Warner Brothers and Imax bring us the story of a panda’s quest to find a home for her species in the 2018 documentary film Pandas. The documentary is narrated by Kristen Bell.
Team behind the movie
Don’t get us wrong, the film isn’t your usual action-adventure film. It tells a real-life story depicting the struggle to fit into an unknown world, similar to what the character Po experienced in the movie Kung Fu Panda. The live-action documentary film follows the cute, roly-poly Qian Qian, the domesticated panda.
Along with her in the journey are several human characters including independent wildlife biologist Ben Kilham, Chinese scientist Rong Hou, and the jolly, optimistic, and omniscient voice of Kristen Bell. With jaw-dropping cinematography, compelling narration, and the oh-so-lovely pandas compacted in a 45-minute format, the film summons feelings of awe, wonder, and ultimately, heartbreak (we’ll get to that later on.)
The documentary film narrates the preparations of Chinese researchers before releasing captive-bred pandas into the wild, which is riddled with hardships, heartaches, and a lot of rolling and eating tons of bamboo. Like a beautiful scrapbook, we see the first two years of her life in stunning shots, in the backdrop of Chinese wilderness in full 3-D.
Accompanying these must-see moments, which encompass pretty much every scene, is Mark Mothersbaugh’s lively composition. The music perfectly blends in with the scenes and evokes appropriate emotions from the audience. And of course, to add a touch of Disney to this real-life fable is Kristen Bell’s voice. She actually voiced Anna in the Disney film Frozen.
Qian in the wild
However, this isn’t a fairy tale story. It’s a true-to-life fight of a Panda coming back to a home that she never knew. Hou Rong and the other specialists’ purpose is to train Qian Qian to be ready to take on a world that’s always been hers. China has had success in keeping pandas safe in man-made habitats. However, Hou and her colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding face a difficult problem — how can they reintroduce these creatures, which are born in captivity, back into the wild?
Other specialists joining the journey also chip in with their ideas of reintroducing Qian into the wild. Ben Kilham’s reintroduction method is adapted by Hou Rong for this purpose. American conservation biologist Jake Owens’ expertise in rugged terrains also proves crucial for the reintroduction. But the heart and soul of the documentary lies in the perspective of giant panda cub Qian Qian. She’s sweet, innocent, her human friends love her, and every time she interacts with them, you’ll just be hooked.
You’ll watch her learn to climb trees and other activities, mainly sitting around and eating bamboo. But by the end of the film, the emptiness in your heart will kick in as you watch Qian Qian left all alone, fending for herself, and not knowing if she can survive in the wilderness. Looking into her eyes, you’ll know that she’s not the panda cut out for this.
Still, we love this film for its honesty and non-sugary climax. It may have left a dent in our hearts, but it just gives us hope — a hope that one day, many pandas like Qian Qian will roam in the wild, like they were meant to.