Panda! Go, Panda! (パンダ・コパンダPanda Kopanda literally "Panda, Baby Panda") is a Japanese animated film, first released in 1972. It was written and created by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Isao Takahata, predating Studio Ghibli. This short movie hit Japan at the height of the panda craze, initiated in September 1972, when the government announced the loan of a pair of giant pandas from China to the Ueno Zoo as part of Panda diplomacy.
The plot follows Mimiko, a bright 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 some local stores, Mimiko comes home to her house in a bamboo grove and finds a baby panda named Panny sleeping on the back doorstep. She quickly makes friends with the little panda, and invites him in for a drink. His father, Papa Panda, soon comes to visit, and they decide to become a family after Papa Panda 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 (who 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 ends up getting all of Mimiko's school (save for Mimiko) chasing after him. The next day, Mimiko gets an unexpected visit from a local policeman, who came 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 out on a walk and, after scaring off some local bullies, they inadvertently lose Panny after 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 of them by closing the floodgate. Mimiko, alongside Panny, Papa Panda, the zookeeper and the local police, cheer their success. Papa Panda, alongside Panny, return to work at the zoo, under the condition that they can leave after the visitors have left to spend time with Mimiko.
The adventures are continued in another short movie from the same staff, Panda! Go, Panda!: The Rainy-Day Circus (パンダ・コパンダ 雨降りサー スの巻Panda Kopanda: Amefuri Circus no Maki). In this episode, Mimiko and the pandas meet a ringmaster and one of his cronies, who were searching for something in their home. Mimiko is overjoyed, thinking that they are burglars, but they are quickly scared off by the family, and run away in fear. The family soon starts dinner, but Panny finds his food has been eaten. In a way similar to the story of Goldilocks, Panny finds what the ringmaster was looking for: a baby tiger named Tiny. After getting spooked by Tiny, Panny (along with the entire household) makes friends with the little tiger. The next day, Mimiko goes to ask around town, to see if anyone knows where Tiny is from, only to lose both Panny and Tiny when Tiny goes to see his real mother. Mimiko is invited to the local circus, which is exactly the same one that is owned by the ringmaster that had tried to break in the night before, by a few of her friends. She gladly accepts the offer. At the circus, Tiny introduces Panny to a local otter. Panny tries to do the otter's trick, but ends up getting chased by the local circus performers and the ringmaster. To make matters worse, Panny crashes straight into the tiger cage, where Tiny's unhappy mother waits. Mimiko slips into the circus after someone yells that Panny is in trouble and runs into Tiny's mom. They both return what isn't theirs to the other (respectively, Panny to Mimiko and Tiny to his mother) and become quick friends. The ringmaster gives Mimiko and her family tickets to the show, but on the way home, a nasty storm breaks out. Overnight, it floods most of the land around Mimiko's hometown.
A frantic cry of help from Tiny (in the form of a makeshift bottled message) sends Mimiko and her family in a search for him. They learn from the ringmaster that the train has all the animals, and it's stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Mimiko and her family go to free the animals, which they succeed in doing, but unintentionally cause the train to start (due to the playful antics of Panny and Tiny). The train goes off the rails, and ends up in a collision course with the mayor's house. However, Papa Panda stops the train, and Mimiko and her family become town heroes. The movie concludes with Mimiko and her panda family enjoying a day at the circus.
The pandas of Panda! Go, Panda! are considered by some to be precursors of the Totoros, sharing many design and animation similarities. The spunky red-headed heroine, Mimiko, is sometimes seen as a mix of a prototype Mei, the younger sister in My Neighbor Totoro (because of her braided hair) and a prototype Satsuki, the older sister in My Neighbor Totoro (due to her acting as an older sibling to Panny). Mimiko also shares several traits with Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren had been contacted by Miyazaki one year earlier, as he wished to use Pippi in his animation. His request was refused.
- ^ Encyclopedia of the world's zoos, Volume 3. Catharine E. Bell.
- ^ "Story: Panda Kopanda". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- ^ "Panda! Go Panda". DVD Times. 2001-07-31. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- Panda! Go, Panda! (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Panda! Go, Panda! at the Internet Movie Database
- Panda! Go, Panda! at Nausicaa.net
- Animerica review