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Cannes 2008: Kung Fu Panda brings opening day panda-monium

Jack Black at Cannes with Kung Fu Panda

Story by Jack Foley

AN INVASION of giant panda bears helped kickstart the 61st Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday (May 14, 2008) with a little help from co-star Jack Black.

The comic star arrived at the Carlton Hotel pier in style… emerging from a water taxi to be greeted on the pier by nearly 40 true-to-size Po-s – the name of his on-screen persona in DreamWorks Animation’s new summer movie Kung Fu Panda.

He then performed a number of twirls and kicks for the amusement of onlookers before posing for photographers with some of the people who have provided the voice of Po in different languages around the world.

The film, due for release on June 6, 2008, finds Black lending his voice to Po, a big, clumsy panda who just happens to be the world’s biggest fan of kung fu… which doesn’t exactly come in handy while working every day in his family’s noodle shop.

When he’s unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Po’s dreams become reality and he joins the world of kung fu to study alongside his idols, the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie); Crane (David Cross); Mantis (Seth Rogen); Viper (Lucy Liu); and Monkey (Jackie Chan) – under the leadership of their guru, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).

Before they know it, however, the vengeful and treacherous snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is headed their way, and it’s up to Po to defend everyone from the oncoming threat.

Black’s arrival at the Carlton served merely as the beginning of the “Kung Fu Panda”-monium set to sweep Cannes in its opening stages, as the DreamWorks Animation release is slated for its worldwide premiere, screening out of competition on May 15 at the Palais.

The pre-screening red carpet arrivals will spotlight Black and some of his “Kung Fu Panda” co-stars, including Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu, along with KFP filmmakers, directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne, producer Melissa Cobb, and screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

Blindness opens festival

In other first-day Cannes events, Hollywood actress Julianne Moore was also in the south of France preparing for the opening night premiere of her new thriller Blindness, which is in the running for the festival’s coveted Palme d’Or prize.

The film, directed by Fernando Meirelles, is about an epidemic in an unnamed city which causes people to lose their sight.

Ever candid, Meirelles said that while it was undoubtedly an honour to be opening Cannes, he also felt a little pressure and didn’t personally feel sure whether the film “is the best film to open a festival”.

Moore agreed, referring to the selection as “kind of odd”, but adding that she liked films about “the apocalypse”, having only recently appeared in another downbeat vision of the future, Children of Men.

She felt the film reflects global concerns and feelings and predicted that it would pose a provocative start to the festival.

Kung Fu Panda Cannes photo gallery