Length: 24 min
Distributor: DreamWorks Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2008-11-09
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross
Directed by Raman Hui
Produced by Melissa Cobb
Written by Todd Berger, Paul McEvoy
Secrets of the Furious Five finds us rejoining Po after his battle with Tai Long. Here heΓÇÖs put in charge of training a new class of kung fu students, made up of the bunnies who were so cute in the first movie. Seeing the students bent on learning how to fight, Po instead teaches them about the character traits that are so important in kung fu - confidence, patience, courage, and more.
Each of these lessons comes from telling the students about the early days of the famed ΓÇ£furious fiveΓÇ¥ (I guess they didnΓÇÖt get a title change after Po became the Dragon Warrior, eh?). It turns out that Tigress, Mantis, Crane, Viper, and Monkey werenΓÇÖt such perfect kung fu masters all along, and theyΓÇÖve had to learn important lessons and overcome their own shortcomings.
Clocking in at only 24 minutes, Secrets of the Furious Five really shouldnΓÇÖt be on its own DVD. Really this is just a short extension of the original movie, much like weΓÇÖve been seeing from Pixar on their DVD releases for a while now. Packaging it separately makes it look like more than it is, but this really is just more of a bonus feature than a separate product, which is probably why itΓÇÖs being released the way it is (see below for more grumbling about that).
My biggest complaint about Secrets is the reduced quality level. The opening of the movie is rendered with the same quality and impressive detail as the original movie, but as Po shares the stories of the Furious Five, the animation changes into a flat, 2D animation style, similar to what was used for PoΓÇÖs dream at the beginning of the original movie. Since most of the movie is done in that flat animation style, this isnΓÇÖt anywhere near as impressive as Kung Fu Panda.
Along with the reduced quality in the animation, the vocal talent is also reduced for Secrets. Half the original cast, including Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and Seth Rogen, donΓÇÖt return for this short sequel, resulting in a disappointing separation from the original film. Of course, the story does attempt to make up for these vocal differences by giving us younger versions of some of the characters, but itΓÇÖs still disappointing.
Ultimately, Secrets of the Furious Five comes down to its story, which is made up of five different shorts that share the idea that Po wasnΓÇÖt so different from the Furious Five in the first place. Each of the warriors had something they had to overcome, or some lesson to learn on their way to becoming a master. Of course, taking that into consideration, youΓÇÖd think theyΓÇÖd be more understanding of the Panda when he was first getting his kung fu chops, but I donΓÇÖt think weΓÇÖre supposed to think about that.
Instead, Secrets of the Furious Five offers a more clear cut moral of what we were supposed to learn from Kung Fu Panda. Kung fu isnΓÇÖt just about fighting; itΓÇÖs about responsibility, and building character. I like the message here, I just wish it was presented in a more attractive package, especially when compared to the movie this short comes from, and ultimately just capitalizes on without really adding anything new to PoΓÇÖs story.