REVIEW REWIND: Trail of the Panda (2009)
Continuing my latest Disney+ film, we've come to Trail of the Panda which Disney did in collaboration with Chinese filmmakers.
Trail of the Panda (2009) follows a young orphaned boy named Lu (Daichi Harashima) who is taken in by a kindly farmer (Qi Zhang). One day, a scientist (Li Feng) discovers there is a panda with two cubs and that, at the institute he works at, they believe a mother panda can only handle one cub. So, for the good of the cub, he wants to capture it and bring it back. He hires the farmer to help him track the panda.
In the meantime, Lu finds the panda and hides him. He doesn't trust the scientist and he's desperate for a friend. He names him Pang-Pang (which means 'chubby') [note: In the dub, the translation is 'Pancake']. When the farmer and the scientist discover Lu has him, they take it back, but Lu helps him escape and brings him back to his mother. Lu's life is forever changed for his friendship.
I found this film to be quite warm and beautiful. The boy who plays Lu is absolutely endearing as a kid who is so lonely and doesn't talk because he's been traumatized by his parents' death.
What really makes this film is the cinematography. The movie was filmed at Siguniang Mountain, Balang Mountain, and Wolong Giant Panda Reserve in Sichuan Province and it really captures the majesty of the Chinese forest.
I am a fan of the panda and loved seeing them in this film. I was so jealous of Harashima for getting to hug and play with the little cub. Pang-Pang was actually played by six different cubs. Six times the magic! Sadly, the Wolong Reserve was destroyed in an earthquake and the panda that played the mother ended up perishing though.
I admittedly was a little hesitant to watch it because I knew it would be dubbed and I would rather watch a foreign language film in its own language as the characters come across flat with the dub. But, I found the dub not to be too distracting.
I actually didn't know what to expect overall from the film, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It's a very simple film, but it didn't have to be any bigger than it was. And, anything that promotes panda conservation can only be a good thing. I highly recommend it and has been one of the better films I've seen on my watch list.