What You Will Hear: All of the thematic material presented in the first two outings, plus some new character & locale motifs. Every section of the orchestra is working hard. The erhu (among other traditional Chinese voices), cello, and renowned pianist Lang Lang are featured. “Kung Fu Fighting” makes the obligatory appearance along with a new (way too peppy) song, “Try.”
Standout Tracks: Oogway’s Legacy, Hungry For Lunch, The Power of Chi, The Arrival of Kai, The Legend of Kai, Jaded, Po Belongs, The Dragon Warrior, Passing The Torch, Father And Son
Will You Be Humming Along? Yes. Whether you’ve been a fan or are just getting started, Kung Fu Panda offers a strong collection of recognizable themes. Especially notable is the new villain’s theme and material for the panda village.
The score this makes me want to dust off: Kung Fu Panda 2 – Hans Zimmer & John Powell
Will I come back to it? Yes. Alongside Dragons, Kung Fu Panda is one of the strongest animated franchises in the film score world. From the opening chords and piano melody, it is immediately clear that the strong themes and tonal structures are intact and prepped for another fun experience. The second cue, “Hungry For Lunch” is like a rapid-fire tour through every motif in the series. This familiarity continues throughout the score. The new material presented also lives up to expectations. Kai’s theme is simple and repetitive, but instantly likeable (probably the best part of the score). Without any knowledge of the character, I’m already excited for him. Tai Lung, Shen, and now Kai, make up one of the most enjoyable collections of antagonist themes anywhere. In addition to the villain, the introduction of the panda village offers up music that is much more playful and childish (even compared to Po's antics) than anything else in the series. John Powell’s absence is definitely noticeable, but it isn’t a game changer. For example, the strings aren’t quite as lush or fully realized; everything has a slight touch of that Zimmer heaviness to it. But, he has kept the strongly established panda soundscape intact. The construction isn't exactly as sound as the first two movies, and there are no tracks as amazing as "The Bridge" or "Zen Ball Master." But, those are tough standards to match. This is still one of Zimmer's most entertaining scores. Another win here: Kung Fu Panda is 3 for 3.