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Jack Black Reveals the Key Difference Between Po vs. Bowser

Kung Fu Panda and Super Mario Bros. Movie actor Jack Black is faced with a career question for the ages: Po or Bowser?

By Tara Bennett

For the first time in actor/musician Jack Black's 40-year career, he's had back-to-back animation feature roles blow up on a global scale. In April 2023, Black wowed gamers and mainstream audiences alike with his love-sick, yet villainous take on the iconic Nintendo character King Bowser in The Super Mario Bros. MovieThen, Black returned for his fourth theatrical appearance as Po the Dragon Warrior in Kung Fu Panda 4

RELATED: Here's Everything to Know About the Cast of Kung Fu Panda 4

Both vocal roles have introduced his talents to new generations, especially younger fans, and exposed them to his many talents including as a virtuoso singer with wicked pipes. In fact, both franchises have earned him soundtrack hits.

So, NBC Insider just had to ask Black which animated role is the most fun to play: Po the Panda or King Bowser?

Jack Black's Voiceover Talents

Jack Black as Bowser in Super Mario Bros Movie

First, let's set some context for his dilemma. Prior to Kung Fu Panda, Black had only ever voiced two other theatrical animated movie characters, Zeke the Smilodon in Ice Age (2002) and Lenny in DreamWorks Animation's Shark Tale (2004). When he was cast in the lead to voice Po the Panda in the original Kung Fu Panda (2008), Black had never top-lined an animated project before. Yet his energetic performance wowed global audiences and was a big part of why the film made more than $600 million at the box office and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Over the next 16-years, Black would then voice Po for all three theatrical sequels, and four subsequent original short films set in the Panda universe. 

As a self-professed gamer who plays for fun with his two sons, in 2022, Black leapt at the chance to voice King Bowser in the much-anticipated Illumination animated featureThe Super Mario Bros. Movie. His layered take on the blustery bad guy earned Black a prestigious Annie Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in a Feature Production. And again, he was a big part of why the film went on to make $1.3 billion in global box office. 

RELATED: Super Mario Bros. Movie Composer Says Jack Black's “Peaches" Was Pretty Much Improvised on the Fly

What also stands out with both franchises is Black's song stylings. For Kung Fu Panda (2008), Black recorded a cover of "Kung Fu Fighting" and for Kung Fu Panda 4. Meanwhile, for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Black co-wrote and sang the original Bowser power ballad, "Peaches." Just about every kid (and parent) in the world was singing that little ditty for months making it the first solo song of Black's career to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Jack Black's thoughts on Po vs. Bowser 

Jack Black recording for Kung Fu Panda 4

Right after we posed the ultimate versus question to Black, he sucked in a huge breath at the idea of being forced to choose. But then he won the day with his answer. 

"Well, right now, it's gonna definitely be Po," Black laughed as he acknowledged being in the middle of the Kung Fu Panda 4 press tour. "But look, I love both. The difference is, Bowser is this character that I put on. It's a voice that I had to find. It's much different than me. It's this big, evil monster that's fun to play. And it's fun to play a character that's not you, because you can kind of hide behind it, and do some stuff that you would never do. But Po is closer to my heart."

He added with a smile: "It's really just me. It's my soul and my spirit. I'm just being myself out there, so it's a little more personal."

Compare for yourself! You can watch Kung Fu Panda 4 on Peacock right now.

Originally published Mar 8, 2024.