Kung Fu Panda appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As expected, this became a terrific transfer.
Sharpness looked strong. No softness emerged here, as the movie always seemed concise and well-defined.
I noticed no issues connected to shimmering or jagged edges, and edge enhancement never 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 lively visuals.
Though not as memorable, the Dolby TrueHD 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+“.
This set includes both 2D and 3D versions of Panda. The picture comments above reflect the 2D edition – how does the 3D compare?
In terms of picture quality, both look virtually identical. If the 3D image lost anything in terms of sharpness, colors or blacks, I couldn’t see the decline – the 3D version offers excellent visuals.
As for the stereo imaging, Panda comes with terrific 3D impressions. The many action scenes leap off the screen, especially when they involve aerial/flying elements, which often occurred.
General depth looks immersive, and those livelier sequences add real spark to the proceedings. Panda packs a strong 3D punch.
All the set’s extras appear on a DVD copy that replicates the original 2008 release. 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 characters, action choreography, and some other production specifics.
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, 14 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 shots of the actors at work, though, so that side of things satisfies.
Pushing the Boundaries goes for seven minutes, four 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 and 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.
A Music Video pops up for Cee-Lo’s cover of “Kung Fu Fighting”. As usual, we get some movie clips, but the video’s usually more creative than that – though not tremendously so. We see some kung fu-influenced choreography and a cameo from Jack Black. It’s a mediocre video, but at least it’s better than the usual slop.
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.
For some real-life info, we head to the one-minute, 57-second Conservation International: Help Save Wild Pandas. Hosted by Jack Black, it tells us what we can do to contribute to the preservation of pandas. It’s propaganda, but it’s painless propaganda.
Next we find Dragon Warrior Training Academy. This offers a series of games to see if you’re worthy of the “Dragon Warrior” title. As is usually the case with DVD games, these are more annoying than fun.
Printables and Weblinks offers various kid-oriented activities. These require computer access, so pop the disc into your DVD-ROM drive to give it a go.
Finally, we get a DreamWorks Animation Jukebox. This lets you see/hear songs from Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Bee Movie, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Madagascar and Shark Tale. All of this feels like glorified advertising to me.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Monsters Vs. Aliens, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Secrets of the Furious Five. These also appear in the disc’s Trailers area. No ad for Panda appears here.
The 3D disc includes a 3D trailer for Puss In Boots.
While not a classic piece of animation, Kung Fu Panda provides decent entertainment. I’ve certainly seen less amusing films, so that may not be a great endorsement, but it beats a more negative assessment. The Blu-ray delivers excellent picture and audio along with some useful supplements. Panda becomes an enjoyable tale and a high-quality Blu-ray, one that becomes more fun in its 3D incarnation.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of KUNG FU PANDA