While many films aimed primarily at a younger audience often feature "two-level" jokes - that is, funny parts that are intended to work on one level for children and a different level for adults - it's long been argued that no films contain more adult-oriented jokes than the DreamWorks kids movies. Since they first started making feature-length films 20 years ago, many accusations have come that the DreamWorks more mature jokes in their movies are too adult-oriented and are actually inappropriate, given the age level of the younger target audience.
Many people who first saw the movies when they were kids are now grown-up, so it bears taking a look back to see if what was missed as a child may actually be in poor taste, or are just comedic on a different level now. Below are 18 prime examples of these jokes in DreamWorks films.
18 Kitty's Stash, Shrek 2
The Shrek films have long been a cornerstone of the DreamWorks animated empire, with four feature films already (a fifth one is due to arrive in 2019), plus a slew of short films, spin-offs, and TV specials to boot. The titular green ogre and his friends have been through quite a few crazy on-screen adventures.
In the sequel Shrek 2, the adorable character Puss in Boots is with Shrek when they all get arrested by the local authorities. When Puss is thrown against the wall, a small bag of catnip falls out of his boot. In a very-guilty manner, he says "that's, uh, not mine." In another DreamWorks film, Puss in Boots, the feline gets caught again with catnip and nervously says "it's for my glaucoma," making the second substance-related reference for the character. Starting to see a pattern with this cat?
17 Hidden Language, Madagascar
Madagascar is a very unique kids film about four very different animals – a lion, a hippo, a zebra, and a giraffe – who escape from a zoo and attempt to make their way to the wild. Along the way, the cargo ship on which the animals are being transported runs aground on the titular island and the animals are freed from their shipping containers.
Marty the Zebra is reunited with Alex the Lion on the beach, but as they run towards each other in classic-movie slow motion, Marty realizes that Alex is actually upset with him, as Alex believes its Marty’s fault they were shipped away in the first place, As Marty turns to run away from Alex, he says "oh, Sugar Honey Iced Tea" – one look at the initials of the words he has spoken gives a clear picture of one of the several well-hidden mature jokes in the film.
16 Kissing Session, The Road to El Dorado
This 2000 DreamWorks film was widely anticipated upon its release, but failed to connect with audiences and became a financial flop when it wasn’t able to make its budget back in box office receipts. The film follows two explorers/con artists in the 1500s who end up in the “New World” and are mistaken as gods by the inhabitants of the fabled city of El Dorado. This plot setup allows for some very mature-ish situations to arise.
One of the most prominent instances is during a scene where explorer Tulio expresses his feelings for native beauty Chel. They begin a makeout session off-screen; when they are interrupted by the arrival of another native warrior, the “kissing” comes to an abrupt end. The duo’s heads pop up from the bottom of the screen, but Chel’s head comes up from a much lower area than Tulio's. Add to this that the sounds being made are not so much "kissing" sounds and little is left to the imagination about what the pair was really doing.
15 Snow White’s Moral Character, Shrek
Here’s another “two-level” joke from the Shrek franchise, this one coming directly from the first film in the series. As the evil Lord Farquaad tries to find the love of his live, the enchanted Magic Mirror shows him a few potential fairy-tale options, in a very game-show/Bachelor type of setup. As the Mirror introduces Snow White, it says "even though she lives with 7 men, she's not easy." The meaning of the joke is fairly obvious to older viewers, but might've just flown over the head of youngsters in the theater. The line is replete with the classic “rimshot” drum sound, indicating clearly that there’s a deeper adult meaning here than just a simple joke for kids.
14 How Armadillos Have Babies, The Road to El Dorado
Another instance of a joke that likely went over the heads of many kids but was designed for a more adult setting, The Road to El Dorado featured a quick moment that may have triggered some kids to ask their parents a question that required a delicate response.
In the opening credits of the movie, as Elton John sings the theme song and the camera pans through an animated jungle setting, two armadillos jump into a bush, the bush shakes vigorously for about five seconds, then the armadillos jump out with a bunch of baby armadillos. To anyone over the age of 9, it's obvious what happened and how those babies came to be.
13 A Pact, Bee Movie
In 2007, DreamWorks released Bee Movie, a quirky animated comedy about Barry, a honey bee who sues the human race for exploiting bees by stealing and selling their honey. Starring the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, and John Goodman, the movie was fairly “high profile” for an animated tale aimed at kids.
It’s not all fun and games, though; at one point in the film, Barry and his human florist friend Vanessa have gotten in trouble with their respective specie, and they think their prospects aren’t looking too good. The duo decides to make a pact to both end their lives, even though their hastily-thrown-together plan would only kill Barry and just slightly injure Vanessa (“I sting you, [then] you step on me,” Barry opines before Vanessa reminds him “that just [gets] you twice”). Quite dark for a kids movie!
12 Welcome to Duloc, Shrek
Back to the tent-pole DreamWorks franchise! The first Shrek film featured a moment where Shrek and Donkey arrived in the town of Duloc, and they were greeting by a small animatronic display that explained the rules of the town in song and dance. A grouping of the little robotic characters sing “please keep off the grass, shine your shoes, wipe your... face” as they turn around and show their butts at the same time. The little robots were clearly asking for a different body part to be wiped and it’s very likely that many kids made the crappy connection. Even if the kids didn't make the connection, it was a really catchy little jingle!
11 Cursing, Antz
One of the more polarizing films to come out of DreamWorks in its early days of creating childrens movies was 1998’s Antz. This is actually DreamWorks’ first full-length animated film and only the second movie in history to feature full computer animation. It features an all-star lineup of Hollywood voice talent, including Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, and Gene Hackman.
Being the first theatrical release from the company, it’s understandable that DreamWorks was still trying to “find their way” a bit at the time, in terms of what kind of content they wanted to produce. The film actually received mostly positive reviews from critics, but many parents were displeased with the content of the film, which featured lots of profanity and the main character, Z, telling fellow ant Princess Bala that she's “sensual” and he was going to make her “part of my fantasies.”
10 Cousin Love, Bee Movie
With its second entry on the list, Bee Movie proves that it had quite a few jokes that were intended for a more adult audience – and the debate on how appropriate these jokes are remains an avid one. Sprinkled throughout the entire film are multiple references that Barry Bee and other bees in his hive mention the fact that, by nature of the reproductive process of a queen bee, all the bees in his have are related to each other (“cousins,” as Barry himself states). While this in and of itself isn’t necessarily inappropriate, there are several jokes about the bees wanting to “hook up” with one another, even though they know that they are all related. I guess cousin love isn’t that big of a deal when you’ve got a lack of options.
9 Chauvinistic Males, Small Soldiers
Another film from the early days of DreamWorks’ big-screen productions, Small Soldiers released in 1998 with a marketing campaign aimed heavily towards kids, even though the movie garnered a PG-13 rating. Featuring a fairly aggressive storyline about two warring factions of sentient toys and the humans that inadvertently get caught in the middle, the film is a blend of live-action and computer animation, and brought its voice cast almost directly from two other films, The Dirty Dozen and This is Spinal Tap.
One of the toy factions, the titular soldiers, are the “good guys” in the fight with their monstrous enemies, the Gorgonites. The group of Commando Elite soldiers, however, are hyper-aggressive in their desire to kill and “destroy the Gorgonite scum.” In addition, during one scene they meet the Barbie-esque Gwendy dolls; the soldiers cat-call and wolf-whistle the female dolls and make comments about them being “fully pose-able." Gross.
8 Farquaad’s “Alone Time,” Shrek
As this list has established, the Shrek franchise is no stranger to making adult jokes, particularly when it comes to their primary villainous foil, the diminutive Lord Farquaad. In the original film of the series, Farquaad is in his bedroom along with the Magic Mirror, asking the Mirror to show him the lovely Princess Fiona. Farquaad is in bed and when he sees the picture of the princess, he literally looks under the covers at and then rolls over to do – well, whatever fictional short despot rulers do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, I suppose. They're obviously insinuating that he's doing something with his personal time and to anyone who's hit puberty, it's fairly obvious.
7 Gambling and Gold-Digging, Shark Tale
A 2004 film, Shark Tale was one of several examples of DreamWorks and rival animation studio Disney/Pixar working on films with similar themes being released in theaters near to one another. Finding Nemo had just come out the year before and DreamWorks had hoped that this film, starring the voice talents of Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, and Martin Scorsese, would prove just as popular.
Shark Tale, however, featured much more “adult content” than the Nemo movies ever would. The film’s main character, Oscar, glorifies gambling as a way to fix his problems – trouble that he gets into only after falsely claiming to have eliminated the son of a shark mob boss. The film’s love interest, Lola, says in no uncertain terms that she only likes Oscar because she thinks he's rich and the song “Gold Digger” (the lesser-known Ludacris version) plays during her weirdly provocative introduction.
6 The Wrong Way To Wake Someone, Shrek the Third
Back to this oft-visited film franchise on our list, the Shrek series likely offers more adult jokes sprinkled throughout the films than any other DreamWorks movie. In this particular scene from the third Shrek feature film, Donkey wakes up Shrek up by yanking off his covers. In doing so, however, Donkey reveals Shrek’s naked body and feet, with the midsection fortuitously covered by the angle of the camera. To add to the awkwardness, Donkey looks up towards Shrek’s midsection and says “we need to get you some jammies.” Thankfully, we didn't get a point of view shot from Donkey's view, as we likely would've got a lot more than we bargained for.
5 An Interesting Label, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Wallace & Gromit franchise is a long-standing collection of TV episodes and feature films that utilize motion-capture Claymation to create truly unique-looking stories on screen. Created in Britain in the 1980s, the series boasts three short films that have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s clear that the franchise’s stories appeal to the masses, both young and old.
In the DreamWorks-produced feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the signature DreamWorks propensity for sneaking inappropriate jokes into their movies reared its head. In a scene where Wallace ends up bare, his body is covered with a cardboard box and a label on the box prominently reads “May Contain Nuts.” It’s a fairly innocuous joke, but for a series like Wallace & Gromit that doesn’t usually take these kinds of risks, it’s a fairly bold move.
4 Robin Hood Loves The Ladies, Shrek
Back to the original entry in the Shrek franchise: there is a scene in the first Shrek film where classic fairy tale character Robin Hood swoops in to “rescue” Princess Fiona from the titular ogre, before realizing that she isn’t really in any trouble at all. During the obligatory introductory song, Robin Hood sings the line “I light an honest fight and a saucy little maid!” His Merry Men follow-up by singing “what he's saying is, he likes to get—” before Robin interrupts them and says “PAID!” The innuendo here is clear and it’s another point in the litany of Shrek jokes that some think are inappropriate for a children’s film.
3 The Cat Is Awkward, The Cat in the Hat
Based on the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book of the same name, The Cat in the Hat was distributed in the United States by Universal Pictures, but DreamWorks handled all of the film’s international distribution. The reception of the film was extremely hit-and-miss with critics and audiences alike, so much so that Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, refused to allow any further live-film adaptations of her late husband’s work.
Much of the inappropriate content revolved around Mike Myers and his portrayal of the titular Cat. In one memorable scene, the Cat is in a garden holding a hoe; he yells out “dirty hoe!” and drops it on the ground, then picks it up and says “I'm sorry baby, I love you.” Later, the Cat sees a picture of the Mom of the main characters and says “homina homina!” like a true cat in heat.
2 An Odd-Shaped Castle, Shrek
Our last entry from the Shrek series is one of the most blunt and straightforward “adult” jokes of the entire film series – one that likely left many kids asking their parents “what does that mean?” It takes place when Shrek & Donkey finally arrive on the outskirts of the town of Duloc and see Farquaad's castle for the first time; the giant monolith stands well above the rest of the town, and looks a lot like a particular male organ. The reference isn’t lost on anyone, even before Shrek says “do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?” If it wasn't obvious enough, Shrek made sure everyone, even most kids, knew exactly what that castle was made to look like. Maybe they should've tried some subtlety?
1 Holy Ship!, The Road to El Dorado
The third entry on this list from The Road to El Dorado is a fairly straightforward two-level joke, one that likely had kids and parents laughing for two different reasons. Once they thought about it, however, many parents probably quickly turned to wondering whether their children might have actually know why the joke exists, from a vulgarity standpoint.
As far as jokes go, it’s a pretty cheap one: Tulio and Miguel, the Spanish explorers, are in a small rowboat when they see a large boat bearing down on them him. Tulio looks up and says “Holy ship!” and, as you might imagine, it sounds a lot like he says something else.
What other inappropriate moments in DreamWorks films did we miss? Add the moments you know of to our comments section and let us know!