KUNG FU PANDA: LEGENDS OF AWESOMENESS – GOOD CROC, BAD CROC
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
Mick Wingert as PO
Kari Wahlgren as TIGRESS
Max Koch as MANTIS
Lucy Liu as VIPER
James Sie as MONKEY
Amir Talai as CRANE
Fred Tatasciore as CROC BANDIT
Developed by: Peter Hastings
BY KEVIN CARR
Back in 2008, I was highly skeptical of the original DreamWorks animated film “Kung Fu Panda.” However, when I finally saw it, the movie captured my attention, and I loved it. Consequently, it ended up on my Top 10 list of the year.
Three years later, in 2011, I expected the sequel to the charming movie to be terrible, an unworthy follow-up to the first film. Again, I was taken by pleasant surprise. “Kung Fu Panda 2” was another amazing and beautiful movie. And again, it ended up on my Top 10 list of the year.
Well, it’s been two years since that last “Kung Fu Panda” movie came out, but that didn’t stop DreamWorks from making more parts of the franchise. The Nickelodeon cartoon “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” began airing when “Kung Fu Panda 2” was heading to theaters. The set-up of the series is to tell the forgotten stories between the first two films, during which Po the panda is training to be the Dragon Warrior.
Now, DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox have released a compilation DVD of the series, featuring seven episodes on a single disc. The disc, subtitled “Good Croc, Bad Croc,” includes the following episodes: “Good Croc, Bad Croc,” “The Princess and the Po,” “Chain Reaction,” “Bad Po,” “Jailhouse Panda,” “Father Crime” and “Po Fans Out.”
As one might expect when a massive summer tent-pole release becomes a weekly television cartoon, something is going to be lost. That loss can be extreme – like when the charming “Winnie the Pooh” theatrical shorts were re-tooled for the pale and irritating “New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” in the 80s – or it can be slight – like the snarky “Penguins of Madagascar” losing some production value but retaining the spunk.
“Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” falls somewhere in the middle. What’s lost is the grand scale and scope of the film, which is simply not in the budget or schedule for a weekly cartoon. Similarly, the animation has been ratcheted down quite a bit.
Similar to how “Back to the Barnyard” went to a less polished style of animation for its series, “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” falls more into the look of a cranked-out television series. So, as much as I adored the world in which Po and his buddies inhabit, the series is a softer, paler version of it.
Also, because it’s clearly aimed at kids on a children’s network rather than a four-quadrant theatrical release that parents can likewise enjoy, the stories work harder to have a moral than to just have a strong plot.
Still, these warts are all expected for what amounts to essentially a kids’ show on television. There’s some charm that shines through for the characters involved. Po is still fun, and voiced by Mick Wingert, who does an uncanny impression of Jack Black. These characters are more child-friendly versions of themselves, but they started out in a better place than most.
The almost three-hour disc is a bit tough for parents to take all in one sitting, but the seven episodes spaced out over a reasonable time is a better option for children’s programming than quite a bit that’s available.
The DVD comes with no special features, which is no big surprise, considering it’s aimed at the child rather than the fanboy.