Giant Panda Cub Named
Kung Fu Panda's Po now has namesake
Hollywood came to Zoo Atlanta recently for the naming of the zoo's newest giant panda cub. Actor Jack Black, the voice and inspiration for Po of the Kung Fu Panda movies, was on hand to hand over that name to a 100-day-old giant panda cub.
A Chinese tradition is to name babies 100 days after birth, and it's no different when it comes to pandas. When a newborn giant panda cub was born in Zoo Atlanta on November 3, 2010, the date was set for the naming ceremony: February 15, 2011.
With a bow to its Hollywood partners, the ceremonies included a red carpet and live entertainment. Local elected officials joined a group of around 200 children from local elementary schools to hear the unveiling of the new cub's name. The kids all wore panda suits and hats.
The cub had grown quickly from the size of a cell phone at birth to the size of a human toddler. The cub recently took its first steps, so it was not ready for public viewing. Cameras were allowed in the nursery, however, as Black got to meet his creation's namesake face to face.
"It was a very cool moment for me," Black told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. "It was long overdue that I spent some time with one in the flesh, since I play one in the movies."
The ceremony began with traditional Chinese dancing along with lion dancing. Chinese lions are larger-than-life puppets in bright colors. (They look more like dragons. Black actually called one of the lions a dragon during the naming ceremony.)
Zoo Atlanta CEO and President Raymond King welcomed everyone and explained the importance of the cub.
"A panda cub being born is an ambassador for his species and so they really are important to us," he said. "We have made significant contributions here at Zoo Atlanta to panda conservation."
Nathan Deal, the newly elected governor of Georgia, attended the ceremony. Deal commended Zoo Atlanta and its panda preservation efforts.
Finally, the big moment came. Running onto the stage in a gray Kung Fu Panda 2 hoodie, jeans, and red sneakers, Black took a red envelope from the mouth of the dancing lion amidst laughter and applause. Black opened the envelope as if he were announcing the winner of an Academy Award and proclaimed, "This is it, this is the name. On February 15, 2011, giant panda cub born November 3, 2010 is officially named Po!"
Beside Black a huge puppet panda Po grinned from ear to ear. Black told him humorously, "Did you hear that Po? There's a new Po in town." Black then unleashed some kung fu moves and danced across the stage as the crowd cheered him on.
Black told this reporter that naming the panda after his movie character is a tribute. He finds new responsibility in looking after the panda in what he calls "joint custody" of the panda with its mother Lun Lun.
"It means we did a good job," he said. "We did such a good job that they wanted to name a panda after our movie panda."
Kung Fu Panda 2 will be in theaters May 26. The real live Po will continue to grow and get ready for his own public debut at Zoo Atlanta, which should be in late March or early April.
Check out video of the naming ceremony and watch an interview with Black and the panda's caregivers!
And head over to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps Blog where Kid Reporter Andrew Liang blogs about his experience interviewing actor Jack Black.
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