There is no secret recipe.
That’s the message of Kung Fu Panda. Self-belief is the key to realizing your potential and Po the panda’s hero’s journey leads him to that realization.
Po begins his journey living in the village as the son of a noodle maker. He dreams of bigger things and feels out of place. The symbolic fact that he is a panda surrounded by pigs, rabbits, and geese helps point that out to the audience. His father speaks of his chance to go on a hero’s journey earlier in life – a call that he refused. The Refusal of the Call is a common step on Campbell’s hero’s journey. It can act as a warning to other heroes or part of the test for the hero.
Po lacks confidence as his Call to Adventure arrives. Those around him keep him in that frame of mind until his refusal to give up on his Path of Trials brings him some respect from Crane, Mantis, and Viper.
The classic end of the hero’s journey, The Ultimate Boon, is in the movie too. The Scroll was Po’s physical goal, but as with all hero’s journeys it is the knowledge that is more important. The mirrored surface of the scroll provided Po with the insight he needed to become the fabled Dragon Warrior. His transformation helped change the world.
This movie is not only hilarious, it has a wonderful story to tell. Take your kids and talk to them about the lessons.