What Kind Of Animal Is Master Shifu? Why Some Kung Fu Panda Fans May Be Confused

Master Shifu being a red panda is confirmed in “The Art of Kung Fu Panda” book, written by Tracey Miller-Zarneke, and there’s a very particular reason why he was made to be that animal. The section on Master Shifu states, “Early in the story development process, Shifu was also Po’s adoptive father. This relationship was the reason for casting him as a red panda in the first place.” It’s not mentioned why the change was made, but on the bright side, that change paved the way for Mr. Ping (James Hong). No doubt, at some point, someone thought it would be amusing for a tiny red panda to raise a giant panda. 

The book also shows how Shifu could’ve looked a bit different. Some of the artwork shows Shifu with a long, white beard and a much more pronounced hump on his back. It also comes up in the art book that Shifu was initially intended to be much older, but aging him down a bit allowed the team to give him a more physically active part. 

Between design changes and scrapped familial connections, Master Shifu went through a lot before finally arriving on the big screen. But if you didn’t know Shifu was a red panda, don’t feel too bad. In a 2016 interview with “Today,” Dustin Hoffman discussed his character from the “Kung Fu Panda” movies and asked, “Is it a raccoon?” The third “Kung Fu Panda” movie came out in 2016, meaning it took quite a while for Hoffman to have that revelation.

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