Surprisingly when it comes to fully loaded Blu-ray releases it's the movies for young ones that seem to get all the attention. After lamenting the decline of solid DVD features and applauding kid-friendly extras in my review of The Smurfs Blu-ray I find myself once again impressed with another animated release that knocks it out of the park. Kung Fu Panda 2 is an energetic enjoyable 90-minute cartoon that goes above and beyond the call of duty for its Blu. This isn't the Social Network of youngster flicks but the set certainly aims to both entertain and educate—and when buying discs for children why settle for anything less?
For those who missed it in theaters KFP2 finds Po the Panda (Jack Black) now fully immersed in the world of Kung Fu taking on his role as the Dragon Warrior with full force. He runs jumps punches and eats dumplings with The Furious Five his ragtag team of equally adept ninja-types. When China is threatened by Shen a panda-hating evil peacock who has harnessed the power of explosions for world domination purposes Po and the gang leap into action for another adventure across an array of dazzling landscapes.
The original Kung Fu Panda was something of a surprise a heartfelt adrenaline rush amongst lowbrow predecessors (the Shrek series mainly). The sequel follows suit injecting a more personal touch to Po's quest (he discovers that he's not really the son of a stork but rather a survivor of Shen's earlier massacre). On Blu-ray director Jennifer Yuh Nelson's gripping action scenes really flourish. The animation looks a little simpler at home (perhaps a holdover from the first movie's design) but the movie's so fun and fast-paced you won't mind the technical misgivings.
And if you have a hunger for extras like Po does bowls of noodles then Kung Fu Panda 2 serves up a hardy meal. The Blu sports a few storyboarded deleted scenes a commentary with the hushed-but-highly-intelligent Nelson and a standard "Working with the actors" piece that features Black Angelina Jolie Gary Oldman and more talking about their time recording the movie's dialogue. Watching Black flail around the room is exciting—that enthusiasm clearly comes through in the movie. The disc also adds instructional features for the young ones including "Panda Stories " a panda wildlife preservation doc and "Ni Hao " a tutorial on speaking Mandarin. The disc also includes two different games you can play with your Blu-ray remote that are designed for the young-but-savvy.
What really blew me away was the short included on the disc. Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters a 20-minute film that utilizes both 3D CG and traditional 2D animation. Much like the backstory flashbacks seen in KFP2 Secrets of the Masters recounts the past adventures of three side characters: Master Rhino (Victor Garber) Master Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Master OX (Dennis Haysbert). The short even manages to bring back one of my favorite characters of the first movie: the slow wise turtle Oogway! The 2D style reminiscent of Samurai Jack or both the intros from Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 is vivid and stylized adding a real artistry to the series and to a medium that's all but removed this kind of work form its palette. The story a fable on fighting for the right reasons never feels didactic—making it a great watch for the kids and the kids-at-heart.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a heck of a lot of fun and should provide countless hours of entertainment for you and any kids who happen to be in the room while you indulge in this animated martial arts ride. The only reason not to pick it up for the family? There's solid evidence to believe a third Kung Fu Panda is on the way and you know how much Blu-ray companies love trilogies...