The film, which opens Friday, follows the adventures of a young, physically challenged panda who wants to become a kung fu master rather than work in his father’s noodle restaurant.
“There are definitely striking similarities between me and Po,” Black said during recent promotional interviews in Beverly Hills along with Dustin Hoffman, who lends his voice to the kung fu master, Shifu.
“Yeah I feel like I’m panda-esque because I’m roly-poly,” Black says. “That’s the main one. But I’m also cuddly, furry, and my beard has black and white now that I’m getting older.”
But what really attracted Black to the role was the opportunity to live out his kung fu fantasies. He says he was sold on kung fu after watching Bruce Lee movies and the “Kung Fu” TV series with David Carradine.
“Kung fu seemed like the wisest of the martial arts,” says the actor, who progressed to a yellow belt when he took lessons as a youngster. “So this was my chance to explore that world a bit and get back in touch with my inner child.”
Black, who also voiced Lenny the shark in 2004’s “Shark Tale,” says that doing animated films is hard work, but he’s getting used to the process.
Hoffman, who had never before done an animated movie, says it took a while for him to get accustomed to the flow and not working with actors all the time.
“I was so glad that I had at least one day to work with Jack,” Hoffman says. “I would have loved to done the whole thing together with him. He’s a phenomenal talent. During that entire time we spent, he had me cracking up.”
Black still has people cracking up from his performance on the finale of “American Idol” in which he, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. danced as the Pips during a montage featuring old footage of Gladys Knight.
Black, Stiller and Downey star in the upcoming “Tropic Thunder,” a spoof of war films opening Aug. 15.
Having played a shark and a panda, Black says he is up for portraying more animals, particularly fast runners. He says, “I’d actually like to be a cheetah. That’s always been my favorite animal because of its speed. … The Flash is also my favorite superhero because he ran at the speed of light. I don’t know why I like the fastest of all things because I am not certainly the fastest. These days I move a lot like Po does in ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ He’s motivated by food and so am I. We really do have a lot in common.”