Kung Fu Panda (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

To everyone's surprise, including his own, Po, an overweight, clumsy panda, is chosen as protector of the Valley of Peace. His suitability will soon be tested as the valley's arch-enemy is on his way.

April 12, 2024 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“Kung Fu Panda”. Yep, I said it. I actually sat down and watched a movie titled “Kung Fu Panda.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Over the last dozen years or so, the computer animation movie marked has become inundated and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. More often than not, these movies are very clever, well thought out and entertaining to both children and adults and I’m happy to say that “Kung Fun Panda” is certainly no exception. What began with “Toy Story” in the holiday season of 1995 is now ancient history, but it started a trend that’s likely to continue for the next few decades at the very least. And why not? The possibilities are limitless in the realm of animation and with top notch talent lending their voices to the films, we get the “star power” as well. Pixar (a Disney company) has long been the leader in the computer animated films but Dreamworks has always been right there with films like “Antz”, “Madagascar”, “The Shrek Movies” and the title in question “Kung Fu Panda.”

The plot is relatively simple as we meet Po (voiced by Jack Black), an underachieving panda who really digs all the kung fu fighting. The trouble is that he’s destined for a life of boredom working in his father’s noodle shop. It so happens that his idols, the Furious Five, are close by and through a series of happenstances Po is mysteriously chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy. The Furious Five’s (Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey) leader, Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) must train Po in the legendary arts but before his training can be completed they learn of an impending threat. You see, the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (voiced by Ian McShane) and Po must defend everyone. The chance has come for Po to prove himself, but will he be up to the challenge or fail miserably?

It’s hard not to like “Kung Fu Panda” or any of these clever animated movies. Their allure, of course, is that they’re equally pleasing to children and adults alike. I’ve personally never understood why they pay movie stars such outrageous salaries to do these animated films when there are some actors out there who could do just as good of a job for far less money. But it’s Hollywood and it’s never really made sense. The cast if loaded with plenty of these stars and starlets including Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Michael Clarke Duncan to name but a few. “Kung Fu Panda” is something that was so enjoyable to me I’ll probably watch it a few more times, like I have with some of the Pixar titles.

Video: How does it look?

Kung Fu Panda is the epitome of a perfect transfer. It’s flawless. The 2.39:1 HEVC 4K transfer is top notch and it should be. Really, its movies with transfers like this that makes people plop down a few thousand dollars on a HDTV. The opening 2-D sequences are amazing and as the “dream sequence” ends and the film transitions into 3-D, the colors pop the black levels are amazing and we can see details so minute that you’d think you could reach right out and touch Po himself. I can go on and on, but suffice it to say that when it comes to image quality, you can’t top this on 4K.

Audio: How does it sound?

Equally as impressive as the video is the very robust Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Just because there aren’t any bombs or airplanes to be found doesn’t mean that the soundtrack can’t rock. This does. Dialogue is, as expected, very clean and natural without a hint of distortion. The 7.1 soundtrack emanates from every possible speaker and gives the true feeling of being surrounded. From the loud thumps and bangs to the nearly noticeable discrete effects that give the film a bit of added depth. Suffice it to say that if you’re not impressed by the video, then the audio will make your jaw drop.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Some, but yet not all, of the supplements from the previously-released Blu-ray have found their way onto this set.

  • Audio Commentary – We start off with a commentary track by directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne as they dish on the production of the film, some of the problems they encountered and so forth. They actually manage to deliver a pretty solid track, though I don’t see the kids listening to anything like this.
  • Meet the Cast – If you’re a fan of Jack Black’s hyper behavior, you’re in for a treat. He’s the main focus on the “meet the cast” segment. As we know, it’s really all about him.
  • Pushing the Boundaries – Bearing in mind the movie came out in 2008 and we’ve come a long way since then with animation. But some of the ideas and practical effects used in the film are discussed which I found quite engaging.
  • Learn the Panda Dance  – Pretty much that. If you’ve ever wondered, no time like the present (the “present” being 2008) to learn.
  • Learn to Draw  – They make it look so easy when they do stuff like this. I didn’t really “learn” how to draw, rather do something crude which reinforced my decision to not be an artist.
  • Sound Design  – Again, pretty self-explanatory. We get a crash course in audio used in the film.
  • Music Video – “Kung Fu Fighting” by Cee Lo Green.
  • Do You Kung Fu? – We get some basic Kung Fu styles and poses.
  • Mr. Ping’s Noodle House  – I’d say that if you can make noodles, you’ll probably be OK in life. Mr. Ping shows you how to achieve this life hack.
  • How to Use Chopsticks  – It can’t be that hard, right? Can a billion Asians be wrong?
  • The Animals of Kung Fu Panda  – We get a look at some animals of China: the tiger, crane, mantis, monkey, and viper.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll  – A prequel to the film.

The Bottom Line

There’s no denying the popularity of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. It’s still going strong a decade and a half after its initial release. This 4K version provides perfect audio and video and most, but not all, of the supplements have made the cut from your (now retired) Blu-ray.

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