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What Happened in the Kung Fu Panda Movies Before Kung Fu Panda 4?

Catch up on your Kung Fu Panda knowledge before the fourth animated sequel hits theaters!

By Ama Ofosu

Get ready for another round of Kung Fu fighting as the Dragon Warrior returns! After an eight-year wait, the beloved Kung Fu Panda series makes its comeback with its fourth installment, Kung Fu Panda 4 which is scheduled to hit theaters on March 8, 2024.

The first movie introduced us to our favorite Panda, Po, along with the Furious 5 and Master Shifu, who now return to confront the latest villain threatening The Valley. Sixteen years and the star-studded cast, led by Jack Black, has continuously delighted us with their talented voice acting and the film's action-packed comedy.

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Since it's been a while since the last movie's release, we thought it might be time for a refresher to brush up on all your Kung Fu Panda knowledge, just in time for the new movie. After all, to know where Po and his friends are going, you've got to know where they've been.

What Happened in Kung Fu Panda 1?

Po (Jack Black) in Kung Fu Panda 4.

Sixteen years ago, we were introduced to the Valley of Peace, an ancient land in China inhabited by anthropomorphic animals of various species. Our protagonist, Giant Panda Po Ping (Black), resided here with his goose father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), running a noodle shop, but longed for something greater. Po's passion for Kung Fu and his admiration for Master Shifu (Dusting Hoffman) and the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie) , Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Mantis (Seth Rogen) - led him to the Jade Palace during the Dragon Warrior Selection Ceremony. It is during this event that what initially appeared to be an accident resulted in Po being anointed as the Dragon Warrior by the revered founder of Kung Fu, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim).

Po, initially doubted by the Furious Five and Master Shifu, is tasked with protecting the Valley and the Dragon Scroll from the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane), Shifu's former student. Despite their skepticism, Po's determination and resilience drove him to persist. Through his culinary skills and humor, Po won over the Furious Five and gradually earned Shifu's respect. Shifu realized that food was the key to unlocking Po's potential and trained him accordingly. Ultimately, Po defeated Tai Lung using the Wuxi Finger Hold, protecting the Dragon Scroll and the Valley of Peace.

What Happened in Kung Fu Panda 2?

Po in Kung Fu Panda 4

In Kung Fu Panda 2, the Dragon Warrior returned to save all of China from one of the most evil animated villains, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). Lord Shen, a descendant of the peacock rulers of Gongmen City, who were also renowned for their creation of fireworks, waged war upon the villages. He uncovers that the powder used in these fireworks possesses lethal potential as a weapon.

In this movie, we also got more information on Po's origins, as he has been the only Panda residing in the Valley of Peace. We discovered that Lord Shen received a prophecy that prompted him and his army to eradicate the pandas. Though Po didn't recall this event as he was merely a cub at the time, he did remember the symbol on Shen’s armor. Po and the Furious 5 were called into action following village raids perpetrated by Shen and his forces. They journeyed to Gongmen City to confront Shen and his new weapons, with Po ultimately emerging victorious. By the movie's conclusion, we learned that Po's father is alive, and there exists an entire village of pandas thriving elsewhere.

What Happened in Kung Fu Panda 3?

Po in Kung Fu Panda 4

Finally, after being left on a massive cliffhanger, we arrive at Kung Fu Panda 3. This movie answers all the questions about where Po is from. We finally meet his family of pandas who were forced into hiding because of Shen’s war on them.

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This movie begins just like the previous two: with an introduction to a new villain. This time, it's Kai (J.K. Simmons), an adversary of Master Oogway who haf been collecting the keys of all the Kung Fu masters. We discovered that the pandas possess unique key powers, and Po must learn to harness these powers to defeat Kai.

In perfect timing, Po’s biological father finds him in the Valley of Peace and brings him back to the land of the pandas to help him master the key powers. However, it is later revealed that Po’s father had lied about knowing how to harness these powers. Despite this revelation, Po confronts Kai. It isn’t until the final moments of the battle that the pandas can harness their key powers, ultimately saving Po, defeating Kai, and restoring all the masters of Kung Fu. Po is then named the official successor of Master Oogway.

Catch up on past Kung Fu Panda movies on Peacock

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