Pandas 3D: Wake-up call delivered by the ‘King Kong of cute’

Film: Pandas 3D
Directors: David Douglas and Drew Fellman
Featuring: Kristen Bell, Wen Lei Bi, Rong Hou, Ben Kilham and Jacob Owens
Production: Warner Brothers release of an IMAX production.
Running time: 45 minutes
Showing at: IMAX Melbourne until Wednesday, June 20


For all their fluffy cuteness, very little is known about the conservation of China’s native giant panda, the world’s most threatened bear species. 

Pandas 3D, presented in IMAX 4K Digital, takes audiences on an emotional journey that strikes a balance between dopey panda moments and a sobering dose of reality of what it means to survive in the wild.

Set against the stunning backdrop of Sichuan’s magnificent mountains, Pandas follows the story of Qian Qian, a female panda bred in captivity in the safe grounds of Chengdu Panda Base.

She is nurtured into adulthood by American researcher Dr Jacob Owens and his Chinese colleague Wen Lei Bi, affectionately known by the Sichuan locals as “Xiao Bi”.

Dr Jacob Owens and Qian Qian.

Their careful attention over two years is evident as Qian Qian takes her first steps into the wild and ventures into unknown territory, characterised by clambering over rocks and scaling much bigger trees.

Directors David Douglas and Andrew Fellman reveal the challenges and struggles of conservation, while showcasing the heart-warming bond between people, place and animals.

The little pandas cry out for affection dangling off bamboo trees, sliding on their stomachs and rolling along on the ground with their human playmates like a giant fluff ball.

As viewers come to learn, all this play time is for a purpose, and adapting in the animal world is a harsh business.

During the climax of the film, scientists realise Qian Qian has not moved for 24 hours while she is learning to survive on her own in the jungle.

She is precariously balancing on a treetop with infected paws, too afraid to venture down on her own.

The task at hand to coax Qian Qian from the tree is expertly handled by the researchers and their team, while epitomising the bond between humans and animals.

Pandas provides a refreshing perspective for the city dwellers – and by the end of the film, you may find yourself wanting to move to China and have a go at saving the pandas yourself.