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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny continues the story of unlikely martial arts master Po (which began in Kung Fu Panda) as he transitions to a mentoring role for four young novices who face off with a formidable foe. As with the other titles in the franchise, martial arts play a prominent role in the show's content, and the story's heroes often battle against larger, more powerful enemies. Some exchanges involve weapons like swords, staffs, and knives in addition to traditional hand-to-hand sparring, and it's implied that the occasional character dies. The main villain maintains his underlings' loyalty via fear and force, as well as manipulation. On the upside, the story illustrates the importance of believing in yourself and your abilities, working together as a team, and taking instruction from a mentor.
What's the story?
KUNG FU PANDA: THE PAWS OF DESTINY tells the story of four young pandas with big kung fu dreams who discover a hidden cave and accidentally absorb the chi of the legendary warriors called the Four Constellations. Having awakened the dormant powers, Bao (voiced by Gunnar Sizemore), Nu Hai (Haley Tju), Jing (Laya DeLeon Hayes), and Fan Tong (Makana Say) are thrust into an age-old struggle between good and evil, and they will need some serious skills to defend themselves against the nefarious Jindaio (Steve Blum) and his loyalists. Now Master Po (Mick Wingert) faces the daunting task of training the youngsters in the ancient art of kung fu to help them protect their chi from those who would corrupt it.
Is it any good?
After three feature films followed Po discovering his destiny as dragon master and town hero, this series shifts the focus to a new batch of youngsters whose hopes of their own kung fu legacies rest with him. Po is every bit as endearing in his new role as teacher as he was learning the craft himself. Those who have followed his evolution will especially enjoy watching him step into the grown-up role and attempt to mold these young whippersnappers, much as his mentors had to channel their patience to shape him. With four students to manage, there are even more moments of chaos and humor as the story plays out and Po learns how to be a role model to this energetic bunch.
The Paws of Destiny mixes lighthearted content with darker moments and a truly sinister ancient villain who will stop at nothing to steal the kids' inherited chi and harness its power for his own gain. Because the protagonists are so young and their adversary and his lackeys so much more experienced, the battles feel that much more lopsided and potentially dangerous, even though things typically work out in the end. It's important for parents to know their kids' sensitivities with regard to this kind of content before giving this series the thumbs up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Po performs as a teacher and role model to his young students. Do they respect him? Does he expect too much (or not enough) from them? Kids: What teachers stand out for the impact they have had on you? How does what you learned from them continue to inspire you?
Are Nu Hai, Jing, Fan Tong, and Bao receptive to their training in kung fu and in life lessons Po teaches? Is it difficult for them to accept criticism and suggestions? Is that a challenge for you? How can ego stand in the way of bettering yourself?
How do the characters in Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny demonstrate teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and integrity? As they grow in their powers, are they tempted to use them for selfish desires instead of altruistic ones? How does Jindaio's motivation differ from the kung fu warriors'?
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