still a hint of humor to the otherwise serious character. Like most films like this they only work in the end as good as their villain and McShane’s Tai Lung is awesome. He is brutal, scary and just overall cool to see on the screen. In the end this film not only knocked it out of the park at the time of its release it still holds up to perfection today.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is reveling in his fulfilled dreams as he serves as the fabled Dragon Warrior protecting his home with his heroes and now closest friends The Furious Five. However, they soon learn that the murderous Lord Shen of Gongman City is threatening the land with a fearsome new weapon that could mean the end of kung fu. The entire original cast are back in on the fun like they never left bringing their characters back to vibrant life once again, but this time they are joined by a slew of new characters voiced by Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Dennis Haysbert, Jean Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber and Gary Oldman as the evil Lord Shen. Typically with movies like these the sequels have a small hint of the previous film, but try and be its own standalone story. Here it does do that, but it serves more as an evolution to the characters as a whole with all the things intact that made the first one so great. Despite the villain in Lord Shen seemingly not being as menacing as Tai Lung, this peacock steps it up to the next level. This takes the film in an often darker direction than the first one in the best way possible. The biggest thing that helps this film is that they bypass just repeating things from the first one and make this its own film while beginning to evolve the Po character and the mysteries of his past you didn’t even know he had. The animation is once again beautifully vibrant and enhances the perfect story full of humor, heart and action, but it’s the final moments of the film that serves as something so much more for the Po character promising that there is an even bigger story to tell.
Sure these films have been out for a long time and those that are going to see them likely have, but that doesn’t mean there are not hardcore fans and new ones around the corner that never get enough. These Ultimate Editions of Awesomeness both contain not only the films in beautiful hi-def, but a slew of special features including deleted scenes, commentary, cast interviews, music videos, 3 extra animated adventures including the NEW Secrets of the Scroll, a sneak peek at Kung Fu Panda 3 and so much more. Don’t miss out on your chance to be awesome and get caught up before Kung Fu Panda 3 hits theaters on January 29th and grab your copies of both Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from Dreamworks Animation.