In 1994, former Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen & Steven Spielberg founded their own production company known as DreamWorks. They produced their first live-action films including “The Peachmaker,” (has nothing to do with the DC Comics character) “Mouse Hunt,” “Amistad,” “Small Soldiers” & “Saving Private Ryan.” The trio ventured into animation territory starting with “Antz,” “The Prince of Egypt,” “The Road to El Dorado” & “Chicken Run.” One film in particular launched DreamWorks Animation called, “Shrek.”
Development of the film commenced in 1995. Upon seeing “Toy Story,” Jeffrey wanted to replicate Pixar’s success in computer animated format. It took several months to get Shrek’s appearance right. Nicolas Cage turned down the role of Shrek. He didn’t want to voice an ogre and he had a busy schedule. Chris Farley nearly completed dialogue as the titular character, but things changed due to his tragic drug overdose. His good friend and SNL colleague, Mike Myers (one of my favorite actors) ultimately took over. In honor of his memory the animation team, Shrek’s appearance is modeled after Chris’ face. Out of respect for Chris, Mike insists DreamWorks to rework on Shrek’s characteristics without imitating the late actor. Mike went with a Scottish accent like Fat Bastard from “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” Afterwards, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz & John Lithgow signed on to voice Donkey, Fiona & Lord Farquaad. Screenwriting duo Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio (The Mask of Zorro, Aladdin) completed a final draft. A few years later, Shrek was officially distributed worldwide.
Shrek was released in 2001. (same year Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius came out) It received universal acclaim from critics, families and viewers alike. Plus, it made a bunch of money at the box office. Shrek went on to become the first animated film to win “Best Animated Feature” at The Oscars. Beating “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” & “Monsters Inc.” The film spawned a franchise including three sequels, merchandise, video games, a Broadway musical, toys and a spin-off focusing on “Puss in Boots.” Shrek became the first animated film selected by The Library of Congress. Speaking of Puss in Boots, Antonio Banderas will reprise his role as the character in a sequel titled, “The Last Wish.”
It doesn’t matter if SPOILERS are listed. We’ve all seen Shrek countless times and used as memes online. I consider Shrek is my all-time favorite DreamWorks animated series besides “Madagascar.”
Noble & Cowardly Aspects
Noble: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy & Cameron Diaz all did an excellent job for their respective voiceover performances.
Other Cast Members such as John Lithgow & Jim Cummings both did a decent job for their respective performances.
Computer Animation still holds up for a movie from 2001.
Ted Elliot & Ted Rossio wrote the script.
Chemistry between Shrek, Donkey & Fiona serves as the main highlight. As the story progresses, they become close to one another courtesy of Character Development.
Humor contains elements of visual gags, pop culture references, using contemporary music, memorable dialogue, slapstick and mocking Disney. Here’s a list of jabs.
Jabs At Disney
- Opening Scene begins with a book with The Narrator telling us the story. Suddenly, The Narrator is actually Shrek who uses the last page containing the words true love’s first kiss as toilet paper. What you’re about to see, indicates DreamWorks has a lot of middle fingers towards Disney.
- Just as Donkey is about to sing “But You Go to Have Friends,” Shrek tells him to stop.
- Lord Farquaad is based on former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.
- Duloc is a parody of Disneyland. Speaking of which, “Welcome to Duloc” is obviously a spoof of “It’s a Small World After All.”
- Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Darkwing Duck, Pete from Goofy)
- Robin Hood and his Merry Men are depicted as singing break-dancers. Also, a reference to Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
- Fiona singing to a bird, references Snow White singing to animals. Unlike the latter, the former sings a high note which causes the bird to explode.
- Pixie Dust causes Donkey to fly temporarily.
There are some jokes that went over my head as a kid. For instance, Farquaad is in bed using Magic Mirror to replay a photo of Fiona. Then, he peeks under his blanket. Another joke I didn’t get back then is when Shrek takes a look at Farquaad’s huge castle. He says this… “So do you think he’s compensating for something?” I thought it was a short joke, turns out it has something to do with a certain part of the human anatomy.
Upon rewatch, there’s some subtle clues on Fiona’s characteristics as an ogre. She licks webs on her hand, she burps loud and enjoys Shrek’s fried rats.
After Dragon eats Farquaad, Donkey quips… “Celebrity marriages don’t last long.” It also happened to Tom Cruise who was married to Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman & Katie Holmes.
Although Smash Mouth’s “All Star” is the film’s theme song, it was used in other films prior like “Mystery Men,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Digimon: The Movie” “Rat Race.” By the way, John Cleese who voiced King Harold in the second film was also in Rat Race.
Smash Mouth sings a cover of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” The original version was also used in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Mike Myers has a habit of using Smash Mouth’s music in his movies including “Austin Powers in Goldmember” & “The Cat in the Hat.” Anyway, Donkey sings I’m a Believer” with every fairy tale character having a dance party. DreamWorks is known for dance parties at the end of a movie.
If you own a DVD copy, you can watch “Sherk’s Karaoke Party” as a special treat.
Cowardly: Donkey tries to tell Shrek the truth that Fiona turns into an ogre before sunset. Shrek brushes him off thinking Fiona can’t fall in love with a beast. Then, a “We Are Done” cliche occurred. Ugh! I hate it when two people end their friendship/relationship in a buddy cop or rom-com movie. You know a pair will put aside their differences, nut up and finish what they started. I find it painfully predictable.
Despite knowing each other for less than a week, Shrek & Fiona become compatible with one another. The latter finds true love transforming her as an ogre. I know it’s an animated movie for families, but I find it unrealistic. In real life, it’ll take week or two for a pair to get know each other. Then, a relationship will be established.
The Final Verdict: B, FOR BETTER OUT THAN IN I ALWAYS SAY!
Despite two nitpicks, the first Shrek film still holds up. To this day, I consider the Shrek franchise as my favorite Dreamworks Animated franchise. If you wanna look back at the Shrek films before Puss in Boots’ sequel, don’t be shy.
One thought on “Flashback Review: Shrek”
I loved “Shrek” as well. I was actually surprised to learn that it beat “Jimmy Neutron” and “Monster’s Inc.” for an annie award. It was also intriguing that Mike Myers did a Scottish accent based of one from “Austin Powers.”
Here are some more fun facts:
Did you know that Eddie Murphy did a lot of stand-up comedy from age 19 to around his mid-20’s. I watched him on “Saturday Night Live” from the 80’s. At times, I could hear that Donkey in him. I believe that it could have contributed to him getting the part of Donkey.
Also, did you know that Alan Rickman was offered the part of Lord Farquaad, but turned it down to play Snape in “Harry Potter?” I discovered this coincidentally after reading a tweet where someone said that Snape and Farquaad got to be related (which I find really funny).
I enjoyed this review and learning more about what happened behind-the-scenes of this movie. Over 20 years later, the animation still feels strong – not to mention having the human characters look more realistic compared to those in other CG film. While many frown upon that, I admire it, because I think it takes a lot more work and extra skills, thus showing that the animaters did more than what’s standard and created something purely aesthetic (not that I have anything against distorted styles in CG animation – or any kind, like stop-motion and 2D – RIP?). Every movie, regardless of format (live-action, animated, etc.), is a ton of work. It can take years to produce those films, let alone aiming for a release date or year.