Friday, June 20, 2008

A movie about incentives

The much anticipated Kung Fu Panda hit our cinemas today. Actually, it had a tough job to overcome following trailers to Wall-E, Madagascar 2 and The Clone Wars. Nonetheless, it was much as expected, a light-hearted homage to the martial arts genre. You know the drill, an anoited one is to be anoited and rather than being one of the 5 animals who had trained for it their entire lives, it someone ends up being a panda who gets the nod for what everyone including the panda but not the 'accident denying' turtle believes was, in fact, an accident.

The issue then becomes how to make this fairly bad state of affairs work against a snow leopard ,Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, former pupil character who is coming back to do bad things but, in reality, is just ticked off. And it turns out that the answer, and I am not giving too much away for those who have seen the trailer, is to get the incentives right. In particular, so long as said panda is appropriately motivated -- in his case, by food -- he can pretty much do anything and what should be a lifetime of training is compressed into what appears to be only a day of food related hijinks. The message for all the kids and parents out there is simple: anyone can be great so long as you put the right carrots, or in this case, Chinese food, in place. Our kids left the movie with this message firmly in place and hungry -- well, for lunch.