When a film franchise comes out with a third installment, one gets a sense that that franchise knows what they’re doing and that they are definitely in the business of making money, not high art. Since 2008, the Kung Fu Panda films have repackaged Shrek in a tasty Chinese coating and passed it off as original animated entertainment and DreamWorks Animation actually did get it right. Jack Black serves as voice actor superstar, accompanied by a who’s who of modern day supportive acting talent. Kung Fu Panda 3 continues to follow the adventures of spiritually-misguided Po, a panda who, through the power of kung fu, teamwork, and friendship sees deeper and realizes his true potential. This is the third film, so expect strong similarities between this installment and the previous two however that’s not saying this is a mediocre film because it really is rather fun and lively, not to mention funny and brimming with strong technical achievements.
In 1995, eclectic film composer Hans Zimmer won an Academy Award for his sensational score to The Lion King. This accolade then saw a new generation of film music and pushed the German maestro into not only fame and fortune in the movie business but made him a household name and saw the birth of new talents which served as proteges of Zimmer and his production company Media Ventures, now known as Remote Control Productions. Zimmer co-composed the first two Kung Fu Panda scores with student and flourishing composer John Powell, albums which contain not just powerful Chinese musical cues but pieces of music that evoke moments of adrenaline-induced action and gorgeous choir. Kung Fu Panda 3 continues to stir deep feelings of inspiration, power, and togetherness and the album is one of Zimmer’s best animated efforts yet, of which there are quite a few (The Lion King, The Prince of Egypt, the Madagascar franchise, Megamind, Rango, The Road to El Dorado, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, The Simpsons Movie, etc.) One can even say Zimmer has become the “new” John Williams.
The Madagascar film series is one of the highest grossing animated film franchises of all time. Since 2005, three feature length films, a spinoff series and tons of merchandise have been produced to capitalize on the animated animals and their various adventures. A fourth film, Penguins of Madagascar is now out and it focuses on the exploits of the four lovable penguins who appeared in supporting roles throughout the franchise. With a mission to simply make more money, DreamWorks Animation is continuing its successful crusade but sadly, Penguins is overstuffed with stimulation which will delight young ones but will fall somewhat flat with parents.