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Fridge Brilliance:

  • Observe the Logo Joke for each film in the series: it involves a character jumping up to the DreamWorks Animation logo (an unknown animal in the first film, then Oogway and Po for the sequels). Simple enough, but Oogway and Po both die, or at least go beyond their normal plane of existence. Both ended up achieving transcendence, which is not only a religious theme in Buddhism (and a major theme for Chinese kung fu masters, as the first film showed) but is Breaking the Fourth Wall!
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  • The title. Many consider Shifu a deuteragonist of the first movie. Then you do some research and realize that Shifu is a species called a red panda, and realize the title could refer not only to Po, but to Shifu as well.
  • There is no secret ingredient. This is not fraud on Po's Dad's part; it's an explanation that hard work, dedication, and understanding of his craft are what made his noodles the best. Mr Ping's noodle shop has grown into a successful business not because he put something no one has thought of in his soup - he has perfected his recipe and his business over many years of hard work and exertion and dedication to his craft. Same as the Dragon Scroll, and Po gets it. It really is "just you."
  • Mr. Ping was the one who had figured out the secret of the Dragon Scroll all by himself. This isn't so surprising in hindsight, because successful shopkeepers have to be manipulative bastards. They know psychology and how to trick you into buying their products even if the customer doesn't believe they need them, and some of that psychological manipulation went into the Dragon Scroll's whole appeal. An interesting challenge to prove this in practice is walking into any supermarket and only buy the one thing you came for. It's very difficult since no matter what you're after, you have to walk past all that other merchandise that has been made as attention-getting as possible, and you have to do this twice in order to get to a register to pay for it. In order to even glimpse upon the Dragon Scroll, you have to walk past all the legendary kung-fu artifacts in the Jade Palace, and the Scroll is said to be for the Dragon Warrior's eyes only... but the Scroll itself amounts to a shiny piece of paper. Mr. Ping made a simple noodle dish famous in the village by pretending there was a secret ingredient, much like how Oogway motivated his students by making a shiny scroll appear more mysterious than it actually is.
  • The Dragon Scroll has a reflective surface. A mirror is mainly used to examine oneself and find any flaws to correct.
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    • Mirrors also enable reflection, to think deeply on oneself and what one should/can do.
    • Additionally, as a trophy it’s a mark of achievement and when you look at it you see what you’ve done. When Po sees his face in the Scroll, it shows him that he has done great things on his own merit. When Tai Lung, who believes the Scroll is an item of power, sees his face in the Scroll, for him it’s like coming up against a wall.
  • When Po first looks at the Dragon Scroll after figuring out the secret, he sees his own reflection, with his eyes glowing gold. This facial characteristic has been framed as a bad thing up until now, since in this film Gold represents Heroism, and Tai Lung's eyes, as well as Tigress represented them seeing themselves as the hero, a mark of self-destructive pride. Up until this moment, Po has always considered himself a fanboy, an outsider, someone who stumbled into this whole "kung fu" thing by accident and doesn't really belong in the company of his lifelong heroes. But now, understanding that "there is no secret ingredient" he finally sees himself as a hero in his own right, and his revelation is reflected within the Scroll.
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  • When Po opens the Dragon Scroll, his face is bathed in the golden light of its reflection. When Tai Lung opens it, however, his face stays dark, despite him having the sun at his back. It's perfectly symbolic of how the scroll's message is lost on Tai Lung, but not Po.
  • Oogway refused Tai Lung because he saw "darkness in his soul". An odd thing, but then we see how Tai Lung reacts to the decision. He just breaks, went full berserker-mode by rampaging through the Valley, and Oogway was forced to stop him after Shifu failed to do so. Oogway knew that Tai Lung was not capable of understanding the meaning of the scroll due to how he was raised, and Tai Lung immediately proved the old turtle right.
  • While probably not intentional, Lord Shen's color motif marks well his status as a villain in an East Asian setting, as well as firmly a Light Is Not Good character. White is the color of death, which fits closely with his health issues, while red is associated with both blood (obviously), but also with the Vermillion Bird, who associated with fire and positive emotions (all he wants is the attention he never got from his neglectful family, hence love). On a much darker level, Shen's red and white colors and particularly his eye symbol also resemble the war flag of one of the most terrifying regimes in Chinese history.
    • On that note, perhaps Tai Lung could be associated with the White Tiger, which is associated with autumn and metal. Tai Lung certainly has some personality traits associated with metal; he's ridiculously strong in both offense and defense, his major concern is perfecting his craftsmanship of Kung Fu by learning all of it, and his mindset is rigid and inflexible, to the point that he's not truly able to understand the Dragon Scroll. Tai Lung's return is viewed as "steadily impending doom/death," like autumn is sometimes seen (when not admiring the pretty colors). And, of course, his physical appearance somewhat matches the White Tiger. Hopefully this is a deliberate pattern on the part of the writers which will be continued in future movies... because that would be cool.
  • The main plot of the first film may be that Po is an Ascended Fanboy who is The Chosen One, but the film is really more about Shifu than Po. The first film dealt with him inheriting the role of master after Oogway's death, and thus he is to train the Dragon Warrior, whom he is refusing to BELIEVE is the Dragon Warrior. He had to learn to accept Po for who he is in order to properly train him, and in the process, Po trained him to be a better person and to find his inner peace. Thus, in the sequel, Shifu became a secondary, if not minor character, because it wasn't about him. It was about Po discovering himself.
    • There's also the fact that Shifu himself is red panda, meaning that he, alongside Po, is a "kung Fu Panda."
    • Speaking of Character Development, from KFP 1-3 Po's growth can be seen as this: - KFP: Po - Dragon Warrior (Novice) - KP 2: Dragon Warrior (expert) - Dragon Master - KP 3: Dragon Master - Grand Dragon Chi Master Po, if you know what I mean.
  • If Shifu can be considered the main protagonist of the first film, then Shen can be considered his foil. Both tried to avert a prophesied disaster, but in doing so inadvertently caused said disaster to happen. Both also had an elder who watched over them during their development. However, where Shifu tried to keep Oogway from leaving and later held onto Oogway's teachings regardless of the circumstances (he obviously had no idea how to turn Po into the Dragon Warrior, even till the end), Shen sent away the Soothsayer and decided his own choices were better than hers. Bonus points since both elders could see the future, but only the pupil that listened was able to attain happiness.
  • The Holiday Special works on several wonderful levels - for one, it is the Chinese mid-winter solstice festival (unmistakably, but without ramming it down our throats); and secondly, Po gives an answer to the assembled Masters at the Jade Palace for his need to leave to get back to his Dad's noodle shop that, in Chinese culture, would excuse just about anything- "I need to go home, so I can be a good son." In simple terms, it's filial piety. They all turn up at the noodle shop later, thinking that he's clearly made the right decision.
    • In addition, Po knows that a good meal happens when everyone pitches in; setting up the lavish winter banquet was thanks to enlisting the aid of the Furious Five and Wo Hop. And his Dad's noodle shop is successful because Po is there to help him serve, clean up, and cook. Teamwork was what allowed him to forge good bonds with those he knows.
  • That Shifu's father was a con-artist highlights how Shifu taught Tigress to control her strength by playing dominos with her. Of course, they were blank wooden dominoes which are both easy to carry and remake in the case of accidental smashing, but it isn't exactly a stretch for con artists to fix gambling games.
  • Some have criticized the fight between Po and Tai Lung for how the latter was defeated by the former in spite of Po having just finished training. The answer is in the Wikipedia page about the Leopard Kung Fu: Tai Lung's style relies on speed, counterattacks (it has no blocks, as it prefers striking for defense), debilitating blows and outsmarting the opponent... And as it happens, Po is the worst possible opponent for Tai Lung: as pointed above, Po is capable of using Tai Lung's strength and speed against him, recoiling back from most if not all attacks and hitting Tai Lung hard; the recoiling counterattack is something that should be dodged or deviated, and Tai Lung's style has none of that; being massive, Po is extremely hard to take down with a debilitating strike (as best shown when Tai Lung used his nerve strike and Po was just tickled), and that's made worse by him knowing how to use that bulk in defense; finally, as a nearly obsessive kung fu fan, Po already knows where Tai Lung's strengths lie, while Tai Lung has no idea of what Po can do, so outsmarting Po is difficult at best. And all of this is made worse by the fact Tai Lung was focused on the Dragon Scroll while Po was focused on taking down Tai Lung, and Po knew this: most of the fight is Tai Lung trying to get the Scroll while Po (whose first action was to dangle it before Tai Lung's nose) lands hit after hit in the most debilitating spots (even while they were rolling down from the stairs: during their bouncing off the stairs, each time they landed, it was Po landing on Tai Lung in some form or fashion, which he weaponized. Po proceeded to punch, knee and step on Tai Lung in the noggin each time he landed, so at least eight times, especially when Po does indeed sit his panda girth... on Tai Lung's head while still carrying the momentum by falling). By the time Tai Lung decides to focus on Po to have free access to the Scroll, he has endured over two minutes of one of the most savage beatings in the history of kung fu movies, and has barely enough times to show he could have won rather easily before his strength deserts him and Po (who is still mostly fresh) starts fighting him straight... And still concentrating on Tai Lung's head (by this time he probably has a concussion).
    • On top of this, think back to Tai Lung's Training Montage: his master for his entire life was Shifu, and by the time he was an adult, he was massive. Throughout the film, Tai Lung is constantly battling smaller opponents, with only the rhinos coming close to his size and they're not martial artists at all. Then he meets Po. This may very well be the first time Tai Lung has ever encountered someone who's actually big enough to take his hits straight on and return fire.
  • If you observe Tai Lung in his fights, he is able to analyze his surroundings and come up with ways to use his enemies' tools against them: in his prison breakout he used his enemies' feather, spears and dynamite against them, he used the bridge against the Furious Five, and he threw the Masters' weapons at Shifu in their temple fight. He gets outmatched by Po because Po is the one who uses the terrain against him; Tai Lung is too focused on the Dragon Scroll to pay serious regard to anything else.
  • If you take a look at each of the Masters, each one actually has a personality/way of talking/banter style based on their type of Kung Fu. Tai Lung hits you with hard verbal strikes at your weakpoints, Tigress hits you with aggressive and harsh verbal blows, Viper is very gentle with her speaking and tries to not to hurt anyone's feelings, but can make a quick strike if you tick her off, and Po takes any verbal abuse and redirects it back at the opponent.
    • This is best exemplified at the beginning of fight between Po and Tai Lung. Tai Lung tries to hit Po where it hurts by making fun of his fat, but Po uses it to make a small Badass Boast and does indeed follow on said boast, much to the (physical) pain of Tai Lung.
  • Noodles were really in his blood - when Po emerges from the smoke as the Dragon Warrior - he's wearing a wok on his head. Who said both destinies were mutually exclusive?
  • Po is not the Dragon Warrior for no reason. A virtue often associated to the Dragon animal form in Chinese martial arts is solidity, which is something Po thrives on.
  • Everyone claims that Oogway made a mistake in deeming Po The Dragon Warrior, but he only smiles and claims there is no such thing as accidents. Seeing how he is a Tortoise and is perhaps the most powerful martial artist to ever live, he knows that appearances don't count and that even someone such as an overweight Panda can become a Master Warrior just like he did.
  • Po's insistence on staying no matter how much Shifu and the Five are beating him up. At first you think it simply has to do with him being The Determinator, but after you've watched his fight with Tai Lung another reason comes to mind; no matter how many times Shifu and the Five kept flooring him all day, he likely didn't feel much pain from it.
  • Po showing some great kung-fu moves when he doesn't think about it makes perfect sense when you think who Po is: a huge kung-fu geek with self-esteem issues. He most likely went through the moves time and time again during his whole life but never believed to be actually capable of doing them for real. All he needed to do was perfecting them and a little confidence boost. That's also the reason he only needed to train with Shifu for a little while, he already did, without realizing it, plenty of training by himself.
    • If you watch Po throughout the films and specials, whenever he's cooking, he displays a very casual degree of grace and poise that speaks of long hours of learning how to work in the kitchens. In the first film, he's able to hold a stack of bowl in his hand and flick his wrist to line all of them up on his arm simultaneously. This is especially apparent in the holiday special, where Po and Ping put on a tandem cooking show for the holiday. That sort of thing is as difficult if not moreso than a martial arts kata. It's more than Po being a fan of kung fu; it's the weight of working all his life. Yeah, maybe he doesn't have the cardio or stamina of a fighter, but he still has years of learning delicate, deliberate, precision actions and movements to fall back on.
  • Oogway suggests to Shifu that maybe a peach might be able to stop Tai Lung. A continuation of the subtle 'Po = Peach' metaphor that Oogway and Shifu had been dancing around in the conversation prior? Or a hint to Shifu about using food to incentivize Po?
  • A subtle bit of foreshadowing: in a world full of funny animal people (and kung-fu masters who practice the style associated with what animal they are), no dragons exist. The secret of the dragon warrior is likewise essentially non-existent.
  • One of the first things Oogway says in the movie is warning Shifu that one often meets his destiny on the path he takes to avoid it, and he'd know that better than anyone: he's the one who wrote the Dragon Scroll, to be given to the one who would bring Peace to the Valley (and Shifu himself), but that exact scroll is the reason Tai Lung became a threat to the Valley and a source of strife for Shifu. His effort to avert all that pain actually brought it on.
  • There is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. The first film demonstrates how Shifu’s negative qualities caused Tai Lung to become a villain:
    • Shifu is proud, impatient, easily angry, condescending at times and has difficulty dealing with Po - qualities Tai Lung has himself. And also qualities a teacher should not possess.
    • Shifu asks Oogway to choose who can be trusted with the title of Dragon Warrior, referring to it as the secret to limitless power; an upset Oogway says he doesn’t know. While he may genuinely not know, he doesn’t want the Furious Five to start fighting with each other. There is no need to be competitive amongst students, they just have to improve on themselves and be better than themselves.
    • Shifu repeatedly says Po doesn’t deserve to be the Dragon Warrior or to be taught kung-fu, and goes out of his way to make him quit. A good teacher is not selective about who to teach, but accepts all who wish to learn from them.
    • For all the twenty years Tai Lung was in prison, Shifu never visited him because he was too ashamed of him. At first this sounds fair given Tai Lung’s rampage, but if you think about it Shifu should have cared for his adopted son enough to visit him and and at least try to work things out, which he never did.
    • Shifu couldn’t stop Tai Lung from being bad, because by his own admission he loved him too much to see what he was becoming. A good parent cannot spoil their child without imposing discipline and showing them right and wrong, which Shifu didn’t do because he had no real idea himself until it was too late.
      • Should ''Legends of Awesomeness" be taken as canon, Shifu's method of raising Tai Lung like he did is understandable; for those unaware, the show presented with Shirong, Shifu's father and a conmen by trade who involved Shifu in his scams since 3 and left him at the palace at 12. While Shirong did love his son, he did acknowledge he was a bad dad and would often leave Shifu feeling confused and frustrated when he would use large (made-up) words as a kid.
  • Something I noticed after watching Secrets of the Scroll is that Shifu initially believed that his style of Kung Fu was the only correct one, but as the special goes on he realizes his mistake. But considering the five new styles he taught and developed, they all have speed and offense in common. Tigress is a power combatant much like Tai Lung, Monkey and Crane use speed while Viper, Mantis and Shifu are agile fighters. Po meanwhile has a very defensive style, much greater than what Shifu usually taught. That could be why he has so much trouble teaching him, since it was such an alien concept to him of having a purely defensive style of Kung Fu.
    • Which makes sense given that Shifu is a red panda, and is rather small. A blow that might stagger Po might be crippling to something as small as a Red Panda, so agility is vital in Shifu's Kung Fu styles.
    • It gains more significance when Po starts fighting with them in the next two movies; by taking offense and defense, two different styles of fighting and mixing them together, the Furious Five learn to fight better as a team than they did without Po.
  • If you look at Po vs. Tai Lung from a school perspective (as they were both students at one point), Tai Lung is the Jerk Jock picking on Lovable Nerd Po, who eventually fights back by using his weight and knowledge against his foe.
  • There are Buddhist themes in the story that not only suit the Chinese setting but help in understanding the characters:
    • Transience – Times change, and what works for one era cannot work in the next era. Sifu trained the Furious Five the same way he trained Tai Lung, trying to recreate the same circumstances that made Tai Lung a great warrior but not understanding that it won’t work with defeating him. He eventually has to train Po using a new technique that Tai Lung can’t handle.
      • Oogway himself accepts life’s changes, including his death, with no regrets, and advises Sifu to be adaptable as much as he can in order to manage life’s surprises.
    • Enlightenment – Wisdom and understanding provide clarity of vision and guidance to the right path. Po comes to understand himself and understands that the Dragon Warrior needs no magic power but simply his own ability. Tai Lung was so clouded by ambition and rage, he couldn’t even understand the evil he’d done and when he got the Scroll he didn’t get the point.
    • Balance and Imbalance – Po and Tai Lung are both unbalanced warriors: Po thought too little of himself and Tai Lung thought too much of himself. Po trained hard to gain strength and overcome his flaws as much as he could, while Tai Lung refused to accept what he’d done was wrong and was driven to seeking the scroll to satiate his ego.

Fridge Horror:

  • In the flashback, when we see Shifu trying to fight Tai Lung, there's a scene where Tai Lung attacks Shifu's legs with a backhand, and a cracking sound can heard. When we flash forward to him training Tigress, he's holding the reed that he uses as a cane sometimes. Then you realise what that crack was: Shifu's legs breaking. A side strike to the legs like what Tai Lung used is fairly damaging if done right. Factor in their relative sizes, and you realise Tai Lung crippled his old master with a single strike. Notice that after Oogway takes Tai Lung down, Shifu crawls toward him, and throughout the movie Shifu walks with a slight limp.
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