And let me say here
if you read any further!
First of all, I thought there was a real object lesson in the "adoption talk" between Po and his adoptive dad. Turns out that Po knew all along he wasn't Mr. Ping's biological son (duh!), but didn't say anything because his dad didn't say anything. Po says something like, "Why didn't you tell me?" And Mr. Ping said something like, "Why didn't you ask?!" Like I'm always saying, if adoptive parents figure their kids aren't thinking about adoption because they aren't broaching the subject, then their kids who are indeed thinking about adoption will read that silence as the answer -- adoption isn't something their parents are comfortable talking about.
Second, when Po does finally ask, and Mr. Ping tries to tell him his (Po's) story, he does what so many adoptive parents do -- he starts at the moment he and Po met, as if there was no Po before that moment. Sure, he didn't know much, just that Po got into that box of radishes somehow, but simple biology allows for the "you grew in your birth mother's tummy until it was time for you to be born" start. And, another important point illustrated here, Po wasn't satisfied with the moment-we-met story, saying, "I need to know the beginning."
Third, I was prepared for the ultimate "the past doesn't matter" theme when the seer who is taking care of Po after he is injured tells him that he shouldn't dwell on his past, that the unhappiness of his beginnings doesn't matter, what matters is what he chooses to become. A little dismissive, yes? BUT, I was struck by the fact that BEFORE she gives this message, she insists that Po has to KNOW about his past. She tells him not to fight the memories of his biological parents, that he can only move on after he knows. Maybe not so dismissive after all. . . .
Fourth, I thought the film was REALLY "birthmom-positive" during the "abandoned-in-a-box" scene, thank goodness. She was so obviously loving in her good-bye to Po, with a lingering hug as she finally tore herself away from him to lead the murderous wolves away from him. Maybe it was Po left alone like my kids, maybe it was the damn box, but that was the one scene that made me teary-eyed.
Fifth, I am sorry that the movie makers missed an opportunity to present a different adoption paradigm instead of the easy "past doesn't matter" meme. Maybe that will come up in Kung Fu Panda 3, who knows. Tell me if I imagined this, but was the hammer used by Po's panda dad in the flashback the same hammer used by Master Rhino? If so, I can see in a KFP3 a real connection between Po's bio dad and kung fu as an explanation for where Po's interest and talent comes from, a biological explanation that makes clear that "where you come from" might matter after all.
Sixth, my impression from the reviews and comments I had read was that Po was sort of rejecting his biological family at the end, saying significantly to Mr. Ping, "I know who I am now. I am your son." But one thing made me see it differently -- he kept the panda toy he found in the wreckage of his home village, the one he saw himself carrying in his flashbacks. As he carries two boxes of radishes he brought home for his dad, he reaches into one and brings out the toy, giving it pride of place on top of the radishes. Maybe it was only meant to signify acceptance of his "beginnings" as the baby panda in the radish box, but it seemed to me that he was bringing part of his former life into his childhood home.
Seventh, I thought the Asian imagery -- the countryside, the towns, Shen's palace that reminded me a bit of the Wild Goose Pagoda, the shadow puppets at the beginning -- was wonderful, and much more pronounced than the last movie. Maybe because Kung Fu Panda 2 is the first Hollywood animated feature directed by an Asian American woman.
So I'd say it's a mixed bag on the adoption front. Yes, adoptive parents who want to downplay the importance of birth parents get a message that allows them to do that. But there's a price to pay to get that message -- the movie's frank talk of birth parents and Po's questions about his will, as Maya put it, "make adopted kids ask questions." The girls enjoyed the movie while watching it -- Zoe said it was much better than the first movie. But afterwards, she said it made her sad because it made her think about her birth parents and she wanted to spend time alone in her room afterwards. And, it really opened the floodgates for Maya, who doesn't often want to talk about her birth parents. She had lots of questions, and needed a lengthy "cry and cuddle," which Zoe later joined us in. I expect we'll see more processing in the days to come, but they both say they want to see the movie again!