Panda! Go Panda Review
Panda! Go Panda! is the American name for what is actually two short movies created by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Isao Takahata in 1972 and 1973. The first of these films - Panda Baby Panda - was created, scripted, storyboarded and partly animated (key frames only) by Hayao Miyazaki whilst Isao Takahata directed. Released in 1972 'Panda Baby Panda' (Panda Kopanda in Japanese) tells the story of a young girl (Mimiko) who has been left alone by her Grandma (who was her sole carer) and whilst alone finds a baby Panda (Panny) at her home. Upon making friends with Panny, Mimiko also meets Panny's father, they then decide to live together whereby the 'Papa Panda' acts as Mimiko's father and Mimiko acts as Panny's mother. Its all very cute, the Panda's do talk, they become a family and the rest of the film shows how the locals learn to deal with the fact that Mimiko has adopted these Panda's!
The second film, 'Panda Baby Panda and the Rainy Day Circus', released in 1973 sees Mimiko, Panny and Papa Panda on another adventure. Miyazaki was again the driving force behind the sequel, whilst Takahata saw to the directing duties. This time a circus is in town and a baby tiger (Tiny) has escaped. Tiny ends up at Mimiko's house where he becomes friends with everyone. Tiny is returned to his mother (at the circus), but then there is a flood and the circus animals must be saved, fortunately Mimiko, Panny and Papa Panda arrive to save the day!
Both films are clearly designed for children and in that respect they are a definite triumph. As a whole they are a lot of fun, extremely cute and generally well animated (especially for their time). The music in the Japanese dub (the English dub contains different music, although the theme song is the same) is very enjoyable and suits the films well, but of particular note is the main theme that I absolutely guarantee will be in your head for many days after seeing these films!
For fans of Miyazaki/Takahata this is a great insight to how these two masters started their careers, plus the films are also very enjoyable for adults and showcase some of that 'Miyazaki Magic', or rather I should say that 'Studio Ghibli Magic' as we should not forget the equally auspicious directing talent of Isao Takahata. Another great reason for fans to see these films is that you can quite clearly see the beginnings of one of Miyazaki's greatest triumphs, 'My Neighbour Totoro'. The Panda's are strikingly similar in style to Totoro, whilst the way that Mimiko and Panny hug Papa Panda is nigh on identical to how Satsuko and Mei cling to Totoro (which for myself was particularly great to see).
The films have been joined together for this DVD release and are shown in the correct order with a title screen at the start of each film. The only editing that has occurred is during the opening credits where we are presented with some stills from the film along with English credits. This is forgivable as this DVD is primarily aimed at children and the Japanese language in the original opening would not really work that well in this respect, plus Pioneer have included the original opening in the extras just for us fans.
These films were originally released in 1972 and 1973, bearing this in mind the picture quality on this DVD is quite superb. Presented in its original 4:3 ratio detail is generally high, colours are very solid whilst lines are clearly defined with only the occasional presence of line noise. The only area where I can really find fault is the quality of the print used, as quite frequently dust and scratches can be seen. Worth noting is that when I originally viewed this disc I thought it looked outstanding, but since viewing the work Studio Ghibli has done with their own recent R2 releases I found this release to be a little below par, but that really is because we are being spoilt with the picture quality of the R2 releases.
The Japanese Dub is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo format and although it is my preferred soundtrack choice, sadly it suffers in quality when compared to the English dub (also presented in DD2.0). The reason for this is mostly due to the fact that these films were made in 1972/73 and therefore the quality of the original Japanese Dub has suffered over the years. It is certainly not bad, Pioneer have just presented us with an average quality Japanese Language track that generally sounds slightly muted and muffled (even more so in the first film). The English track, which was most likely created for this DVD release (very recently) is of a far higher quality, giving us a nice clean presentation of a reasonable dub effort. The English dub cast has been chosen well, and all of the actors seem to fit their roles well. My only major gripe is the complete change in the music, this is kind of annoying as it takes away from the original composer, plus I am sure I spotted a piece that sounded very much like Shaft! The English dub is not a bad effort, I am just a purist I guess - simply put the English dub is great for children and as they are this films key audience it does its job well.
This is how subtitles should be, clearly presented and correctly translated. This is excellent work from Pioneer especially considering this DVD is so clearly aimed at the children's market (they could very well have not bothered with both the Japanese Language track and the subtitles, instead they have provided us with both and put the effort into correctly translating the film).
Unfortunately extras are minimal but what little is here has been presented well. We get a single page biography plus a selected filmography for both the director (Isao Takahata) and the creator (Hayao Miyazaki). The information presented is very lightweight but at least there is something here. Also available is a Gallery (featuring 20 stills from the films) and best of all, the Original Opening which many Miyazaki fans will immediately identify as being extremely similar to that of My Neighbour Totoro. Also worthy of note is the Menu that is very well designed and a lot of fun (featuring the wonderful Panda! Go Panda! theme song).
For Miyazaki/Takahata fans Panda! Go Panda! is a must see film. It is highly unlikely that you will not enjoy this film, but even if that is the case, you are seeing the beginnings of Miyazaki/Takahata's illustrious careers. For general readers if you have children then buy this film for them (young children will adore this) and use them as an excuse to watch it yourself! Pioneers DVD release is of a high standard and is the best version for the majority of prospective viewers and fans alike, however, if you are a serious fan with the cash then this release will surely be surpassed by the official Studio Ghibli R2 (Japanese) release due October 2001.
Note: This DVD has since gone out of print and is not currently available through traditional retail channels.
Last updated: 13/07/2018 08:51:01