Meet The Real Kung Fu Panda
My latest assignment as a Scholastic News Kid Reporter took me back to Zoo Atlanta and news about pandas. A year ago I visited the zoo to cover the departure of giant panda Mei Lan, who was returning to to her home country of China. This time, the story was about the naming ceremony for a newborn giant panda—Mei Lan’s little brother.
Zoo Atlanta and the movie company DreamWorks formed a partnership, to name the panda Po in honor of the panda character from the 2008 movie Kung Fu Panda. It didn't hurt publicity for the upcoming sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 either!
The Kung Fu Panda movies are about a laidback panda named Po who is a good cook, but dreams of Kung Fu fighting. He ends up finding a hidden talent in the martial arts. Actor Jack Black, who voices Po in the animated films was on hand to bestow the 100-day-old giant panda with his new name.
I asked Black about the new movie, which premieres in May.
“Kung Fu Panda 2 has some great scenes about Po's childhood, his origins," Black said. "He starts to have flashbacks of his youth and what happens to his mother and father.” He pauses before continuing. “I can’t really reveal too much though, it’s a secret. You’ll have to see the movie.”
You might be wondering how Black gets into character to play a cooking, Kung Fu kicking panda.
“I have watched a lot of pandas on YouTube,” he said. That is, until this naming ceremony, when he met a real panda for the first time.
It seems like Black has succeeded in creating an alter ego Kung Fu character in many ways. He has quite a few kung fu moves of his own, which he demonstrated several times at the zoo. Black leaped around the stage and captivated the audience with his moves.
Black is also a panda lover. He loves both the new baby panda and the big Kung Fu panda from the movie. So which one does he think is cuter?
“The newborn panda is cuter than Po in the movie, because he’s a little baby cub,” he said. “But I think the full grown panda Po in the movie is cute as well, if I don’t say so myself. They modeled some of his good looks after a certain actor, or so I have been told!”
Meeting Jack Black was an experience of a lifetime. Now after interviewing him, not only is he my favorite actor, but I really want to see Kung Fu Panda 2!
PHOTOS: Jack Black and Dr. Hayley Murphy with giant panda cub Po. (Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures)