After 2010's Shrek Forever After, a film conveniently appended with an alternate title of The Final Chapter, it appeared that audiences had seen the last of the titular grumpy ogre and his countless fairy tale-fueled screen adventures; in the intervening four years, there's been nary a hint that animation giant DreamWorks has any interest in pursuing additional entries in the Shrek franchise, despite the box office take for 2011 spin-off, Puss in Boots reaching $555 million worldwide. Still, for all intents and purposes, it looked like the studio had finished telling Shrek's story.
But it turns out that DreamWorks may have simply been taking a break from Shrek, because CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg seems quite certain that we haven't heard the last from the series just yet. In point of fact, there may be a fifth film coming down the pipeline, though he chose to keep mum on whether it's coming sooner rather than later. Turns out that the fourth movie's subtitle wasn't really set in stone after all.
Katzenberg's comments cropped up in an interview he did with the Fox Business Network; while the discussion won't be published in full until later today, Variety was able to break the news yesterday. For those imagining anything meatier than what's outlined above, adjust your expectations; for the time being, Katzenberg's words offer little more than potential for the continuance of the Shrek juggernaut, though given his position in DreamWorks' hierarchy, it's reasonable to take him at his word. For posterity, here's Katzenberg's full quote from the piece:
We like to let them have a little bit of time to rest, but I think you can be confident that we’ll have another chapter in the Shrek series. We’re not finished, and more importantly, neither is he.
A quick glance at the release pattern for Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever After does show a three year gap between each entry in the franchise; four years isn't that far off, though if DreamWorks is serious about picking up where they left off in 2010, viewers are quite possibly looking at another year and change before Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, their various broods, and their countless magical, enchanted compadres pop up in theaters again (though of course this is all speculative in nature).
So we have a promise from Katzenberg that there's more narrative to squeeze out of the Shrek saga, but all of this leaves a lingering question: why the long wait? It's possible that the answer circles back around to matters of commercial success; Puss in Boots and Shrek Forever After performed very well around the world, though at the same time both of those films (along with Shrek the Third) signaled a downturn in global revenue (read: interest) after the second installment. The diminishing returns could be a big part of what's kept Shrek off the silver screen for close to half a decade at this point.
If that's the case, then it's on DreamWorks to draw crowds back to see the character's antics begin anew. Perhaps they've learned their lesson with recycling plot elements and themes; perhaps they have a fresh narrative angle. For now, all we can do is imagine what's in store for Shrek going forward (assuming that DreamWorks actually gets a new film off the ground), though if nothing else, it's likely that we'll see the original cast members - Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy - reprise their roles (not to mention, copious out of place pop culture references). But to what end? We'll have to wait for further word from Katzenberg to find out.
We'll keep you up to date on developments with DreamWorks' new Shrek film as they become available.