The Drosophila PAN GU (PNG) kinase complex regulates the developmental translation of cyclin B. cyclin B mRNA becomes unmasked during oogenesis independent of PNG activity, but PNG is required for translation from egg activation. We find that although polyadenylation of cyclin B augments translation, it is not essential, and a fully elongated poly(A) is not required for translation to proceed. In fact, changes in poly(A) tail length are not sufficient to account for PNG-mediated control of cyclin B translation and of the early embryonic cell cycles. We present evidence that PNG functions instead as an antagonist of PUMILIO-dependent translational repression. Our data argue that changes in poly(A) tail length are not a universal mechanism governing embryonic cell cycles, and that PNG-mediated derepression of translation is an important alternative mechanism in Drosophila.