You can kind of tell that The Tiger’s Apprentice is going for a Kung Fu Panda film feel with its structure, just with the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Admittedly, it stumbles a bit on that, given how most of the Zodiac Furious Five (or rather, Terrific Twelve) don’t even appear for much of the film. Oh well, at least there’s a cute tiger and some impressive visuals in it.

The Tiger’s Apprentice: Details

The Tiger's Apprentice key art.
Now if only the film was as good as it looked.

The Tiger’s Apprentice is an upcoming animated urban fantasy adventure film. In fact actually, this is the film adaptation of the 2003 action-adventure fantasy novel of the same name by Laurence Yep (Golden Mountain Chronicles). Paramount Animation, New Republic Pictures, and Jane Startz Productions are the production companies behind this film. Paramount+ is the distributor.

Raman Hui (Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five, Monster Hunt) is the director of The Tiger’s Apprentice. David Magee and Christopher Yost both cowrote the screenplay for the film. Jane Startz, Sandra Rabins, and Bob Persichetti all co-produced this film. Wayne Wahrman is the editor for the film, while Steve Jablonsky composed the music you hear throughout the same.

Voice Cast

The Tiger’s Apprentice features the voices of Brandon Soo Hoo (Mech Cadets) as Tom Lee, Henry Golding (The Old Guard 2) as Mr. Hu, Lucy Liu (Shazam: Fury of the Gods) as Mrs. Lee, and Sandra Oh (Quiz Lady) as Mistral. On the villain’s side, we also have Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) as Loo. Other notable voice roles include Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live), Leah Lewis (Elemental), Kheng Hua Tan (Crazy Rich Asians), Sherry Cola (Joy Ride), Deborah S. Craig (Meet Cute), Jo Koy (The Monkey King), Greta Lee (Past Lives), Diana Lee Inosanto (The Mandalorian), Patrick Gallagher (Night at the Museum), and Poppy Liu (The Afterparty).

When and Where to Watch

Originally, The Tiger’s Apprentice was scheduled to have a theatrical release on February 11, 2022. As you might have noticed though, that date came and went without any such release. All due to COVID-19. The theatrical release date just kept seeing delay after delay until at last, in September 2023, the film disappeared from Paramount’s theatrical release schedule altogether.

Thus, The Tiger’s Apprentice will have its streaming debut on February 2, 2024. As you might imagine, it will be a Paramount+ exclusive, so you will need to pay for a subscription to watch this film.

The Tiger’s Apprentice: Synopsis

Is anybody else getting Spider-Man vibes from this kid’s backstory?

Alas, The Tiger’s Apprentice hasn’t had its Paramount+ debut yet. Thus, I am unable to give you a spoiler-filled plot summary like I wish to. Instead, you all will be getting the official synopsis from Paramount+. You can read that below:

Based on the popular children’s book series of the same name by Laurence Yep, THE TIGER’S APPRENTICE follows Chinese-American teenager Tom Lee (Soo Hoo), whose life changes forever when he discovers he is part of a long lineage of magical protectors known as the Guardians. With guidance from a mythical tiger named Hu (Golding), Tom trains to take on Loo (Yeoh), a force that is as powerful as a Guardian but with evil intentions to use magic to destroy humanity. To have a fighting chance against Loo, Tom must reunite all twelve Zodiac animal warriors and master his own newly discovered powers.

The Tiger’s Apprentice: The Good

The Tiger's Apprentice banner image showing Tom talking with Tiger with Dragon and Monkey looking on.
You see those Zodiac members? You’re looking at 3 out of 6 of the Zodiac who gets any kind of character exploration.

The best part of The Tiger’s Apprentice is the visuals. The CGI of this film is pretty impressive and quite pretty. The animators put a lot of effort into the animation, including Tiger’s fur and Dragon’s scales and fur/hair. We also see that animation detail go into the action scenes, resulting in some very fluid action on both sides of the morality spectrum.

I’m also going to give a shout-out to the music of The Tiger’s Apprentice. No matter how you look at it, the music is pretty easy on the ears. Kudos especially to Dragon’s theme song whenever she transforms. When you hear that woman wailing that primordial chant, you know that Dragon’s going to be kicking some ass.

And this is a minor thing, but I do like just how…cute Tiger/Mr. Hu is. Not in his human form, of course, although your mileage may vary there. No, I’m talking about his big kitty form. I love how the animators put in those little details like the way Tiger’s ears twitch, or how his tail curls around when he’s depressed. Those seemingly minor details really adds to Tiger’s character along with his personality quirks. The fact that Tiger has a fascinating character arc in which he learns to overcome his own fears and insecurities only adds to his character.

Oh, and Dragon, Rat, and Monkey are pretty likable characters as well. With the most screen time to boot.

The Tiger’s Apprentice: The Bad

The Tiger's Apprentice banner image a very angry Tiger.
That’s one kitty you don’t want to get angry.

Alas though, The Tiger’s Apprentice has numerous problems with its story. The most disconcerting for me is the fact that much of the Zodiac characters don’t actually appear for much of the film. They all get that cool action scene in the beginning, and then disappear for like 90% of the film. Thus, they get zero character exploration, let alone character development. You don’t make a film starring the Chinese Zodiac, and then have most of that Zodiac just not appear for much of the film. It’s pretty disappointing as a result, since we could’ve gotten a large cast of colorful characters, and yet we didn’t.

In fact, only Tiger, Dragon, Rat, Monkey, Rabbit, and Chicken get any kind of character exploration. And out of all of them, only a single one gets character development: Tiger. Yes, Mr. Hu is the only member of the Zodiac to get character development whatsoever. Granted, it’s great character development, but it’s disappointing to see that he’s the only one who get that development. Everyone else is kind of a static character, with Dragon on the verge of growing past that, but not quite making it. Granted, it can be hard to keep track of so many characters, but writing them out of much of the story shouldn’t be the answer.