It’s been almost two decades since DreamWorks’ loud and proud ogre introduced himself to audiences, and the world has never quite been the same since.
Shrek hit theaters on April 22, 2001, and the quirky, unassuming animated movie had no idea that it would become such a pop culture touchstone.
Over the next decade there would be four Shrek films to see release, a number of one-shot side projects, and in recent years, a Broadway musical has been put together that’s based on the movie. What Pixar films are able to claim that much?
Shrek went in with a simple agenda and an easy target, but its postmodern approach struck big with audiences and the curmudgeon of an ogre is still in conversations to this day. It only seems like a matter of time until a new Shrek movie gets announced for a new generation.
However, even without any new content, the character and the property have found a strange second life online, where Shrek has become the center of a strong meme culture community. It’s safe to say that in any online title that allows the player the ability to create their avatar, there’s going to be a number of Shreks in the mix.
Shrek still succeeds as a creative children’s movie, but it’s also proven that it’s much more than that, too.
Some of the details behind how the hit movie came together may surprise even the greenest Shrek fans that are out there.
With that said, here are the 26 Crazy Revelations Behind The Making Of Shrek!
26 Farquaad’s Kingdom Is Based On Disneyland
Viewers may experience a strange sense of déjà vu when they get a good look at Farquaad’s kingdom of Duloc.
Duloc contains all of the trappings of the typical ornate kingdom, but the special ingredient in this case is that the animators actually modeled Duloc off of Disneyland.
Once it’s clear that Shrek’s kingdom is meant to be a veiled nod to Disney’s paradise, it’s kind of hard to not see the resemblance.
Duloc doubling for Disneyland is just one of the film’s many clever jabs at Disney. This might be the closest that Shrek ever gets to the Magic Kingdom.
25 It Took Over Four Years To Animate
Animated movies can often take audiences’ breath away with incredible visuals. However, the trouble with animation— especially when it comes to CG movies— is that they take an extremely long time to put together.
This makes something like sequels a real pain because it’s tough to produce movies with a specific deadline when the animation process can take years to complete.
In some cases, companies go into pre-production for sequels before the original movie is in theaters because it can save so much time.
Shrek, in particular, took four years to animate. Not only that, but the movie was in production since 1991, so Shrek’s gestation period was exceptionally long.
24 A Number Of Technical Glitches Exist
The original Shrek movie and its many sequels have been fortunate enough to feature cutting edge computer-generated animation.
Sometimes movies of this nature can look incredibly dated when viewed years later. However, Shrek does not succumb to this problem, as the animation still holds up today.
In spite of Shrek’s technical triumphs, the animation process was still highly problematic and there were many strange graphical glitches.
These technical aberrations are included on Shrek’s DVD as extras, but there are even more instances of the animation becoming wonky and erratic. It’s an example of how temperamental the CG of the time could be.
23 Several Adult Jokes Are Hidden In The Movie
There was an unusual collection of animators who were culled to work together on Shrek, both willingly and unwillingly, and as a result, the staff couldn’t help but hide some jokes in the animated film.
There were a fair bit of adult gags and references hidden in the movies that were placed there to see if anyone would notice.
They were meant to be subtle in order to check to see if audiences were paying attention.
A lot of this revolves around Lord Farquaad's behavior (including his name), but it's funny to see that a movie with such a hidden mean streak would become such a success with kids and the general public.
22 Shrek Was Originally Voiced By Chris Farley
Mike Myers may seem like the perfect Shrek, but many people many not realize that Myers was actually a replacement for the movie's original actor.
Fellow Saturday Night Live alumni, Chris Farley, was the production’s initial choice for the role. The titular ogre’s character design even contained a strange resemblance to the actor.
Apparently, Farley got as far as recording somewhere between 80-95% of the movie's dialogue before his untimely passing.
Because of this, all of his work had to be scrapped and Myers was brought in to walk a mile in Shrek’s grotesque shoes.
21 It’s Loosely Based On William Steig's Book, Shrek!
One of Shrek’s biggest selling points is that it takes a post-modern look at classical fairy tales. It’s aim is to put a spin on old tales that are a part of everyone’s childhood.
Ironically enough, even though Shrek points fun of old children’s stories, the movie is actually adapted from a kid’s book, too.
William Steig, a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker who has become a big name in the illustration community, wrote a picture book called Shrek! Steig’s book tells a wildly different story and focuses more on art than on social commentary, but the core of Shrek’s DNA can be found within Steig’s book.
20 Nicolas Cage Was A Shrek Contender
Nicolas Cage has done a number of questionable movies in the past and has certainly gained a reputation for unhinged, outlandish performances, yet his credibility remains sterling.
However, if there’s one role that Cage doesn’t have the courage to take on, it’s Shrek the ogre.
At one point in Shrek’s production, the movie's main role was offered to Nicolas Cage but he turned it down because he was worried about how children would view him after adopting this ogre persona.
Cage later regretted his decision. He definitely would have provided a different take on the character.
19 Farquaad’s Plan Was Originally Shown To Greater Detail
Shrek doesn’t contain many deleted scenes. It’s a real inconvenience to excise material for a CG movie of this nature so it’s always helpful to be as precise as possible with what’s put together for the finished project.
The few deleted scenes that Shrek does contain relate to Lord Farquaad and his ultimate plans for the kingdom of Duloc.
Farquaad’s big end game was to turn Duloc into a huge supermarket, which is a pretty confusing goal for the character. It’s understandable why this scene was removed from the final movie, but it's still interesting to think that Farquaad’s character had set goals that he was trying to achieve.
18 Janeane Garofalo Was Almost Princess Fiona
The cast of Shrek came together perfectly in the movies. In fact, it seems almost like all of the actors’ personalities are emblematic of their animated counterparts.
Cameron Diaz is a bit of an unsung hero in the franchise, but she remains a crucial component of what makes the movie work. Diaz does a great Princess Fiona, which is what makes it so surprising to learn that the sarcastic Janeane Garofalo was originally cast in the role.
Garofalo’s comic nature was meant to be a counter balance to Farley's upbeat attitude, but when Myers replaced Farley, the producers likely thought that Garofalo was no longer a good fit.
17 Mike Myers Originally Voiced The Character With A Canadian Accent
Mike Myers is an actor who loves to play around with his voice and try out different accents. He’s someone who puts just as much personality into a character’s voice as he does in their physical mannerisms.
The Austin Powers movies and Myers’ work in The Love Guru give strong indications of the comedian’s range, which is perhaps why he had such a hard time settling on Shrek’s voice.
Myers originally gave the ogre a Canadian accent, which is something that’s well within his capabilities, but the actor then notoriously changed his mind part way through production.
He asked to re-record all of Shrek’s lines with the now-iconic Scottish accent that’s become a staple for both Myers and Shrek.
16 Bill Murray And Steve Martin Were The Original Duo
Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy definitely have an Odd Couple-esque chemistry that they bring to the table as Shrek and Donkey. It doesn’t hurt that the two both come from Saturday Night Live and are quite familiar with this style of comedy.
Myers and Murphy are great as Shrek and Donkey, but it’s a shame that the world will never see the movie's original duo, which included Bill Murray and Steve Martin.
Bill Murray and Steve Martin would have brought a different quality to these characters, which likely would have affected the greater tone of the movie.
For what it’s worth, Murray and Martin were Steven Spielberg’s casting choice, so maybe they would have been worth pursuing.
15 The Original Story Was Much More Complicated
Shrek has a lot of hidden messages. The movie really boils down to the notion that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and that many people have an inner beauty that can only be found when you get to know them.
However, the first draft of the movie had a much more complicated story.
In Shrek’s first draft, Princess Fiona was born as an ogress, which was why she was locked up in a tower. Instead of admitting that she was an ogre, though, Fiona's parents lied to the public and said that she was a beautiful princess.
Fiona eventually escapes and learns about her past from a witch who gives her a potion that allows her to become human by day and ogre at night.
14 Shrek Is Based On A Real Person
Shrek’s character design has gone through a number of revisions throughout the production process.
Shrek’s final design was the most human, as he is depicted as a “friendly” ogre. However, the empathetic attitude of the character might have something to do with the fact that Shrek’s look is actually influenced by a real person.
Shrek’s design comes in part from Maurice Tillet, an incredibly intelligent man who contracted a disease that caused his bones to greatly increase in size.
Tillet made the most out of his condition, but Shrek’s look is certainly an unexpected byproduct.
13 The Effects Department Actually Took Mud Showers
It’s always nice when filmmakers and effects departments decide to “go method” when it comes to the authenticity of their project.
Shrek is obviously set in a fantasy world, so there are a number of factors that couldn't be tested in real life, but one thing that the production team decided to go the extra mile for was Shrek’s swamp-based showers.
The effects department claims to have taken real mud showers, just like Shrek, in order to properly replicate what it would look like on screen.
This seems like a strange area to focus on in terms of authenticity, but it’s still encouraging to see maximum effort going into the project.
12 Lord Farquaad Was Based On A Disney Executive
Perhaps the most sinister, secret joke that’s stowed away in Shrek is that the movie's main antagonist, Lord Farquaad, is actually modeled after Disney executive, Michael Eisner.
Farquaad’s appearance and his diminutive stature are constantly under attack in the movie. He’s a character who is consistently billed as a joke and not taken seriously.
It also doesn’t help that the character’s kingdom literally looks like Disneyland.
DreamWorks' head honcho, Jeffrey Katzenberg, has a longstanding rivalry with Disney’s Eisner and so basing Farquaad on Eisner was a sly, deniable way for Katzenberg to attack his competition.
11 It Was Almost An Animated Spielberg Movie For Amblin
Shrek is a movie with a rather complicated production history. We're glad that Shrek turned out how it did (especially considering how sucesessful the franchise has become), but it’s fun to imagine what some of the other interpretations of the text could have looked like.
One of the most interesting alternate takes on Shrek was thought up by Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg was originally going to direct the movie as a 2D-animated movie for Amblin. Spielberg bought the rights to Steig’s book in 1991 and pictured the film as a traditional hand-drawn animated movie.
He couldn't make any progress with the movie, however, so he was happy to pass it off to DreamWorks.
10 Shrek Was Originally An Angsty Teenager
There were some weird ideas for the original Shrek movie, such as making the film a live-action/CG hybrid, which turned out to be a debacle.
Another idea for the movie was to turn back time and focus the story on an angsty teen ogre.
The concept of a rebellious teenage ogre who hates his parents isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s just a very different story from what we got with Shrek.
Perhaps a reboot of the movie could position Shrek as a younger protagonist, but his portrayal as a crotchety “get off my lawn” character really works well for the ogre.
9 The Movie Was First Pitched By Pre-Schoolers
It takes a lot of producers and talent to bring a movie together for pre-production, let alone to the big screen for audiences.
Productions with many producers can sometimes be a muddled mess when it comes to the tone of the movie and various ideas. A lot of different producers and directors helped to create Shrek, but perhaps the true “producers” who should be thanked are two young children.
Producer John H. Williams had two young kids who loved Steig’s Shrek! book, which brought it to their dad's attention. They repeatedly asked their dad to read it to them.
This inspired Williams to bring it Jeffrey Katzenberg, which is what motivated the production of the movie.
8 DreamWorks Screened The Movie For Disney Lawyers To Avoid Lawsuits
One of the most interesting perks of Shrek includes all of its little covert jokes that are directed at Dreamwork’s competition, Disney, not to mention the movie's cynical approach to fairy tales.
Many of these gags are hidden away in the movie, but others are more obvious, and it’s these references that began worry DreamWorks, as they believed that Disney might retaliate.
To remedy this, DreamWorks screened the movie for both their own lawyers and Disney’s as a preemptive measure.
This resulted in no lawsuits, but some streams, such as Radio Disney affiliates, wouldn't let DreamWorks buy any ad time to promote Shrek.
7 There Was Originally A Look At Shrek's Tragic Past
Part of the reason why Shrek works so well is that it cuts right into the action and doesn’t waste any time getting into its story.
The movie presents a relatively concise journey that Shrek and Donkey go on. However, the movie originally had the idea to shed a light on Shrek’s past and his life before ever meeting Donkey.
Shrek may reference his past, but the movie never actually shows it.
There was originally an idea to showcase scenes from Shrek's upbringing, which included scenes with his parents, who were constantly trying to eat him.
In fact, Shrek’s parents are eventually the reason why he leaves home to live in the swamp alone.
6 Smash Mouth's "All Star" Wasn't Actually Meant To Be In The Movie
The band Smash Mouth’s hit song “All Star” was never meant to be in the final version of Shrek. This might come as an extreme shock to most fans since the song became instantly popular after Shrek's success.
When people hear “All Star”, they think about Shrek. However, the song was included in the movie due to an accident.
Smash Mouth’s song was just meant to be a placeholder music for the pre-released screenings of the movie, but test audiences responded to the song so strongly that the production team decided to keep it in the final product.
5 Donkey Might Have Originally Been Human
Shrek isn’t exactly seen as a movie that’s meant to be dissected to an obsessive degree. It’s a fun children’s film that has plenty of layers, but it’s not a movie where every line has a double meaning.
That being said, there’s evidence in the movie that hints to Donkey's past, which is much more tragic and complex than many fans anticipated.
Donkey’s backstory isn’t really explored, but the idea of a talking donkey seems to be impossible to most people, despite the fact that there are other, more ridiculous things in the Shrek universe.
Many fans believe that he is a human trapped in the body of a donkey. This can also be backed up by the fact that other donkeys seen in the movies bray and don't talk.
4 Another Ogre May Be Hidden In The Movie
Shrek becomes extremely popular in the movie since he’s the only ogre that ever shows up.
As far as the movie is concerned, Shrek is the only beast of his kind until Fiona’s true colors reveal themselves during the movie's final moments.
While Shrek’s solitary status is a big part of what causes him to go out into the world, some subtle clues indicate that there might actually be another ogre hidden under everyone’s noses.
Farquaad’s hulking executioner, Thelonius, appears to have green skin under his hood. Some fans have speculated that he might be an ogre, too.
3 It Is Meant To Be A Deeper Allegory For Race Relations
On its surface level, Shrek appears to just be an “edgy” animated take on fairy tales for the current generation. It’s a loud, silly, colorful movie that’s meant to be fun for children and shouldn't be taken too seriously, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t deeper meaning beyond the story that the movie it tells.
Shrek makes a lot of broad ogre jokes, but it also digs into more complex issues like class systems and status, especially when it comes to marrying into the right type of family.
It focuses some heavy notions for a children's movies. This means even more when you discover that executives originally laughed at the idea and thought that an ogre love story was a "disgusting" concept.
2 The Movie Saved DreamWorks
The big joke for DreamWorks is that Shrek began as a low-level project and was never really taken seriously within the company. DreamWorks always intended to release Shrek and still put plenty of money and work into it, but it was treated like a bizarre obligation rather than a passion project.
When Shrek came out, it soon became not only a huge financial success, but it also singlehandedly saved DreamWorks in the process.
Shrek’s long life and success would allow the company to bank on other CG franchises like Ice Age, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How To Train Your Dragon. If it weren't for Shrek, these movies probably would've never seen the light of day.
1 It Was Treated Like Detention For DreamWorks’ Employees
Shrek is still one of the most lucrative franchises that DreamWorks has at their disposal. Shrek is now seen as a success and there might even be more movies about the infamous ogre on the way.
However, during the movie's production, there was quite the different attitude towards the project.
When DreamWorks employees didn’t work hard enough on The Prince of Egypt, they were banished and forced to work on Shrek as a punishment.
No one took Shrek seriously and yet this detention of sorts led to the company’s most popular movie, while Prince of Egypt is barely remembered today.
Can you think of any other crazy secrets behind the making of Shrek? Sound off in the comments!