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AI Reimagines Kung Fu Panda Characters As Real People & It's As Weird As You Think

The "Kung Fu Panda" franchise has been a fan favorite for going on two decades now. However, the most recent installment, "Kung Fu Panda 4," received withering reviews when it drop-kicked its way into theaters in early 2024. "Kung Fu Panda 4's" Rotten Tomatoes score from critics was initially worrisome, and while audiences ended up pulling it back into safe review territory, the wobbly start indicated that some kind of shake-up may be needed to keep this well-worn franchise alive. Enter AI.

@aiviking

Kung Fu Panda Franchise characters as real human people. Made with Midjourney #kungfupanda #dreamworks #midjourney

♬ Kung Fu Panda (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Live] – Imperial Orchestra

TikTok user aiviking decided to unleash artificial intelligence on the "Kung Fu Panda" universe by asking Midjourney to create a one-minute video depicting some of the franchise's most beloved characters as real humans. The clip, which plays to the tune of the original motion picture soundtrack for "Kung Fu Panda," starts with a quick summary that says, "Asking AI to show: Kung Fu Panda characters as real people."

It is a fun experiment, but the results are about as weird as you might expect. We're talking about taking anthropomorphic animals whose characters are developed based on their animal attributes. Transforming them into four-limbed homosapien alternatives is a tricky proposition. Toss in the very real and persistent issue of the uncanny valley, and the entire experience is disconcerting — albeit still very entertaining. In fact, as of this writing, the video has received over 24,000 likes and has been shared over 350 times.

Who is in the Kung Fu Panda AI alternative universe?

The video starts with a few classic antagonists and side characters, such as a towering iteration of the supernatural bull yak Kai and a slim, red and white-clad Shen, the antagonizing peacock from "Kung Fu Panda 2." Several of the characters are reminiscent of real-life actors, too. The image of the Wolf Boss, for instance, looks very much like Luke Evans (the actor popular for fleshing out Gaston's backstory in the live-action "Beauty and the Beast.")

The actor alignment isn't obvious, though. Some of the video's comments compare the Wolf Boss to Jon Snow actor Kit Harington. Others cross over references. TikTok user max abel, for instance, suggests that "Kai looks like Jason Momoa as Maui." The end of the clip is reserved for the Furious Five and their closest friends. We get an image of Crane in his trademark greys and broad-brimmed hat. Mantis is depicted as a human dressed in well-fitted green. Viper has an elaborate, verdant dress with a gigantic snake woven into it (clearly not her fighting garb). Monkey, Tigress, Shifu, and even Oogway are shown, each with an uncanny realism that matches their animalistic character qualities.

Last but not least, there's the Dragon Warrior panda himself: Po. Shown as a grinning, oversized bearish figure, the image works — somewhat. The character is in fairly good shape, but it's admittedly difficult to picture Jack Black's goofy voice coming out of him. Commenters caught onto the inconsistency, too, and more than one recommended an alternative real-life casting: Jack Black himself (who has a body eerily similar to Po's). TikTok user Natertotz put the kibosh on any pushback by definitively stating, "Po should have just been Jack Black and you can't tell me otherwise."