Kung Fu Panda 2: A Movie About Adoption

Huh?  You mean you saw Kung Fu Panda 2 in the theater (presumably) with your kids, and you didn’t see it as an adoption movie?  Hmm….  I guess that must mean that you are not a member of an adoption triad.  You know “the triad”, right?  Adopted child, Birth Family, Adoptive Family…..  because if you happened to be a card-carrying member of such a triad you would know, just as I do, that Kung Fu Panda 2 is a movie about adoption.  But that’s not to say that this is a “bad movie” and that adoptive families should stay away from it (A claim that I could convincingly make about “Despicable Me” or “Meet The Robinsons”- both of which we own on DVD even after seeing them in the theatre by the way)……..  in fact, Kung Fu Panda 2 actually has as many redeeming qualities as it does “ugh” moments…..

“Ugh Moment”:  Po’s father finally decides after Po is a grown man (um, I mean panda) and begins to question where he comes from, to let Po know that he is indeed adopted.

Oh for Pete’s Sake, how 1950’s (er 1970’s) can you get?  Hopefully most adoptive families have grown beyond this point and never (and I do mean NEVER) allow there to be a time in their child’s life when then that child must realize that he or she is adopted.  In the movie Po asks his father (the goose), “Why didn’t you tell me?”  And his father answers, “Why didn’t you ask?”.  I hope that adoptive parents realize that the information must available even before the child thinks to ask.

Redemption Moment:  At the end of the movie, after Po has defeated the evil peacock, he returns home to embrace his adoptive father with the full understanding that this man (er-goose) that raised him is indeed his Dad.  Po says, “I know who I am now.  I am your son.”  Yet Po brings along to this homecoming a small stuffed panda that he found at the home of this birth.  While not exactly stated- my feeling that the message here is that both families are part of Po- the father that raised him, and his birth family.  And it is both of these parts that can make him whole.

“Ugh Moment”: As Po’s adoptive father explains to Po “where he came from”- Po’s story begins at the moment when he is left in the radish basket at Ping’s door…..  as if anything that happened earlier is not part of where he came from.  Sadly- many adoptive families make this same mistake.

Redemption Moment: Instead of the movie simply glossing over the fact that Ping begins Po’s story when they first meet, Po tells his father “I need to know the beginning.”  It is not an accusing statement, and not even a particularly sad one, it is just a fact for Po.

“Ugh Moment”: During his battles with the evil peacock, Po is troubled by dim memories of this birth family, and the circumstance of his abandonment.  As the movie progresses Po learns that his birth parents were left with no alternative, and left him in the radish box in order to keep him safe from the evil peacock.  And he also remembers his mother as a loving figure.  My problem with this is that it feeds the fantasy that many adopted children have of a beautiful and noble beginning- but the reality for many adoptees is this is just not true or the truth is completely unknown.

Redemption Moment: While the movie does give us a closing glimpse of Po’s birth father, it does not end in a glorious happy reunion between birth parent and adopted child.  And that is a relief- because it would have been a very Disney-esque thing to do.  And would again further the fantasy that many adoptive parents have….  and sadly will not likely come true.

I think that every parent should use their own best judgement about whether or not to take their kids to see this movie, if you believe that it could raise difficult issues for your child.  Overall our family had a good experience…  although I did hear some fantasy play going on in the backseat on the way home from the movie that involved one of my children remembering his/her birth mother in a loving way.  And I’m okay with that.

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  1. says

    Hey Sharon, I totally thought about you when we took the kids to see this movie. We really enjoyed it, but I do tend to think a lot during movies, especially kids ones. I wondered about some of the moments you point out and kept them them in the back of my head to bring up and process later. I asked the kids their thoughts about adoption during a meal and found their ideas really limited and also very idealistic. We discussed different situations, families, countries, ages, you name it! Sometimes it was hard for me to share sad reasons behind adoptions, but I did. Mostly we talked about family and what it means to be one. Anyway, my knowledge is limited too, so I thank you for sharing your experience. Did you see HOP, by any chance? Did anything adoption-related come up for you?

    • says

      We did not see HOP….. and I don’t remember anything about it coming up in the adoption blog-o-sphere either (although my memory is not a thing to be trusted anymore!). Was there an adoption-themed storyline in it?


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