Kung Fu Panda appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Expect very few problems during this strong transfer.
Sharpness looked terrific. Only a hint of softness emerged here, as the movie almost always seemed concise and well-defined. I noticed no issues connected to shimmering or jagged edges, and just a smidgen of edge enhancement materialized. Of course, the computer-animated affair came without source flaws, so don’t worry about any specks, marks or other defects.
With its exotic settings and characters, Panda featured a broad palette that looked great. The movie’s colors leapt off the screen, as they offered excellent vivacity and impact. Blacks were concise and dark, and shadows seemed clear and well-defined. Overall, Panda provided nice visuals.
Though not as memorable, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Kung Fu Panda seemed positive. In the forward domain, the music showed fine stereo imaging, while effects blended together neatly and smoothly. Those elements moved from speaker to speaker cleanly as the track created a solid sense of atmosphere. It even included a fair amount of dialogue from the side speakers, which offered a good impression of breadth.
Surround usage generally favored reinforcement of music and effects, but the rears came to life nicely during a number of scenes. Various battles showed effective use of the surrounds, as did the other action sequences. The mix really helped bring the material to life.
Audio quality consistently seemed positive. Dialogue was natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music was rich and warm throughout the movie, with good clarity as well. Bass stomped to life nicely during the louder scenes and effects always seemed clear and accurate, with no signs of distortion or other concerns. This was a nicely engaging soundtrack that earned a solid “B+“.
How did this 2016 “Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness” compare to the original 2008 DVD? Both looked/sounded an awful lot alike. If they’re not identical, they’re close – and that’s fine with me, as the prior disc offered a solid DVD.
The 2016 DVD includes some of the 2008 disc’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They look at animation and visual design, color schemes and cinematography, cast and performances, story and editing, and related areas.
A lot of commentaries for animated films tend to be dry and technical, but that problem doesn’t happen here. Oh, we get lots of nuts and bolts information, but Stevenson and Osborne keep the track moving well and they balance the technical bits with more creative elements. They provide a consistently lively and interesting discussion.
Three featurettes follow. Meet the Cast goes for 13 minutes, 15 seconds as it presents remarks from Osborne, Stevenson, and actors Jack Black, Dustin Hofffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Ian McShane, Michael Clarke Duncan, Randall Duk Kim, and James Hong. We get some notes about cast, characters and performances. Don’t expect much depth here, as the comments remain fluffy and insubstantial. I always enjoy examples of the actors at work, though, so that side of things satisfies.
Pushing the Boundaries goes for seven minutes, five seconds and features Osborne, Stevenson, chief technology officer Ed Leonard, artistic supervision: character technical direction Nathan Loofbourrow, supervising animator/kung fu choreographer Rodolphe Guenoden, production designer Raymond Zibach, artistic supervision: surfacing Wes Burian, visual effects supervisor Markus Manninen, DreamWorks animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and artistic supervision: character effects/crowds and effects Alex Parkinson. We learn a bit about the computer animation here.
But only a bit, as we don’t get much detail. Instead, the participants mostly tell us how amazing and complex the project is. I like the shows of the raw visuals, but we just don’t learn a whole lot from this featurette.
Next we find the three-minute, 52-second Sound Design with remarks from Osborne, Stevenson, and supervising sound editors/sound designers Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn. This show tells us about some of the film’s auditory choices. As usual, the behind the scenes elements work best, as we get some fun shots of the sound crew at work. Not too many details emerge, though.
After this we locate a few educational pieces. Mr. Ping’s Noodle House runs four minutes, 40 seconds and provides narration from Iron Chef America host Alton Brown. We watch the creation of Chinese noodles in this short featurette. It’s mildly interesting at best.
How to Use Chopsticks goes for two minutes, 55 seconds and acts as a tutorial. It teaches us the correct way to use chopsticks. Y’know, spoon/fork/knife have served me well over the years, so I think I’ll stick with them. Besides, there’s nothing more pretentious than white folks using chopsticks. I don’t know how valuable this lesson will be, but if you want to join the chopstickers, give it a look.
Under The World of DreamWorks Animation, we find various promotional elements related to Shrek, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, The Croods, Turbo and Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Mostly we get music videos, but a few trailers appear as well.
On DVD Two, the main attraction comes from three “animated adventures”. Called The Secrets Adventures, we find “Secrets of the Scroll” (23:13), “Secrets of the Masters” (22:58) and “Secrets of the Furious Five” (24:32). “Five” and “Masters” earned prior DVD release, but I think this marks the DVD debut of “Scroll”.
In “Five”, Po teaches a kung fu class made up of young bunnies. They just want to learn how to kick butt, but he tells them they need to learn qualities such as patience and confidence. Po illuminates them via anecdotes about all the members of the Furious Five.
“Five” loses a few points because many of the original actors fail to reappear. Jack Black returns as Po, and we also find Dustin Hoffman, David Cross and Randall Duk Kim in their movie roles. Of the main cast, this means we lose Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen.
I suppose the film gets away with the absence of Jolie, Chan and Liu since it includes “young” versions of their characters. I think the original actors still could’ve done those parts, but the absence of Rogen seems more problematic.
Cast issues aside, does “Five” entertain? Yeah, it provides a decent diversion. For the shots of Po in the current time, “Five” goes with the same 3D animation in the film, while the flashback anecdotes offer work with the same cel appearance found in the feature film’s prologue. This is a good technique to give the tale a distinctive appearance.
As for the stories themselves, them work fairly well. They’re pretty basic lessons for kids, but they get creative twists much of the time, and they come with some funny bits. “Five” doesn’t dazzle, but it entertains.
From 2011, “Masters” looks at how Ox (Dennis Haysbert), Croc (Tony Leondis) and Rhino (Paul Scheer) formed a team in earlier days. They unite to battle the sinister Wu sisters (Sumalee Montano). Though they initially do so strictly for monetary gain, the heroes eventually develop more altruistic motives.
Like “Five”, “Masters” works fairly well. It follows the same animation structure of “Five” and gives us a relatively fun tale.
“Masters” also brings back more of the original actors, as “Five” absentees Jolie and Rogen appear here. “Five” is probably the more entertaining of these two, but “Masters” gives us a fun piece.
A new feature, “Scroll” tells us how the Furious Five came together. It also shows how Po became obsessed with kung fu.
Once again, it uses the same animation structure of the others: 3D for the brackets, 2D for the main material. That allows it to fit the “Secrets” series. Most of the original actors show up for “Scroll”, though Jolie and Chan go MIA again.
A “prequel” like “Scroll” probably should’ve been the first “Secrets” video; heck, the debut feature implies that it’ll tell the tale found here. Also, the absence of Jolie becomes a bigger drag than usual since Tigress plays such a large role.
Despite that, I think “Scroll” finishes the “Secrets Trilogy” in a satisfying manner. Actually, it may be the most enjoyable of the three, as it gives us a fun “origin story”.
A sneak peek for Kung Fu Panda 3 lasts two minutes, 56 seconds. After an intro from Jack Black, we see a short snippet from Panda 3. That means we don’t learn anything in the “behind the scenes” realm.
Next we get two Mash-Ups. We find “Mash-Up of Awesomeness: Slo-Mo” (3:05) and “Mash-Up of Blunders” (2:52). The first collects a bunch of movie slow-motion scenes into one reel, while the second shows a bunch of Po’s goofs. Both offer mild amusement at best – honestly, they seem fairly pointless.
Finally, the disc includes a music video. Called “Martial Arts of Awesomeness”, this runs two minutes, 39 seconds and shows fight snippets matched to Carl Douglas’s 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting”. Luke the mash-ups, it lacks much purpose.
While not a classic piece of animation, Kung Fu Panda provides decent entertainment. I’ve certainly seen less amusing films; that may not be a great endorsement, but it beats a more negative assessment. The DVD presents excellent visuals, very good audio, and a roster of extras highlighted by a terrific commentary and a few interesting direct to video programs.
On its own, this 2016 “Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness” DVD works fine, but I find it hard to recommend it to fans who already own the original release. It adds two more animated short adventures, but it drops other extras. It’s a good product but not one that likely warrants a “double dip”.
To rate this film visit the original review of KUNG FU PANDA