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Future Spotlight: Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness

People tend to have mixed feelings when it comes to making an animated series based on a movie.  I can’t say that I blame them, as so much effort is put into the creation of a movie, in establishing its characters and the world in which they inhabit, that it almost feels sacrilegious to then pluck it away from the people who crafted it; to put it in the hands of people who may or may not have as much passion for those characters and that world, and who must ultimately acquiesce to the wishes of a network.  However, many of my favorite cartoons as a child were the ones that Disney pumped out for just about every movie possible, most of which were derided by fans of those movies, and despite how wrong it may feel, I am glad that DreamWorks is carrying that torch and I am really looking forward to Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness.

DreamWorks has become very ambitious as of late when it comes to television.  In 2006, they first announced that they were going to make a series based on their hit movie Madagascar, albeit focusing on the commando penguins.  It officially premiered in 2009 to phenomenal ratings, but way back when it was first announced, they also announced a series based on Kung Fu Panda.  That was two years before the movie even premiered in theaters.  That takes guts.  DreamWorks has also made a pilot for Monsters vs. Aliens and is considering a pilot for Megamind, but the only other series that has been picked up so far is How To Train Your Dragon, which will be on Cartoon Network.  Still, three out of five is a good record for the studio and it’s possible that more animated programs will be created in the future, but it’s hard to believe that the Kung Fu Panda series has been in the pipeline for nearly five years now.

I know that the series has been ready to air for a while.  It has been delayed several times because DreamWorks and Nickelodeon have been jockeying for the best premiere time, as they both wish to capitalize on the premiere of Kung Fu Panda 2 later this month.  So a series that should have premiered last fall will likely premiere this fall.  I don’t like that at all.  I strongly believe that a series should not be held hostage by its caretakers; a lot of people worked very hard on the series, yet they are caught in limbo because games are being played.  It is their right to play them, and at least a second season has already been ordered so that people can actually get back to work, but the whole ordeal has really tempered my expectations for the series and my enthusiasm isn’t what it once was.

I am still enthused, however.  There hasn’t been very much concrete information released about the series, but after watching some footage from last year’s Comic Con, I am convinced that this series is going to be a lot of fun.  It doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the movie, which should be expected, but the humor is definitely there and I am really looking forward to seeing more of the Furious Five.  That is the one big advantage that a series has over a movie, as you can flesh out the characters far more than a movie would ever permit.  Such doesn’t always become canon, as the penguins in The Penguins Of Madagascar hardly resemble their movie selves at this point, but I believe DreamWorks will try to keep things fairly consistent.  The question that needs to be answered is whether or not the series and the second movie are compatible with one another, as both were in development at the same time.

While the voice actors from the movie either refused to work on the series or were never asked, with the exception of James Hong who returns to voice Po’s father, I believe that the replacement voice actors have done a pretty good job.  Most of them worked on the video game that was made for the movie, and while discernable ears will be able to tell the difference, I sincerely doubt that most children will have a problem with it.  However, I have to base that on a very small sample size, so once the full series premiere and we have to hear lengthy conversations, it’s possible that it will become more noitcable.  But then again, most movie based cartoons have different voice actors so it shouldn’t be that much of a detriment either way.

Had this series premiered last year, like it was supposed to, I think it could have done great.  It will probably do great in 2011 as well, and perhaps DreamWorks and Nickelodeon know what they’re doing by waiting for the sequel to premiere first, but if DreamWorks wishes to make more cartoons based on their movies, I sincerely hope that they will premiere them when they’re ready instead of when it’s convenient.  Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness has been a long time coming, and it will be longer still before it finally arrives, but despite my grumblings, I still believe that it will be worth the wait.  I just hope that it has something of a story arc and plenty of well choreographed action, as I believe it could be a worthy successor to Avatar: The Last Airbender if they play their cards right.

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