Animated Movies, DreamWorks, News, Reviews

DreamWorks Animation Countdown 5: ‘Shrek’

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Shrek_2001_DreamWorks_Animation

Shrek is both like every Disney animated movie you’ve seen and unlike every Disney animated movie you’ve ever seen. The film is very loosely based on a children’s book by William Steig, but it takes most of its storytelling cues from Rapunzel and Beauty and the Beast, and it’s chock-full of cameos and references to those stories and so many others. Shrek is a fairy tale, but it’s also a spoof of a fairy tale because it plays on so many of tropes of that genre.

Speaking of tropes, it’s fascinating to see how many aspects of Shrek have influenced other animated films, from the tone and style of the comedy to the jam-packed soundtrack and contemporary musical number finale. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t hear “I’m a Believer” and not think of Shrek. It’s pretty much impossible.)

The cast of Shrek is one of the greatest ensemble casts, if not the greatest ensemble cast, of any animated film I’ve ever seen. If it weren’t for the talent of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy, I don’t think the film, nor its sequels for that matter, would resonate with audiences so much — and while you could argue that the cast is one of the only redeeming qualities of some of the sequels, the same really couldn’t be said for the first film, which succeeds on multiple levels. It’s original, well-paced, and packed with humor, action, and emotion.

The animation in Shrek was, for its time, groundbreaking — sure, Pixar had already cornered the market on CG animation by this time, and DreamWorks Animation had already dipped its toe into those waters with Antz, but I think DreamWorks Animation did something different, and nothing short of remarkable, with Shrek. The style of animation is more realistic, and while it’s still appropriate for children, the humor is more cynical and mature than, say, Toy Story. It may not have been DreamWorks Animation’s first film, but Shrek is definitely the film that solidified the studio as a competitive force in animation, particularly CG animation. It paved the way for the future of the studio and for the medium of animation itself.

Sixteen years later, Shrek holds up incredibly well. Sure, the animation isn’t on the level of what we’re used to seeing now, but it’s by no means something that would distract from your enjoyment of the film. The franchise may have lost some steam (and good grace) as it went on, but taken on its own Shrek remains a fantastic film and a strong second entry into the realm of CG animation for DreamWorks Animation.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Angelo Thomas

Angelo Thomas is a screenwriter, aspiring filmmaker, and pop culture enthusiast. In addition to writing for Rotoscopers, he writes for The Royal Blog of Oz and guest hosts The Royal Podcast of Oz. Angelo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently studying Film & Video in Columbus, Ohio at the Columbus College of Art & Design, where he has also worked as an assistant in Marketing & Communications. His favorite film of all time is The Wizard of Oz, which has influenced much of his personal and professional work. In terms of his love for animation, Tangled and Frozen aren't just great animated films in his opinion — they're some of the best films ever made. Angelo is always prepared to give and defend his opinions when it comes to film and animation, which he often does on social media. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr @imangelothomas.
  • Dante Panora

    While I do love this movie, I can kind of understand why some animation fans today resent it. Almost every major theatrical animated film these days has to follow the sheep formula in some way. CGI, star cast, largely comedic, and the two or more friends on a journey who don’t get along but come to like each other.

    I guess I can say that it’s more Hollywood’s fault for not wanting to change formulas that much. Not everything that glitters is gold.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I don’t mind the formula as long as it is used wisely.

  • Manuel Orozco

    I prefer the second installment over the others! Nonetheless, Shrek is a hilarious and surprisingly beautiful film that puts it’s own spin on the fairy tale elements we know and love. From the amazing voice ensemble to the haunting musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams, this original has set the standards that animated films and parody entertainment beyond 2001 had to be measured by.

  • ……….AND THEN I SAW HER FACE!!!!!

    • Angelo Thomas

      NOW I’M A BELIEVER!

  • Karl “Karlamon” Smith

    It’s so refreshing to read something Shrek-related with any mention of the dank memes our Ogrelord has become subject to. Nicely-written review. 🙂

    • Angelo Thomas

      Thank you!

  • Awww thinking about this movie instantly brings me back to childhood, my family and I were HOOKED on Shrek for the longest time!! And even after years later I still love watching the first and second Shrek’s so much, its just so much fun!! Awesome review with great points! 😀

    • Angelo Thomas

      Thanks!

  • Dan Siciliano

    Ah, the original “Shrek” itself. I remembered when I first saw it when it first came out and, to be honest, I didn’t quite get what was going on. But now that I saw it on DVD and still keep the DVD, I appreciate what was good about this movie. And thank goodness for it being the first Best Animated Feature win at the Oscars.

  • Good old Shrek, the movie that made put Dreamworks right up there with Pixar
    and Disney in terms of the box office. All these years later, it still holds up, as well
    as all the comedy, making fun of Disney fairy tales while still having heart. Out of
    all the Shrek films, this was the best IMO. Not my favorite DW film, but still great.

  • I like this film a lot, as it is very nostalgic to me, and the small cast REALLY benefits the movie. It’s just that after every time I watch it, it ages more and more in regards to the animation and dialogue.

  • Fadi Antwan

    Say what you will but the first two Shrek movies are American treasures!

    • Angelo Thomas

      Yes!

  • Alex Beezley

    While I don’t think that this film deserves to be on the AFI list of the top 10 animated films ever made, it is a good, borderline great, film, and one of DreamWorks Animation’s strongest efforts. The animation still holds up today, the characters are likable, and there are some genuinely moving scenes which tend to be glossed over in discussions about this film. It’s not perfect, but it still holds up well after 16 years.

    • Manuel Orozco

      What do you think should be in that top 10?

      • Alex Beezley

        These are my 10 favorite animated films:

        1. Toy Story
        2. Up
        3. The Lion King
        4. Grave of the Fireflies
        5. Beauty and the Beast
        6. Chicken Run
        7. Lady and the Tramp
        8. Aladdin
        9. Coraline
        10. Pinnochio

        • Manuel Orozco

          Never seen Graves of the Fireflies

  • Trev

    Shrek will always be a nostalgic favorite movie of mine, but I will admit that the movie did not age very well.

    For one, the movie is filled with lots of pop culture references and jokes that are very dated now (i.e. The Matrix and the Macarena).

    And while the whole subversion of fairy tales felt fresh at the time, it has been done again so many times that it lost some of its charms.

    Not to mention that that all of those subversive jokes were targeted at Disney (by way of Dreamworks producer and former Disney producer Jeffrey Katzenberg). At the time, that seemed really ballsy. But now it just all seems so petty.

    But I do like that boulder. That is a NICE boulder.