“Kung Fu Panda,” like all movies, can be divided into eight distinct segments where each segment has its own Exposition, Rising Action, and Climax.
Kung Fu Panda is roughly 90 minutes in length, but the 15 Minute Movie Method still applies in breaking a story into eight distinct segments. Each segment has its own Exposition, Rising Action, and Climax, and the conclusion of one segment pulls the audience into the next one.
If you’ve ever seen old movies with “cliffhangers,” that’s what you want. End each segment with a cliffhanger and leave the audience wanting to know more.
If you haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda, you may not understand the following analysis, but if you watch the movie or read the script on the Internet, you can see how the script works as follows:
Segment #1: Dream sequence, Po trying to learn if his dad ever wanted to be anything more, Po feels trapped when his dad reveals he always wanted to be in noodles.
Segment #2: Shifu fights the Five, Po struggling to see the Dragon Warrior ceremony and winds up being chosen as the Dragon Warrior.
Segment #3: Tai Lung in prison, Shifu trying to discourage Po, Po meets Oogway who cheers him up.
Segment #4: Tai Lung escapes, Po trains with the Five and gets beat up, Po gets to meet the Five and be one of them.
Segment #5: Shifi and Oogway learn of Tai Lung’s escape, Po tries to escape but Shifu stops him, Tigress and the other Five rush out to stop Tai Lung.
Segment #6: Shifu discovers Po eating cookies in the kitchen, Shifu trains Po with dumplings, Tai Lung defeats the Five.
Segment #7: Crane returns the Five after they’ve been defeated by Tai Lung, Shifu decides they must evacuate the valley, Po learns the secret ingredient soup.
Segment #8: Tai Lung defeats Shifi, Po battles Tai Lung, Po defeats Tai Lung and is the hero.
Notice that every segment begins with a bang that’s either action-oriented (like a fight scene) or some news that greatly affects the characters somehow (like the news that Tai Lung has escaped).
Notice that the midpoint of the movie is where the False Victory occurs. This is where the hero reaches a goal, but it doesn’t solve the real problem. In this case, Po gets to hang out with the Five as a near equal, but ultimately that doesn’t help him.
Also note that in every movie, there are several stories occurring at the same time. Remember, every character needs a goal. Where many screenplays fall flat is that only the hero has a goal while everyone else just exists to block or help the hero for no consistent reason.
For practice, watch a movie that you’ve already seen and check where the 15 minute segments begin and end. You probably won’t find each segment ending exactly at 15 minutes, but you’re sure to find a distinct ending and beginning between each segment that makes up an entire movie.