News

Panda Power!

TFK chats with Jack Black, the voice of Po the warrior panda in Kung Fu Panda 2

May 25, 2011
COURTESY DREAMWORKS ANIMATION

Po, now a kung-fu master, fights off the bad guys who have attacked the musician's village.

Everyone's favorite kung-fu-fighting panda is back, and he's got some brand new moves. When audiences last saw Po (voiced by actor Jack Black), the bear had proven that he has what it takes to be the Dragon Warrior. In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po's story picks up where the 2008 hit animated film left off. This time, the panda must save China—and kung fu itself—from a new enemy. The evil peacock Lord Shen has invented a powerful weapon that threatens to wipe out the ancient martial art for good. Can Po and the Furious Five stop Shen in time? Or will a nagging mystery from Po's past keep the panda from fulfilling his duties? The 3-D movie hits theaters and IMAX on May 26.

TFK spoke with funnyman Jack Black about returning to the role of Po, and what fans of the first film can look forward to in the sequel.

TFK:

How does it feel to step back into the role of Po?

JACK BLACK:

It feels good. It's like a nice, warm pair of boots that I've kept in my special cabinet. I took them out to get shined and buffed up, and they're very soft on my feetsies.

TFK:

How has Po grown since the first movie?

BLACK:

He's matured a bit, and he's got more confidence behind his moves. Shifu sends him on a two-fold mission. The first is to save the Valley of Peace from this new supervillain Shen, an albino peacock who has an evil plan to destroy kung fu and control all of ancient cartoon China. The second is Po's quest to find inner peace, because only with inner peace will he be able to carry out the first mission. But in order to find inner peace, Po has to get to the bottom of his true origins. You see, he's not actually the son of the goose in the noodle shop. He's adopted and his real parents abandoned him for a reason, as we'll find out. So, while the movie is action-packed and exciting and hilarious, it's quite moving, too. It packs an emotional wallop.

TFK:

Why is it that Po never figured out that he wasn't really the son of a goose until now?

BLACK:

Maybe he blocked it out. Maybe it's something he didn't want to deal with or face. It was too much. But once he matures and is able to reflect on his life and situation, he starts having flashbacks from when he was an infant.

Actor Jack Black with his kung-fu-fighting alter ego, Po.
MICHAEL MURPHREE
Actor Jack Black with his kung-fu-fighting alter ego, Po.

TFK:

Did you learn any new kung fu moves?

BLACK:

I did. You're probably thinking that I don't actually do kung fu. But the truth is that I did take some lessons from some kung fu practitioners to get into the zone. I can now put that on my resume: dancing, acting, kung fu. When you're in a big kung-fu action movie, even if it's animated, at some point people are going to ask you about your kung fu skills. I wanted to be able to show that I'm no amateur. I've got some moves of my own! So the answer is yes, I did learn some new moves.

TFK:

Do you think you could take on Jackie Chan, who voices Monkey?

BLACK:

Jackie Chan would most definitely kick my butt in less than 23 seconds . . . Unless I did a sneak attack. I think I could get Jackie Chan if he didn't know I was coming. I could get him once, and then never again.

TFK:

Po's story is kind of like Superman's. Superman's parents sent him away as a baby during a time of crisis, and he grew up to be a superhero. In Po's case, he becomes the Dragon Warrior. But Superman has a weakness: Kryptonite. What is Po's weakness?

BLACK:

Krypto-dumplings! [Laughs] I don't know . . . In the first movie, it might have been his hunger for dumplings. In this one, I think it would be his memory blocks. He can't remember where he came from. His own mind is his Kryptonite. It's an inner Kryptonite.

TFK:

How do you think Gary Oldman did as the voice of Shen?

BLACK:

I love Gary Oldman. He's my favorite cinema villain of all time. No one plays a villain better than he does. He's super charismatic, but he also plays it a little bit crazy. That's what you get with a Gary Oldman performance. That combination is very magnetic.

TFK:

How does the 3-D enhance the storytelling?

Po and the Furious Five leap into action to stop Lord Shen's evil plan.
COURTESY DREAMWORKS ANIMATION
Po and the Furious Five leap into action to stop Lord Shen's evil plan.

BLACK:

When the 3-D is done properly, it sucks you into the action even more. You're right in the middle of the fights. And the scenery of ancient cartoon China looks amazing in 3-D.

TFK:

What do you think fans will enjoy most about round two?

BLACK:

They're going to love the kung fu, they're going to love the humor, and they're going to love the emotion. Those are the three main ingredients. It packs not just a one-two punch of kung fu and humor, but also an unexpected and powerful kick to the heart. It will blow you across the room and out the back door and through the garden.

TFK:

You recently visited the Atlanta Zoo's new baby panda, which was named after Po. Not many people have the opportunity to be so close to a real panda. What was it like?

BLACK:

I was really looking forward to meeting the baby panda. I had been told that if you hold a baby panda, it gives you inner peace. I've heard that some people pay millions of dollars to hold a baby panda for just a few minutes, to give them that absolute serenity. But right before they brought the panda into the room, the vet said to me, "I should warn you, the pandas don't like to be touched, so don't touch the panda. If you do touch it, be careful because they have very powerful bear claws, and they can really hurt you." I was like, "What? I was hoping for a full snuggle!" She said, "No, you won't be snuggling the panda." I said, "Don't you snuggle the panda?" She said, "Believe me, I tried and this is what happened." Then she showed me a scar on her face!

Of course, when she brought it out, I was terrified of the freaking panda! I think the panda just didn't like her. Upon further reflection, I think it would have been fine. I don't think I would have been mauled. Anyway, I'm sorry I don't have a more magical story of my first introduction to a real panda. But I have high hopes for when I see the next one. I'm going to ask for a different veterinarian.

 

Click here to return to the Summer Movie Guide.


Current subscribers log in/register for timeforkids.com 

Registered Users Log In

 
 
Forgot Password?
Register Now for FREE
Subscriber Benefits
Do it now to get all this:
  • Access to Interactive Digital Editions
  • Online Archives of Past Lessons & Teachers' Guides
  • Interactive Teacher Community
Website Login Page