Narration: Marvin Miller
Production and Adaptation: Ben Pivar and Alvin Schoncite
Direction: Robert Tafur
Japanese (Original) Version:
Direction: Taiji Yabushita
Production: Hiroshi Okawa
Panda and the Magic Serpent is a colorful and enchanting example of formative Japanese animation. The tale's storyline could be stronger, and the film does feature perhaps too much padding that doesn't relate to any of the main characters. But the movie's look is wonderful, recalling those days when full animation didn't need CGI amplification to work its visual magic. I even like one of the musical numbers (I generally dislike songs in animated movies); when Panda is jumping from drum to drum, his catchy song rings with unfettered delight.
By the way, in the U.S., you can find this DVD from Digiview Productions in $1 DVD bargain bins. The quality of the source print is poor -- lots of scratches and such -- but it's completely watchable, and for one dollar, I'm not complaining.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!!!!!!!!!!!
At the end, I didn't understand why Panda and his feline companion aren't getting to sail away with the two main characters. This made the otherwise happy conclusion somewhat bittersweet.
In addition, the "bad guy" magician wielding the crystal ball is interesting. He really seems to believe that the spirits are harmful, and his aim to "save" the hero seems sincere if misguided. Of course, at the end, he saves the day and becomes a "good guy". This same transformation appears to happen to White Pig and his gang of hoodlums once they fall under Panda's leadership.
All in all, Panda and the Magic Serpent is an enjoyable example of late fifties Japanese animation; I for one am glad Digiview Productions rescued this charming item from North American obscurity.