When it comes to cartoon characters that are based on animals, it’s usually easy for viewers to recognize whether it’s based on an actual animal or a fictional one. However, there are also edge cases that make people wonder exactly what kind of animal served as the inspiration. Here are 5 of the most notable examples:
#5 Kung Fu Panda’s Tai Lung
This powerful but horribly misguided villain from Kung Fu Panda is frequently mistaken for a tiger or a jaguar. The confusion is understandable, because the true inspiration for Tai Lung is an animal that isn’t as common: a Snow Leopard.
Snow Leopards are not as recognizable as its closest living relative, the Tiger, because it is mostly found in the snowy mountains of Central Asia.
There’s also another reason why Tai Lung is based on a Snow Leopard – the big cat is one of the few natural predators of the Giant Panda, making him a natural enemy to Po.
#4 Lion King’s Rafiki
Most fans of the Lion King franchise classify the shaman/royal advisor Rafiki as a Baboon, mainly because he does have the long tail and large mane of a baboon, plus the fact that Rafiki has referred to himself as one during a certain part of the film.
However, the truth is that Rafiki doesn’t really belong to any real animal species. This is because he does have the aforementioned parts of a baboon, but his colorful nose, cheeks, and buttocks are based on a Mandrill. Further adding to the mixup is the fact that mandrills are native to the jungles of western Africa – a far cry from the open plains of The Lion King’s “Pridelands,” which is supposed to look like it’s somewhere in the Serengeti.
#3 Kung Fu Panda’s Shifu
Po’s wise and strict martial arts master Shifu is frequently misclassified as by fans as a raccoon, a fox, or a mouse. The truth is that Shifu, like Tai Lung, is based on an animal that is relevant to Pandas. Po’s master is an Ailurus fulgens, or more commonly known as Red Panda.
But don’t let the names fool you into thinking that Po and Shifu are closely-related species in anything but name. Genetic studies reveal that while Giant Pandas are related to bears, Red Pandas are instead more closely related to raccoons, which helps explain why they look the way they do.
#2 Kim Possible’s Rufus
Ron Stoppable’s super smart, super cute pet Rufus is an odd one. People still misclassify the character even though the show already mentions its actual species. The reason is that the name of the species itself can be misleading: Naked Molerat.
People thought Rufus is a molerat that was shaved completely clean e.g. “a molerat that is naked” but the truth is that there is an actual species named Naked Molerat (Heterocephalus glaber), which is indigenous to Africa and live in underground colonies under the rule of a queen.
#1 Mickey Mouse’s Pete
This one is not so much a misclassification but more of people just not knowing what kind of animal Pete is supposed to be. It’s understandable given Disney’s complete disregard for consistency. After all, Mickey Mouse is a mouse that is as big as Donald Duck. They have a pet dog named Pluto who is just as big as them, and they also have a friend in Goofy, who is also a dog. So what animal is Pete based on?
A Cat, of course. What else would serve as a natural foe for the mouse protagonist? In fact, people are just forgetting that Pete actually looked more like a cat than a human during some of the early cartoons (check out Steamboat Willie), where you can see his pointy ears and long feline tail. It was only through small changes through the years that Pete became more rotund and lost some of his more feline traits outside of the pointy ears.