Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness follows the further adventures of Po, the energetic, enthusiastic, legendary Dragon Warrior panda, from DreamWorks Animation’s hit movie franchise, Kung Fu Panda. Po grows into the role of the Dragon Warrior and is aided by his mentor Shifu and the Furious Five: Tigress, Mantis, Crane, Monkey and Viper. As the newest hero in the Valley of Peace, Po is now living at the Jade Palace with the rest of the Furious Five and takes on new responsibilities while facing new adversaries in his continuing education as the Dragon Warrior. Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness premiered November 7, 2011.
The Kung Fu Panda franchise is one that I have enjoyed immensely, from the first time I saw the movie in theater, through Secrets of The Furious Five to the most recent Kung Fu Panda 2, which I also saw in the theater. The voice performances are funny and touching, especially Jack Black as Po; he makes such original and organic choices with his character.
Keeping the storylines safely tucked inside the world of Po and the Furious Five paid off. Rather than relying on easy laughs from pop culture parodies or silly, modern-day slang, Kung Fu Panda’s humor and dialogue extends naturally from the conflicts at hand.
The TV cartoon keeps to that imperative, the pilot’s story being that Po has destroyed the training facility and recruits an old friend (or foe?) of Shifu’s to fix it.
Watching the pilot episode of Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness was like catching up with an old friend. I cheered for Po during battles and shook my head at his misfortunes. Mike Wingert’s uncanny performance as Po, sounding and even singing just like Jack Black, only added to my pleasure at watching the cartoon.
While the story was germane to the characters and their lives, the pace was too slow. With such a simple conflict, having more action would have kept boring at bay.
Most of the cast from the original Kung Fu Panda movies have been replaced, a tricky undertaking because the voice performances of the original cast were a big part of why the movie was such a success. Keeping the quality of performances along with alike-sounding voices for the characters in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is hit and miss.
One of the aspects of Kung Fu Panda I enjoyed the most was the hard-won relationship between Shifu and Po, and in Legends of Awesomeness Fred Tatasciore does not have the acting ability to infuse Shifu’s reprimands with the affection that has grown between the characters. His voice performance is too rough, and a little too one-note.
The CGI animation is also not on par with the movie. While that’s to be expected, considering budget and time constraints, I wanted to literally reach into my TV screen and massage the characters’ faces. Every one of them seems to be suffering from a bad Botox treatment.
CGI and mismatched voices aside, the colors remain dreamy and faded, full of jades and reds. The story was fun, launching me back into the world of Po, his cooking and his ability to wreak havoc. Having guest star Wallace Shawn (Toy Story movies, The Princess Bride) as Taotie brought talent to the table, showing a commitment to keeping an A-list quality. Overall, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is sure to be the next Nickelodeon adaptation hit.
The Pull-Up Mandate!
The main characters of Kung Fu Panda have returned for the Nickelodeon series.
Po: Enthusiastic, optimistic and a fan of all things kung fu, Po’s dream of adventure came true the day that Master Oogway named him the legendary Dragon Warrior. Now a master himself, Po lives out his dream everyday at the Jade Palace as he sharpens his kung fu skills with Master Shifu, battles bad guys with the Furious Five and takes a snack break every now and then.
Shifu: The wise and sage master of the Jade Palace, Shifu is the gatekeeper to many of the legendary secrets of kung fu and acts as a mentor to Po and the Furious Five. His biggest challenge is keeping his temper when he’s dealing with Po.
Tigress: Constantly striving toward kung fu perfection, Tigress is completely devoted to her craft and sometimes has a hard time understanding Po’s more irreverent style. Tough, aggressive and fearless, she is one of the strongest members of the Furious Five.
Monkey: Monkey is an unpredictable prankster who is as fierce as he is clever and funny. While he likes to goof off as much as Po, in a fight Monkey always has the Furious Five’s back.
Crane: Using his power of flight, Crane often teams up with other members of the Furious Five and carries them up to the sky for aerial assaults on their attackers. In times of peace, Crane enjoys cracking jokes with his Jade Palace family but often shakes his head in disbelief at some of Po’s antics.
Viper: Brimming with cheeriness and positivity, Viper likes to make sure that everyone is happy, even if that means she has to battle a horde of rampaging rhinos using her lightning quick moves and strong-as-steel tail.
Mantis: The smallest member of the Furious Five, Mantis always manages to surprise his opponents with his kung fu prowess. His attacks are too fast to be seen and his rapid fire hits to pressure points to make the biggest villain fall.
You might think you recognize some of the voices in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, but you would be wrong. For a couple of characters, the original Kung Fu Panda actors have been replaced with voice-over actors who sound remarkably similar.
Mick Wingert sounds amazingly like Jack Black as Po. He matches his rhythm and voice-over style perfectly, without becoming a mimic. He also voiced Po in the Kung Fu Panda video game, as well as other voices in Kung Fu Panda and NBC’s Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special.
Kari Wahlgren, the voice of Tigress, has provided voices on dozens of cartoons. You have heard her in Wolverine and the X-Men as Emma Frost; Kick Buttowski as Mrs. Buttowski; Fish Hooks as Shellsea; Li’l Bush as Li’l Condi and Li’l Hillary; HBO’s The Life and Times of Tim as Gladys and Amy’s Mom; and Archer as Anka Schlotz. She’s also voiced characters in several animated films including Tinkerbell, Tangled and BOLT.
Amir Talai, the voice of Crane, Amir Talai was a member of the Sunday Company at The Groundlings and still performs there regularly. He has been the voice of Achmed on American Dad and first voiced Crane in the Kung Fu Panda 2 video game. He plays Cyrus on The Ex List and has had guest star roles on Zeke and Luther, Wizards of Waverly Place and How I Met Your Mother.
Max Koch, the voice of Mantis, provided the voice of Master Mantis in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five. He also voiced the annoying flowers for the 2009 Teleflora Super Bowl spot.
Fred Tatasciore, as Shifu, is the least well-matched voice actor in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, sounding slightly like Dustin Hoffman, but without the latter’s subtle delivery. (Funny enough, he plays 8-Bit Dustin Hoffman on The Cleveland Show.) On Nickelodeon, he can be heard as the Emperor on Planet Sheen, the Farmer on Back at the Barnyard and also on Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Penguins of Madagascar and Invader Zim.
James Sie, the voice of Monkey, is no stranger to the Kung Fu Panda franchise, having voiced Monkey in the Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2 video games, as well as Viper’s father in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five. James Sie has also done many voices for animated shows, including Regular Show as Jimmy; Danny Phantom as Kwan; and King of the Hill as Nguc Phong.
James Hong, the voice of Ping and an original Kung Fu Panda cast member, has appeared in over 500 feature films and television shows. Starring in celebrated films such as Blade Runner, Chinatown and the cult classic Big Trouble in Little China.
Lucy Liu, the voice of Viper, is perhaps the biggest star in the TV cartoon’s cast, lending her voice to Viper as she did in the movies. She has starred in Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, Chicago, Domino, Lucky Number Slevin, Shanghai Noon and Payback. On television, Lucy Liu appeared as the unforgettable Ling Woo in the hit FOX series Ally McBeal, a role for which she earned an Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. You have also heard her voice in such animated hits as The Simpsons, Futurama, King of the Hill and the Tinker Bell series of DVDs as Silvermist.
Peter Hastings, the Executive Producer, began his career as an actor, even a member of the famed improvisational group The Groundlings in Hollywood. His experience with The Groundlings led him to various gigs ranging from acting roles and a string of national commercials before he landed several writing jobs, including positions at Nickelodeon and other studios.
By the early ’90s, Hastings was hired by Warner Bros., where he first wrote and produced episodes of popular animated series such as Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs and Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain. Hastings won three Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for Animaniacs and garnered his fourth Emmy as producer and writer of Pinky and the Brain.
Peter Hastings also served as one of the directors on Dreamworks’ feature How to Train Your Dragon before his current role as Executive Producer on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.
Randy Dormans is a supervising producer, joining Nickelodeon in 2006 at the beginning of their foray into the world of 3D. Originally starting on Tak and the Power of Juju as an animator, he quickly moved to the role of animation supervisor. Following Tak, he spent a year on The Penguins of Madagascar as an animation supervisor. He currently oversees CG production on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, including work being done at vendor studios overseas.
Gabe Swarr, supervising producer, is an Emmy Award-winning animation director and producer. His credits include The Penguins of Madagascar, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Fairly OddParents, Yo Gabba Gabba! and Mucha Lucha.