If you’ve seen the film, you were likely impressed by the incredible 2D opening for Kung Fu Panda done by James Baxter. If you’d like to watch a streaming version of the opening, click here. For all you animation nuts out there, Kevin Koch of the Synchrolux blog has been kind enough to create a quicktime file that you can frame-by-frame through.

When this animation first came up on screen it basically took my breath away. I haven’t seen something handdrawn that looked this great in quite a long time. The closest thing would probably be the animated bits in Enchanted, (also by James Baxter), but those had the classic Disney look to them and the KFP opening is something completely different. It feels a bit like anime, a bit like Sin City, and a bit like some crazy Chinese graphic novel written by a Disney animator. Absolutely beautiful design, textures, animation, and hilarious writing.

Anyone have any knowledge about the actual production process involved with this project? I’m gonna go ahead and say it looks like full hand drawn animation that was then brought into photoshop and painted frame by frame. Though there are some bits that could possibly be toon shaded 3D work. And other stuff looks like plain old Flash or After Effects cutout style.

You may also notice that in the “Art of” book there are a bunch of unused designs for Tai Lung’s army. I’m happy to see that they ended up here in the opening sequence because the designs carry over so well in this 2D style. Also, the book has the storyboards for this entire sequence – they are quite faithful to the final movie.

I have assembled 30 or so still shots from the opening, quite fun to look at. The opening goes so fast (but what a glorious 2 minutes and 28 seconds) that the still frames really let you absorb the design. Enjoy:

Edit: The end credits, produced by Shine and Baxter, are available here. They’re great as well!






(They use the flag as a wipe for the next shot – how cool is that??)



(Awesome character designs by Nico Marlet here.)

(Maybe you should chew…ON MY FIST!)



(I love this frame.)







(Look! The bodies make faces!)

(Nice clouds and color!)




Ahhh, great stuff. Rumor has it that there is a 2D Kung Fu Panda short in the works at Baxter’s studio. We’ll see when the DVD is released.

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