Though the green-skinned ogre is undoubtedly more popular, the Kung Fu Panda movies are actually much better than Shrek. Dreamworks have proved themselves one of the titans of modern animation, perhaps second only to Pixar. Over the years, the studio has undoubtedly found massive success with its movies.
2001 saw Dreamworks hit it big with Shrek. Following the titular ogre and his talking donkey friend as they set out on a heroic quest to save a princess, Shrek was a huge success. It spawned several sequels and spin-offs, establishing a massive franchise for Dreamworks.
In 2008, Dreamworks released Kung Fu Panda, an animated wuxia movie following anthropomorphic animals who live in a fantasy world based on ancient China. The films follow Po, a panda with a huge appetite, as he unexpectedly discovers that he is the fabled Dragon Warrior, an all-powerful hero who is prophesized to bring peace to the land. Although Kung Fu Panda‘s overweight protagonist didn’t quite prove as popular as Shrek, his movies actually deliver a much better message to their young audience.
How Kung Fu Panda Delivers A Much Better Message Than Shrek
Shrek contains an unexpected love story that touches on themes of inner beauty. Ultimately, the message it sends is that there’s someone out there for everyone. According to Shrek, someone will always love you exactly the way you are. Even if the way you are is a disgusting, grumpy, smelly ogre. Pretty sweet, right? Well, yes… and no. Well-intentioned though it may be, it’s not necessarily true. Really, it’s kind of a terrible message for a movie to send.
Kung Fu Panda, on the hand, has a much less problematic message to its young audience. Po’s journey is ultimately one of self-acceptance. Despite finding kung fu difficult and not fitting the typical image of a hero, he learns that accepting himself is the key to his power. This is something that’s actually much more helpful to impressionable viewers, and doesn’t offer potentially false hope.
Of course, that particular interpretation should be taken with a grain of salt. However, Shrek’s character is written to be generally unpleasant (for comic effect, admittedly), which further feeds into its troubling message. As Kung Fu Panda shows Po struggling with body image issues and low self-esteem, it actually demonstrates more relatable problems for younger viewers. Either way, giving genuinely sound advice is only part of Kung Fu Panda‘s charm: it’s also a movie about animals who do martial arts, which is objectively way cooler than an ogre and a talking donkey.