Opinion: ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is the Single Greatest Children’s Movie of All Time

Opinion: ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is the Single Greatest Children’s Movie of All Time

If you were to pick your favorite children’s movie, what would come to mind? “Monsters Inc.,” “Space Jam,” “Wall-E,” “Madagascar” perhaps? All are wonderful choices. However, it is my opinion that the cinematic masterpiece, “Kung Fu Panda,” blows all its competition straight out of the water. 

I recently rewatched the trilogy of “Kung Fu Panda” movies and was shocked by how entertaining they were. I thought to myself, “How had these pure works of art gone unappreciated for so long?” Although I thoroughly enjoyed all three movies, the first is by far the best.

The first movie focuses on an ordinary panda, Po, and his journey to becoming the dragon warrior. The dragon warrior is a kung fu master destined to save the world, but Po is big, clumsy and doesn’t know any kung fu. The Furious Five warriors, protectors of the Valley of Peace and Po’s personal heroes, hate that he is chosen as the dragon warrior and say he doesn’t deserve the title. Despite everyone’s doubts, Po trains intensely with Master Shifu and is finally worthy of the dragon scroll, which is supposed to contain the key to completing Po’s final transformation into the dragon warrior. In Po’s final battle with villain, Tai Lung, he reveals that the dragon scroll was a mirror with no writing or secrets. The key to becoming the dragon warrior was himself all along. Po defeats Tai Lung in the epic conclusion to the hilarious, motivating tale with the moral of the story being, you don’t need anything else to be special, you are infinitely amazing on your own. 

The thrilling and well-paced plot is enriched by the world’s multi-dimensional characters. One of my favorite characters in “Kung Fu Panda” is actually the villain, Tai Lung. Tai Lung has deep motivations and is not simply evil to be evil. He was found as a baby by Master Shifu, on the steps of the Jade Palace. Master Shifu trained Tai Lung from the time he was a small child in the art of Kung Fu, teaching him all of its secrets. Tai Lung and Shifu were both certain that he was destined to hold the dragon scroll and defend the valley.

However, when the time came, Master Oogway said Tai Lung was not worthy of the dragon scroll. No matter how hard he trained and perfected his craft, Tai Lung was never good enough for Shifu or Oogway. Enraged, he destroyed the valley. Master Shifu had to stop Tai Lung and he did, betraying the man he considered his son. Tai Lung was locked away in a secure prison in the mountains where he escapes at the beginning of “Kung Fu Panda” with revenge and the dragon scroll being the only things on his mind. In attention to his thorough villain origin story, Tai Lung also maintains a great sense of humor and makes several sarcastic remarks throughout the film that made me laugh out loud.

Arguably the best part of this movie is that even the most serious characters have impeccable comedic timing and are likeable. As previously mentioned, Tai Lung, who is supposed to be evil and despised by the audience, is hard not to laugh with because of his witty comebacks and bitter humor. However, the best example of humor in “Kung Fu Panda” is obviously, Po. Po is played by the incredibly comedically talented Jack Black, who brightens every scene he is in with an ability to make the best out of any situation, even if he is the butt of the joke. 

Po has countless hysterical scenes, but my favorite is in the very beginning of “Kung Fu Panda,” when he’s trying to get into the Jade Palace to see Master Oogway choose the dragon warrior. Po’s father forces him to bring their noodle cart to sell noodles at the ceremony, so he can’t make it up the hundreds of steps below the Jade Palace. Po struggles for a while and eventually leaves the cart and runs up the stairs. He is exhausted when he reaches the top and while he catches his breath the doors to the palace slam in his face. The next few minutes of the film detail Po’s many humorous attempts at seeing the ceremony. Finally, Po straps fireworks to a chair and tries to rocket himself above the palace walls. The chair is a disaster but, eventually, Po falls out of the sky, into the Jade Palace and hard onto the ground in front of Oogway. When he wakes up, he sees that Oogway has chosen him as the dragon warrior. This scene is a strong comedic start to Po’s journey that still makes even my parents laugh out loud, even after watching “Kung Fu Panda” hundreds of times with my brother and I since its release. 

Current children’s movies are simple, horrible cash grabs that underestimate children’s intelligence. They think that kids can’t tell the difference between quality and hot garbage and that is untrue. I loved “Kung Fu Panda” as a kid, and I now know why I was so compelled to rewatch it so many times. It’s deep storyline, relatable characters and timeless comedy keep me coming back for more.