Like many of DreamWorks Animation’s movies, the Kung Fu Panda series has been suffused with a number of thoroughly memorable figures - as the filmmakers have done a superb job of peppering Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2 with one indelible character after another. The following five stand as the best of the best in the Kung Fu Panda legacy:
1. Po (Jack Black)
As the star of the Kung Fu Panda series, Po is automatically the most obvious choice for the number one pick on this list. But even if he had only made a cameo appearance in either Kung Fu Panda or Kung Fu Panda 2, Po would still be a strong contender for the number one pick here – as the character is instantly established as a charming, unique, and thoroughly lovable figure that the viewer can’t help but root for. Jack Black’s now-indelible voice work as Po is certainly a big part of what makes the character so great, with the actor’s boundlessly enthusiastic performance ranking right up there with the best that modern animation has to offer.
Memorable Line: “I’m not a big, fat panda. I’m the big, fat panda!”
2. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman)
In the first Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) makes no secret of his reluctance to train Po in the ways of kung fu. But as the series has progressed, Po has managed to win over Shifu with his combination of hard work and high enthusiasm – with the relationship between Shifu and Po ultimately going from teacher/student to father/son. Hoffman hasn’t done much voice work in his career, which is certainly too bad – as the actor does a stellar job of stepping into the shoes of this quick-tempered yet fair-minded red panda.
Memorable Line: “Well done, students… if you were trying to disappoint me!”
3. Lord Shen (Gary Oldman)
Though Kung Fu Panda’s Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is indeed a very formidable and terrifying villain, Kung Fu Panda 2’s Lord Shen manages to edge him out by a very small margin due primarily to Gary Oldman’s creepy voice work as the character. Oldman brings his notorious intensity to the world of animation with impressive ease, and the actor does a superb job of infusing even the simplest of lines with a menacing edge that effectively heightens Lord Shen’s intimidating presence. (Of course, as we learn late in the movie, Po has his own personal reasons for wanting to see Lord Shen vanquished.)
Memorable Line: “The only reason you’re still alive is that I find your stupidity mildly amusing.”
4. Mr. Ping (James Hong)
Mr. Ping (James Hong) is a Swan Goose that has raised Po since he was just a baby panda, while at the same time operating what is clearly the most successful noodle shop in all of the Valley of Peace. When we first meet him, Mr. Ping is clearly hoping that Po will one day be ready to run the shop by himself – though it inevitably becomes clear that greater things are in store for Mr. Ping’s beloved son. In Kung Fu Panda 2, Mr. Ping has clearly embraced Po’s place as the Dragon Warrior and is essentially portrayed as his son’s most loyal and enthusiastic fan.
Memorable Line: “We are noodle folk. Broth runs through our veins.”
5. Tigress (Angelina Jolie)
After Oogway names Po the Dragon Warrior in the first Kung Fu Panda, Tigress (Angelina Jolie) makes no secret of her displeasure and initially resents Po for taking away the title that she believes rightly belongs to her. As the film progresses, however, Tigress begins to respect Po and the two are shown to be close friends in Kung Fu Panda 2. Jolie does a superb job of portraying an extremely complex character, as the actress delivers a voice performance that is, at times, both fierce and nurturing.
Memorable Line: “No, I mean you don't belong in the Jade Palace. You're a disgrace to kung fu, and if you have any respect for what we are and what we do, you'll be gone by morning.”