My DVD Shelf: Kung-Fu Panda (BluRay)
I've got only one complaint about the BluRay release of this title.
Sound and picture are top-notch, of course. Dreamworks was an early example of how well a studio could treat their films on DVD, and they always deliver razor-sharp crystal-clear transfers, and with BluRay, that's gotten very impressive indeed. Directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne went out their way to give the film a beautiful watercolor-meets-Shaw Bros. palette, and it makes for a remarkable vibrant home video presentation. And you can't complain about the extra features, even if most of them are geared more towards a young viewer. There's a solid, informative commentary track, and an even better BluRay-only feature called "Animator's Corner," a running visual track that combines picture-in-picture commentary, storyboard and animatic comparisons, and even video of the voice actors giving performances in the recording booth. Great stuff.
But why produce a direct-to-video sequel called "Secrets of the Furious Five," release it to DVD on the same day you release the film, but then not put it on the BluRay release? It's too short to release on its own later, and if you double-dip just for that, that's insulting. It seems like one strange missed opportunity. Toshi and I have watched "Secrets of the Furious Five" on standard DVD, and it's a nice little addition to the main feature.
And if you are an animation fan at all, and you avoided "Kung-Fu Panda" for some reason, remedy that immediately. It's heaps of fun, and amazingly, it's one of the best "real" kung-fu films I've seen produced in America. It gets everything right. Even Jack Black manages to make his persona seem fresh again and downright innocent as Po, the main character. Not every actor's given enough to do (David Cross and Seth Rogen barely register), but the film also never slows down to catch its breath. Master Shifu, voiced by Dustin Hoffman, is the film's best character, and everything he and Black do together is pretty wonderful. Overall, this wasn't the year's best animated film, but it may represent the very best of what Dreamworks has pulled off so far.