Mimiko is a cheerful, young girl who is left on her own while her grandmother is away. When little Panny Panda and his father Papanda stumble into her home, Mimiko welcomes them in as her new family. Adventures ensue as Mimiko discovers the challenges of taking care of her new cuddly friends.
Directed by Isao Takahata and based on a concept by Hayao Miyazaki, Panda! Go Panda! is a charming, early-career classic from two animation legends before they co-founded the award-winning Studio Ghibli. This set includes both Panda! Go Panda! and Panda! Go Panda! Rainy Day Circus.
For more in-depth thoughts on Panda! Go Panda!, please see my colleague Larry Fried’s review from its theatrical re-release here.
Panda! Go Panda! comes to Blu-Ray courtesy of Shout! Factory and GKIDS newly restored for its 50th anniversary with a dazzling 1080p transfer that brings all new life to this charming tale. The colors present are very bright and vibrant in a way that really pops off the screen. There is a nuance to the hues that get to a greater depth within the work. Delineation is crisp and pleasing with no unnatural jagged lines or color bleed. The textures, from the character designs to the environments, are impressive and give the films a nice sense of space. One of the areas where the animation really shines is the distinct details of the character designs. Black levels are strong, and there are no obvious signs of banding or compression issues. Fans of these creative figures will be bowled over by this presentation.
This Blu-Ray comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mono track in the original Japanese, as well as English and Spanish (with optional English subtitles in SDH and in Standard). One of the main things you will notice throughout is that there is thankfully very little in the way of age-related anomalies present here with the track presenting free of damage. Dialogue sounds perfectly clear without sound effects or the whimsical score trouncing on important information. The world provides a very inviting, warm atmosphere that is not really dulled when rain enters the picture to nice effect. The track handles these atmospheric effects quite capably. The sonic ambitions of this one means it is not a particularly dynamic presentation, but it presents everything accurately without much in the way of damage or other unwanted issues.
- From Mimi To Heidi, From Papanda To Totoro – Interview with Isao Takahata: A 40-minute interview from 2001 in which Takahata discusses how Panda! Go Panda was foundational for the rest of his career, what drew him to doing a story about a panda, his collaboration with Hayao Miyazaki, the influence their respective families had on their storytelling, influences from outside sources, the decision to have girl at the center of the story, the evolution of expectation over the decades, his feelings on the work now and more. There are such rich discussions about the two works that fans will not want to miss.
- Panda! Go Panda! Exhibit – The Impact of Hayao Miyazaki’s Image Boards: A 13-minute piece from 2008 in which crowds young and old gather for a screening of the film and offer some reactions. You also get a bit of a tour through the Ghibli museum where you can see some early artwork, advertising material and more. Throughout this featurette, there is also an interview with Goro Miyazaki in which he talks about the film, its place in his father’s legacy and more.
- Conversation with Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki In 1994: A 22-minute conversation between the two creatives discuss some of the hideaway spots close to the Ghibli studios, architecture, their creative process, the importance of food in their work, how things have changed over the year, their admiration for one another, and more. For an arranged interview, this is fairly free-flowing in a way that is very enlightening.
- Trailers and Previews: Six-and-a-half minutes worth of trailers are provided here.
Panda! Go Panda! is a deep cut when it comes to the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, but anyone who takes the time to view it will instantly recognize many of the signature traits that will flow throughout their work for decades to come. While geared more towards children, these two shorts play incredibly well for any age as they offer up genuine belly laughs and heartwarming moments. We are incredibly grateful that the powers that be decided to celebrate 50 years of this piece of art in the way it deserves. Shout! Factory and GKIDS have released a Blu-Ray with a stellar A/V presentation and some very engaging special features. If you are even a casual fan of either of these creatives, you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection. Highly Recommended
Panda! Go Panda! is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Shout! Factory and GKIDS have supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.