Although their star is a chubby panda with Jack Black's voice, the filmmakers behind "Kung Fu Panda" have put together a real kung fu movie disguised as a cartoon comedy.
Directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson said they intended their panda hero and his comrades — including a tiger (Angelina Jolie), a viper (Lucy Liu) and a monkey (Jackie Chan) — to be the animal-world equivalent of the Asian action warriors they admire.
"With the title, it would be easy to expect maybe a parody of kung fu films," Stevenson said after a screening of "Kung Fu Panda" Tuesday night at ShoWest, an annual convention of theater owners in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Everybody on the crew was a big martial-arts movie fan," Stevenson added. "That was one of the reasons we didn't want to do a parody, because we actually love those movies. They're great movies. They're sort of like Westerns, these great archetypal tales of good and evil and great emotion and heroism. So we wanted to honor that, not spoof it."
"Kung Fu Panda," due for release June 6, is the latest computer-generated production from DreamWorks Animation, whose films include the "Shrek" series, "Madagascar" and "Over the Hedge."
Po, is a panda in ancient China who idolizes the land's kung fu heroes but is stuck toiling in his family’s noodle shop. He is declared the Dragon Warrior, destined to battle the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who has escaped from a prison fortress seeking vengeance against his former martial-arts master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).
Placed under the tutelage of the dubious Shifu, Po trains alongside five true kung fu masters: Jolie's Tigress, Chan's Monkey, Liu's Viper, Seth Rogen's Mantis and David Cross’Crane.
While the movie is loaded with slapstick and wisecracks, the spirit is true to martial-arts epics that inspired the filmmakers, among them "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."
(Xinhua/Agencies March 14, 2008)