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What happens in the Kung Fu Panda films?

Get clued up on everything you need to know about Po’s high-flying martial-arts journey so far

Po in Kung Fu Panda 4
Po returns in Kung Fu Panda 4. (DreamWorks Animation/Universal Pictures)

Kung Fu Panda 4 reunites us with our favourite martial arts-loving monochrome mammal Po for the first time in eight years.

Voiced by comedy icon Jack Black, audiences first met Po when Kung Fu Panda was released in 2008. Since then, Black has returned to voice the character in three follow-up films, each of which features an all-star ensemble cast voicing some fearsome fighting animals.

Now, more than 18 years after his adventures first began, Po is back in the fourth movie in the franchise which is now available to stream in the UK.

Can’t remember what happened in the previous three films? Fear not, we’ve pulled together a handy Kung Fu Panda story recap that’ll help you get you clued up and ready for Po’s grand return.

Clear your mind, focus your chi and read on for all you need to know…

Po in Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda was released in 2008. (Alamy)

When we meet Po in the first Kung Fu Panda movie, he doesn't have a lot going for him. While his heart is in the right place, his clumsy nature and lack of direction see him destined for unspectacular things and stuck working in his father’s noodle shop in the Valley of Peace.

Thankfully, Po’s destiny changes when an accidental visit to a fighting tournament reveals that he is in line to become the fabled Dragon Warrior – an expert Kung Fu master who is said to be able to decipher the mysterious Dragon Scroll and access unlimited power.

Despite everyone in his village believing that the Dragon Warrior would be a member of a quintet of animal martial arts pros known as the Furious Five – specifically Tigress (Angelina Jolie) – Po begins his training under the tutelage of the wise Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).

Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda
Ian McShane voiced the evil Tai Lung. (Alamy)

Along the way, he discovers that the Dragon Scroll is set to be stolen by an evil kung fu master known as Tai Lung (Ian McShane), forcing Po to step up and fulfil his destiny as the only one who can save the future of his village.

After facing down Tai Lung, Po manages to lay claim to the title of the Dragon Warrior. Meanwhile, he discovers that the Dragon Scroll was ultimately blank and that the strength and drive he needed to succeed was inside him all along.

Po in Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 2 was released in 2011. (Alamy)

Kung Fu Panda 2 was released in 2011 and finds Po happily living his life as the Dragon Warrior in the Valley of Peace. Unfortunately, this idyllic existence is disrupted when he suddenly starts experiencing flashbacks of his mother and later discovers that he was adopted at birth.

To make matters worse, a new weapon threatens to destroy his homeland and its ancient Kung Fu traditions, forcing Po and the Furious Five to set out on a quest to stop this new device and the villainous peacock known as Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who hopes to wield it.

Throughout this quest, Po discovers that his parents were forced to put him up for adoption when Lord Shen ordered the extermination of all pandas after learning of an ancient prophecy that said the Dragon Warrior would be black and white.

By the end of part two, Po not only manages to defeat Shen but also find peace with his parents and his adoptive father Mr Ping (James Hong) - but not before audiences learn that his real father is still alive...

Po in Kung Fu Panda 3
Kung Fu Panda 3 was released in 2016. (Alamy)

It’s this paternal storyline that takes centre stage in 2016’s Kung Fu Panda 3.

When Master Shifu passes the responsibility of looking after the Jade Palace and the training of the Furious Five to Po, he’s initially overwhelmed by such a daunting task. However, he's comforted when he by the sudden arrival of his real father Li (Bryan Cranston).

Sadly, this comfort doesn’t last long as he learns of a new threat known as General Kai (J.K. Simmons) who is gathering an evil zombie army of living and dead Kung Fu masters.

Po discovers that Kai can only be defeated by the power of Chi – a skill that he doesn’t possess. Li tells Po that he can learn the power of Chi by studying with experts at the Panda Valley but once there, he discovers that this isn’t the case and his father simply wanted his son to avoid Kai’s wrath.

After making amends with both his biological and adoptive fathers, Po works together with pandas from the Panda Valley, his two dads and the Furious Five to harness the power of Chi, defeat Li and restore peace to his valley once more.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is available to buy and rent now