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Panda! Go Panda! The Greatest Japanese Panda Cartoon of All Time

Written by JessicaDavis


Posted on March 22 2024

Over the years, pandas have become increasingly popular due to the large-scale animation films produced and released globally. Similarly, the Japanese panda cartoon Panda! Go Panda! was a massive hit in the 70s and is still popular among the Ghibli fans. Let us rewind and see the highlights and plot of this famous panda bear cartoon and the success behind its craze. 

A Brief Overview of Panda! Go Panda!

Panda Kopanda or Panda! Go Panda! premiered in Japan in 1972, igniting the panda craze and madness to unprecedented levels. A couple of years back, it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. Here is a glimpse at the famous Panda cartoon's highlights. 

Directed By: Isao Takahata

Screenplay By: Hayao Miyazaki

Music By: Masahiko Sato

Editing By: Kazuo Inoue

Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha and A Production

Distributed By: Toho

Genre: Animation, Short, Comedy, and Family

IMDb Rating: 6.8

Release Date: 17th December, 1972

Run Time: 34 minutes 

Sequel: The Rainy-Day Circus

Sequel Release Date: 17th March 1973

Rewind the Plot of Panda! Go Panda!

Mimiko is a bright 7-year-old little girl left alone when her grandmother leaves on a trip, which, according to the grandmother, is Mimiko's grandfather's memorial service. After making a few stops at local stores, Mimiko returns to her house in a bamboo grove and finds Panny, a baby panda, sleeping on the back doorstep. Mimiko quickly befriends Panny and invites him for a drink. His father, Papa Panda, soon comes to visit, and they decide to become a family after he offers to be Mimiko's father (Mimiko never had any parents). The three adjust to life together during their first night together, while Mimiko writes the first of many letters to her grandma (whom she promised to write to every day).

The next day, Mimiko goes to school, reluctantly allowing Panny to tag along (even though she told him to stay home). In a close call, Panny gets all of Mimiko's school (save for Mimiko) chasing after him. The next day, Mimiko gets an unexpected visit from a local policeman, who comes to check on her. Expectedly, he freaks out after seeing Papa Panda. He goes to notify the local zoo staff, who invites the zookeeper (who lost Papa Panda and Panny after they broke out of the zoo). The zookeeper demands the safe return of his pandas, so he joins the police and zoo staff in the search.

Meanwhile, Mimiko and her family go on a walk, and after scaring off some local bullies, they inadvertently lose Panny when he rolls down a hill. Mimiko and Papa Panda go searching for him, eventually gaining help from local police and the zookeeper in the search. They find Panny floating on a piece of wood, heading towards an open floodgate, and hurry to save him. The handle, however, has rusted, leaving Panny in a dangerous situation. 

Mimiko comes very close to falling into dangerous waters after she jumps down to save Panny from death, but Papa Panda saves both by closing the floodgate. Mimiko, alongside Panny, Papa Panda, the zookeeper, and the local police, cheer their success. Papa Panda, alongside Panny, returns to work at the zoo under the condition that they can leave after the visitors have left to spend time with Mimiko.

The Craze Behind Panda! Go Panda!

In September 1972 (Showa 47), China offered a pair of giant pandas to Ueno Zoo as part of Panda diplomacy. This caused a panda boom in Japan, and this animated film capitalized on the crazy. However, Director Isao Takahata has clarified that planning Panda Kopanda began long before.

It was one of the entries in the Toho Champion Festivals and was simultaneously screened with two other works, Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Kaijū funsen–Daigorō tai Goriasu (1972).

Kotabe and Takahata had previously worked on Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974). They initially planned to adapt Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking, but they needed to acquire the original author's permission. Panda Kopanda features elements taken from Pippi, such as the protagonist Mimiko living alone, Mimiko's design (braids with freckles on her face), and the setting of Mimiko's house (kitchen with oven).

The planning was already done for the famous Japanese Studio, A Production, which needed a brilliant story featuring a panda. Isao and Hayao worked up the idea in a night or two in hopes of creating an animated cartoon panda series based on Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Soon, a news announcement about a Panda arriving from China was made, and the green light was given to the production to go ahead.

During the 1970s, it was thought that children liked only flashy and noisy films. However, the animation legends Isao and Hayao had different notions. They wanted to create an anime filled with fun and excitement, comprising the small moments of everyday life. As Panda is a giant, big-hearted, and easygoing character, it is always easy to work with such a cuddy creature who makes everyone happy around him without doing anything in particular. 

The Final Wrap

Panda! Go Panda! is a great film and popular Panda Bear cartoon for everyone, young and young at heart. The cute animation is limited but elegant, with appealing characters (The Papa, in particular, is a fascinating Proto-Totoro figure), and the story is easy for young ones to follow. Adults will not really find much interest unless they are real Miyazaki complete-ists. Of course! The song will stick in your brain for long.

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