Enter The Dragon Master
Blue Dragon Plays With Fire
Blade Of The Red Phoenix
The Intruder Files a Crooked Path
A Fistful of Herbs
The Poison in the Pit of Plum
Big Trouble in Panda Village
Secrets Lost To Shadow
Out of the Cave and Onto Thin Ice
Return of the Four Constellations
Unholy Dragon Returns to the Mountains
Sacrifice at the Edge Of Time
End of the Dragon Master
Back in 2008, Dreamworks’ surprise animated hit Kung Fu Panda hit theatres and with it, critical acclaim and audience approval around the world. Skip forward 10 years after a series of sequels and TV adaptations of various quality, Amazon Original Kung Fu Panda: The Paws Of Destiny sets up another TV effort for a new generation of kids and adults alike. Featuring a mix of old and new characters, The Paws Of Destiny is an enjoyable animated series managing to mix goofy comedy with an engrossing storyline to good effect. While the series does feel a little overlong at times and some of the plot points feel a bit dragged out, Paws Of Destiny is one of the better Kung Fu Panda adaptations and one well worth checking out.
Set in the Panda Village we visited during the third Kung Fu Panda movie, Paws Of Destiny begins with an introduction to our quartet of misfits causing havoc in the village. When Jing, Fan Tong, Bao and Nu Hai inadvertently stumble upon a mysterious well underground, what transpire is a magical adventure. It’s here where the four pandas inherit the mysterious life-force of the legendary Four Constellations; the long forgotten protectors of the world. After agreeing to train them, Po does his best to harness the kids’ powers whilst grappling with his own doubts over his ability to get the best out of the kids.
Meanwhile, a threat grows in the distance as the mysterious sneering bird Jindiao watches their every move. Determined to use the power of the well himself and take over the world, what transpires is a fight that sees him go toe to toe, or talon to paw if you will, with the four pandas-in-training and Po. The two forces clash numerous times with all manner of surprising plot twists helping to flesh out both sets of characters. From controlling one of the pandas and making them fight their own to Po losing his Chi and having to work with Bunnidharma to harness his power again, the 13 episodes all build consistently toward the final battle. This sees everyone come together to finish off Jindiao once and for all. Although the series does finish this story off nicely, a teasing epilogue sets up the promise of a second season that may or may not come.
Much has been said about the lack of The Furious Five in the show and in some ways their exclusion is felt. Although The Four Constellations do go someway to make up for this, the Pandas can’t quite match up to the same level of memorability. Still, despite the four Pandas portraying immature and goofy personas early on, it’s worth persevering with this one. As the show continues and the threat grows ever more dangerous, the Pandas do an excellent job to grow as characters, becoming much more competent fighters and far less annoying toward the end of the show. Each of them learn valuable lessons along the way about discipline, team work, courage and bravery, sending an excellent message to kids everywhere snapping this up eagerly.
While the show itself is primarily geared toward older kids, there’s certainly enough about Paws Of Destiny to make it an enjoyable watch for adults. It’s worth praising Mick Wingert here who manages to do an excellent job stepping into the big boots left by Jack Black in the iconic role of Po. At times it’s barely noticeable that there’a a difficult voice actor playing him, managing to portray the right nuance and inflection that made the big Panda such an iconic character all those years ago. Some of the humour is a little goofy though with slapstick and light toilet humour dominating most of the comedic content. There’s also the inclusion of a few musical numbers that admittedly feel jarring and out of place. Despite this, the general tone of the show is pretty consistent with the movies, balancing the humour and drama of the story perfectly.
Trying to match up to the surprising excellence of the first movie all those years ago was always going to be difficult. Still, Paws Of Destiny is a decent effort and one that manages to portray the right tone needed to emulate the original film. While some of the design choices are a little odd and the show feels a tad too long, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable watch nonetheless. It’s not the best animated effort this year but there’s certainly enough here to say this is one of the better efforts in the Kung Fu Panda universe and for that alone, the show is worth checking out.
Verdict - 7.5/10