‘Shrek’ turns 20: Get the behind-the-scenes facts on the iconic movie
Shrek is one of the biggest animated films of all time. A massive box office success upon its release, the movie is still beloved by young & old alike. It has spawned a number of sequels, television specials, video games, and a stage adaptation.
Shrek won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001. In 2020, the Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry, and Shrek was the first animated movie not made or produced by Disney to be selected.
It’s hard to believe Shrek turns twenty this year. It is wild that the kind-hearted but grumpy ogre that we know & love almost looked a lot different.
Alternate fairy tales
The film is based on a book of the same name by William Steig. Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book in 1991. He wanted to make a traditionally animated version in the style of Disney’s fairy tale films. Spielberg’s version would feature Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey. Production stalled and Spielberg was drawn to other projects, namely Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List which both came out in 1993.
The next attempt at bringing Shrek to the big screen was in the late nineties. Producer John H. Williams read the book with his children and believed that Shrek was a great character in search of a movie.
Nicolas Cage was offered the role but turned it down because he didn’t want to look like a gross ogre. Dreamworks moved on to Chris Farley to be the voice of Shrek in the movie. Farley recorded nearly all the dialogue for the film but he passed away before completing the project.
Myers becomes Shrek
Mike Myers ended up taking on the job after his friend Farley’s untimely death. He insisted on a full rewrite because he wanted to make the material his own instead of merely copying Farley’s interpretation. Myers originally recorded his dialogue for the movie in his normal voice but asked to re-record his lines with his infamous Scottish brogue. This decision cost the production an additional $4 million.
Myers improvised many of Shrek’s lines throughout the film. Other cast members were encouraged to improvise during their recording sessions despite the fact that they were never actually in the studio with one another.
The movie is not exactly true to the original book by William Steig. Steig’s Shrek is a brute who breathes fire and generally abuses everyone he comes in contact with. He causes chaos after being kicked out of his swamp, eventually marries a princess as ugly as he is, and they end up living scarily ever after.
Not exactly as charming & heartwarming as the 2001 movie, but the book was only thirty pages, so the film needed to be stretched out significantly.
Animating the picture book
Whereas it was originally conceived of as a traditionally animated movie, Dreamworks ultimately decided to make the film fully computer-animated. They turned to Pacific Data Images, who was producing Antz for the studio.
Shrek required some of the most sophisticated computer-assisted animation software available at the time. Complex shaders were used to control & manipulate things like hair, mud, and threads in order for them to appear more natural and realistic.
The animation team scouted real swamps to make Shrek’s home as true to life as possible. The film’s art director claims he was chased by an alligator while on one such trip. The effects team also encountered difficulty rendering the mud in the movie. As a result they claim to have taken a shower in mud to understand exactly how it would move and react.
Are you planning on rewatching Shrek? Let us know in the comments!