Shrek Vs. Kung Fu Panda: Which Is The Better Animated Movie Franchise

Shrek and Kung Fu Panda
(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

I was born in 1983, so I was 18 when the first Shrek came out, and 25 when the first Kung Fu Panda debuted. 

So, while I was definitely there when both the Shrek movies, and the Kung Fu Panda movies became megahits, I can also say that they probably didn't hit me the same way as somebody who was born in, say, 1993 who may have grown up with either Shrek or Po.

I only bring this up just to show that I can discuss both of these film series with as little bias as possible, as I didn't grow up with either of them, and don't have the same emotional attachment as some other people might have. So, which is the better overall animated series? Well, you're about to find out. 


Po in Kung Fu Panda.

(Image credit: Dreamworks)

Overall Story 

Every series needs an overall storyline that ties the franchise together. So, which series has the better one? 

Shrek’s Overall Story 

Over the course of Shrek’s four main movies, an ogre (voiced by the unforgettable Mike Myers) goes on a series of adventures with some oddball characters, like a donkey, a dragon, etc. Besides the first movie, the subsequent films really have pretty interchangeable plots.  

One movie sees Shrek’s marriage in peril, while another sees him living the life of a dad and wishing he could go back to his old life again. But, if you were to ask me which one is which, I honestly couldn’t tell you without looking online. Really, it was always the jokes (some of them pretty risqué) that made Shrek stand out. Not so much the plots themselves.  

Kung Fu Panda’s Overall Story 

A panda who loves martial arts learns kung fu and faces various challenges. Over the course of three films, we see Po (voiced by Jack Black in one of his best movies) face off against a snow-leopard, a peacock, and a yak, and they’re all pretty distinct and interesting foes.    

Overall Story Winner - Kung Fu Panda  

Kung Fu Panda follows the KISS method by keeping it simple, stupid, and just having a new challenger show up for each movie, whereas the Shrek series always seemed to struggle with coming up with new ideas for the character. So, Po wins!  

Jack Black's Po in 2008's Kung Fu Panda

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Main Character 

Every series needs an interesting main character, so which series has the better protagonist? 

Shrek’s Main Character 

To be honest with you, Shrek was always kind of the most annoying character in his own universe, which might be why memes of him are so prevalent. Myers definitely gave him warmth and heart, but I feel like a lot of people used to love all of the inhabitants of Far Far Away more than Shrek himself. 

Kung Fu Panda’s Main Character  

Po is an absolute delight of a character, and the series wouldn’t be the same without him. From the very first scene in the first movie where we hear Black explaining how awesome he is, we love Po. Even when he’s the Dragon Warrior, we still get a sense that he’s not completely confident in himself, which makes him lovably flawed. Who doesn’t love Po? 

The Main Character Winner – Kung Fu Panda 

I know Shrek is love, Shrek is life, but he’s also super annoying, and I kind of hate thinking about him these days. I know there’s talk of a possible Shrek 5, but honestly, all I really want to see is more of the world that he inhabits. Not so much the ogre himself. That said, I definitely want to see Kung Fu Panda 4 , which I KNOW we’re getting, and it’s mostly because I want to see more of Po, so, yeah. Kung Fu Panda wins this category, too.       

Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda.

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

First Movie 

When it comes to a series, the first movie is crucial for establishing tone, setting, themes, characters, etc. So, which franchise has the better first movie?  

Shrek’s First Movie 

Shrek just wants to be left alone in his swamp. But, when Lord Farquaad (which I still, to this day, can’t believe they got away with in a children’s movie) starts kicking people out, Shrek makes a deal with him to rescue the princess so he can have his swamp back. He ends up falling in love with the princess, though, and she has a major secret…she’s an ogre herself!   

Kung Fu’s Panda’s First Movie 

There is word that there's going to be a new Dragon Warrior, and Po, the kung fu enthusiast, just wants to simply watch the coronation. But, when he learns that HE’S the Dragon Warrior, he has to learn to believe in himself because an old nemesis of his teacher's is coming to town, and Po needs to be ready to face him. 

First Movie Winner - Kung Fu Panda 

While the first Shrek is definitely still watchable, it’s not as engaging as Kung Fu Panda, which has heart and humor to spare.  

Mike Myers and Justin Timberlake in Shrek The Third

(Image credit: Dreamworks)


Every franchise needs sequels, so which franchise has the better ones? 

Shrek’s sequels  

I mentioned earlier how I can’t tell the Shrek’s apart, but this is actually in the franchise's favor, since I can simply tune in to any one of them and just start watching, because none of them really feel like they matter all that much.  

They’re all pretty silly, have pop culture references which haven’t really aged all that well, and Shrek will make out fine in the end. Eddie Murphy has already weighed in on whether he’ll come back for a Shrek 5, but honestly, even if he doesn’t, I don’t think it would make much of a difference.   

The world itself is so inventive and alive, that they could probably just create some new annoying animal character, and it would work out just as well. I mean, I know this makes it seem like I don’t like the Shrek series, but I actually do. The world is unique and distinct, even if the sequels are not.  

Kung Fu Panda’s Sequels 

There are two sequels to the original Kung Fu Panda, but unfortunately, neither of them are as good as the original, which just seemed to get everything right. An issue with this, though, is that both movies are very distinct, so they each stand out as being inferior to the first movie, unfortunately. 

The Sequels Winner - Shrek  

Sure, none of the Shrek sequels are all that memorable, but they still work in the series favor, as you could just turn one on and at least have a good time without thinking about how far the franchise has fallen. So, Shrek wins this category.  

Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers in Shrek 2

(Image credit: Dreamworks)

Cultural Impact 

Sure, having a popular series is great and all, but cultural impact is where it really matters. So, which animated series has really captured the zeitgeist? 

Shrek’s Cultural Impact 

It’s actually quite fascinating to me how Shrek has stuck around for all these years. Today, it's highly memeable, and a lot of times, people seem to make fun of both the films themselves, and also the early 2000s. 

That said, I still see talk of it all the time on the internet. Most of it is ironic, but some of it is people actually reminiscing about the films, as it made a major mark on their childhoods. So, it definitely has that going for it.  

Kung Fu Panda’s Cultural Impact 

Kung Fu Panda hasn’t disappeared, either, and I may even see more of Po and the Furious Five than Shrek because there is a show and specials for the franchise. That said, I don’t consider that the same thing as what Shrek has going for it. 

Yes, I make fun of it, as a lot of people do. But, if another entry WERE to come out, I think a lot of people would watch it. This isn’t Morbius, where people on the internet just like making fun of it. 

If anything, I think Shrek is more like Avatar, where you might not think people are serious about liking it, but then they show up in droves and make it a huge box office success like Avatar: The Way of Water. I’m not saying that a Shrek 5 would climb the charts like an Avatar, but I think the culture impact is much stronger for those movies than it is for Kung Fu Panda. For some reason, Shrek is an icon!  

The Cultural Impact Winner - Shrek 

The Kung Fu Panda movies might be better told stories, but Shrek, as a character, is still massive for some reason, whereas Po isn't so much.  

The Overall Winner - Kung Fu Panda 

The quality of the Kung Fu Panda movies is what puts them over Shrek, but Shrek’s street cred is undeniable. Like Ron Burgundy, Shrek is kind of a big deal.  

For more news on both franchises, make sure to swing by here often.  

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.