This was just clever from beginning to end.
I know that a lot of folks fall in love with the movie during the opening dream sequence. Well, so did I, not least because all of the big words the panda uses to describe himself are used correctly. I appreciate that.
But, I fell in love with it all over again when I saw that the greatest master, the master of masters, was a turtle. That's just perfect! agrumer notes that in this kind of animated film, where all of the characters are animals, people wear their insides on their outsides. The scene where Oogway blows out one candle at a time until Shifu impatiently uses his kung fu to blow them all out at once sums up those two characters and their relationships beautifully.
I loved the line "There is now a level zero."
The food training sequence was wonderful. The great revelation scene about the Secret Ingredient is beautifully set up. And I loved Po's offhanded compassionate, "Yeah, it took me a while to get it too" to Tai Lung. And, it's just fine for Po to step on Tai Lung's tail in a knock down drag out fight in a way that it isn't for the prison commander to do to the helpless Tai Lung. Then again, that's setting the audience up for half cheering for Tai Lung's escape, which we all know is an essential part of the movie.
And, as mneme points out, we actually see no evidence that Tai Lung kills anyone. The only one we know dies in the movie is Oogway.
Me: Actually, we don't know he dies. We don't see a body.
mnemex: Cherry blossoms. That means he's dead.
mnemex did briefly wonder why Tai Lung didn't try his paralytic nerve strike on Po, but we quickly realized that the movie sets this up as well. Mantis can't find the acupuncture points for Po under all that fat. Tai Lung was under the same disadvantage, without the compensatory advantage of having Po stand still. And hey, the guy's probably never fought a panda before.
And the peace Po brought to Shifu was lovely to see, right down to Shifu's utterly contented "If you can" reply to Po asking whether he should just stop talking.
I was stunned to learn that Dustin Hoffman was Shifu. I'd never have guessed that. Okay, I wouldn't have guessed that Angela Jolie was Tigress or that Jackie Chan was Monkey, but those weren't huge surprises either.
And, if anyone is reading this who doesn't already know, stay through the credits which appear over a scroll showing vignettes with the characters.