Kung Fu Panda at 15 | A Tale Of Self-Discovery

Kung Fu Panda tells the tale of Po (Jack Black), the dragon warrior, an overweight panda from China who wants nothing more than to study kung fu. It is a comedic ride full of gorgeous animation, comedy and drama, allowing all ages to gain something of value from it. It is entertaining and thoughtful, and features some of the most recognisable anthropomorphic characters that DreamWorks Animation has to offer. Often bogged down by the numerous spin-offs and sequels, both in movie and series format, there is no better time than in its fifteenth anniversary yea, to look back at what made the original so unforgettably heartful. Let’s look at the journey of self-discovery that makes Kung Fu Panda so great.

If I was to pick one theme in this film that encompasses all the others, it would self-discovery. Po is a clumsy yet passionate character who learns how to adapt his quirkiness in order to overcome each obstacle that he faces. We as viewers can empathise with him, seeing his challenges and looking at our own drive and determination to overcome them. It shows us the need to follow our interests and passions even if the road is difficult. Po knows that his journey will be a long one, and the film never shies away from making sure that we know that.

The vast majority of the film is spent training, much like any fighting film. We see comedic and dramatic montages and shots of Po trying to overcome obstacles both physically and mentally, staying committed to his goals throughout. Po shows us the value of perseverance when finding one’s way, and the journey of acceptance of that way once we have found it. Po starts out as a character who is judged for his appearance, and how he acts, looked down upon by the furious five and those around him. They don’t accept him, and yet, he does all he can to break down their prejudices and form bonds. We also see these characters learning to consider their own actions along the way. We see each character learn true-to-reality life lessons, looking at concepts of balance and inner peace, reminding us that we should keep going when faced with these roadblocks in life.

Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) is a character who often shares wisdom on the subject, offering inspiration to Po throughout the film. “Your mind is like water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.” This quote shows us the importance of that discovery of oneself, and the wise words necessary to calm ourselves on our journey. Kung Fu Panda is full of lessons like these, prompting an understanding that, in order to find ourselves, we must first be happy with the things that we find. And if we aren’t, then we need to embrace those differences and show a determination to work towards a goal of betterment. We see that everything has purpose and meaning and that Po has to channel those meanings to find his way.

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Kung Fu Panda, in conclusion, is much more than just a slapstick animated comedy. It is a study into finding oneself, which resonating with audiences of all ages. We join Po on his journey but it also reminds us to focus on our own journey of acceptance, peace, perseverance and self-discovery. Po is all of us. We may feel tired and unsure of ourselves, but it is the urge to keep going and find the reasons why that truly give us our strength. If you haven’t had a chance to dive into this franchise yet, then there’s no better time.

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