One of the things that makes the Shrek franchise so great is its modern humor and frequent references to pop culture. The first movie hit theaters back in 2001 and, thanks to its unique brand of humor for both an animated and a fantasy film, quickly proved to be a hit with audiences of all ages. Its popularity has since spawned three sequels, a spinoff movie, two holiday specials, a TV series and several short films – not to mention a whole slew of toys, books, apparel, etc. Who knew that taking such a modern, unconventional approach to a relatively simple fairytale story would result in an empire of success?
But we're not here to talk about the massive franchise that Shrek has become. Instead, we're taking a closer look at the first movie that started it all (and okay, there's some Shrek 2 is in here as well because that's right up there with the first movie as far as originality goes). For as funny as Shrek is on the surface, there's a surprising amount of hidden references and humor that's easy to miss. Additionally, there are plenty of questions left unanswered and lesser-known trivia about the franchise in general. And because we believe that there's no better way to honor movies that we love, we're going to explore all of it.
This is Shrek: 30 Things Everyone Completely Missed in the Dreamworks Movie.
30 We’ve Heard Shrek’s Voice Before
Sure, most people knew going into the movie that Shrek was voiced by comedic actor Mike Myers. As voice actors often do, Myers gave Shrek a unique voice that fans could easily associate with the character and the movie. What fans may not have picked up on, however, was that Myers was actually recycling a voice with a Scottish-accent that he’s used in several other projects, including Saturday Night Live, Wayne's World 2, So I Married an Axe [Criminal] and the last two Austin Powers movies..
29 The Name ‘Shrek’ Is Very Fitting
Behind every name, there’s a meaning. In this case, “Shrek” is actually a Yiddish word that has German origins. It translates directly to “monster” in Yiddish, but it sounds very similar to the German word, “Shreck”, which means “fright” or “terror”. Of course, this one didn’t come from the filmmakers themselves, but rather William Steig, the author of the book on which the movie is based. Though American, Steig was born to Jewish parents who came from Austria, leading us to believe he knew exactly what he was doing when he titled his children’s book. Speaking of which…
28 The Movie Is Nothing Like The Book
If you haven’t heard of or read the children’s book that inspired Shrek, you’re not alone. While the bare bones of the plot definitely inspired the movie, the details are quite different (and the tone is just not as fun). Originally published in 1990, Shrek! follows the tale of an orange-haired ogre who firmly rejects any sort of affection despite getting a purple, beaked-nose princess in the end by telling her how ugly she is. Oh, and this Shrek can also shoot lasers from his eyes.
27 Farquaad Sounds Like...
Even the names used in Shrek have hidden meanings, and this particular one was definitely meant to go over the kids’ heads. But for adults who still don’t get what exactly “Farquaad” sounds like, try separating the name into two words, “Farq” and “uaad.” If you still need some help, change the “ar” to a “u”. Yeah, we can't write it out here.
There has been some speculation that Farquaad is based on Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, because of Shrek producer's Jeffrey Katzenberg's dislike toward him. However, this has never been confirmed.
26 There’s A Nod To Chris Farley
Mike Myers was not the first actor cast to do the voice of Shrek. That honor instead went to Chris Farley, who even recorded most of the film’s dialogue before his untimely passing in 1997. The filmmakers felt that trying to finish the project as it was without Farley would not have been appropriate, so they opted to delay its release and instead have the role entirely redone with a new actor. Nevertheless, they added in a shot of Shrek doing air quotes, as a nod to one of Farley’s popular Saturday Night Live characters.
25 That Time Peter Pan Tried To Sell Tinkerbell
Remember the part where Donkey is hit with pixie dust and flies momentarily away from the Duloc knights who are rounding up fairytale creatures? Well, that pixie dust came from a small fairy trapped in a cage who looks remarkably like Tinkerbell, and holding that cage was a young boy dressed like Peter Pan. When Donkey starts flying, the same boy shouts “He can fly!” This is a delightful joke, as if you look closely early on in the scene it’s clear that Peter Pan was actually trying to sell his fairy friend to the knights before her cage got knocked over.
24 Also, The Time Geppetto Tried Selling Pinocchio
In the same scene where Peter Pan is shown trying to sell off Tinkerbell, we can also see what looks like Geppetto trying to sell Pinocchio. Clearly, in this universe, he’s very disappointed with his creation (is it his high-pitched voice? We’ll most likely never know). As fans are already aware, Pinocchio becomes a more prominent character later on. Still, it seems he’s still mad at Geppetto because we don’t see much of his creator after this first scene.
23 Farquaad Turned Mama Bear Into A Rug
This extremely dark joke is very easy to miss the first time (or first few times) you watch the movie. In the scene where all of the fairytale creatures are rounded up, we see Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear together in cages. Later at Shrek’s swamp, we see just Papa Bear and Baby Bear sitting together by the fire, crying. Further down the movie’s timeline, a bear-skin rug with a pink bow still on the head can be seen in Lord Farquaad’s chambers. Yikes.
22 The Big, Bad Wolf Has A Special Relationship With A Knight
Never seen out of his grandma getup, the Big, Bad Wolf seems to have found happiness with a knight. We don’t know if they’re in a full-blown romantic relationship or are just really good friends, but at the end of the movie during Shrek and Fiona’s wedding, the Wolf can be seen embracing and smiling at the knight, who apparently gets emotional at weddings. Soon after, they are seen on the dance floor with each other.
21 Farquaad’s Plan Didn’t Really Make Sense
Okay, so he wants to remove all fairytale creatures from his realm. But seeing as he lives in a castle surrounded by knights and likes to gaze into a magic mirror, isn’t he part of a fairytale? There seems to be a big gray area as to what constitutes a “fairytale creature”, and Farquaad’s reasoning behind banishing them (to make the area more perfect) is just weak. Besides, he also wants to marry a princess, in order to make himself King of a land he already rules over anyway. What’s the point?
20 Gingy is ‘Milkboarded’
Not the gumdrop buttons! Who remembers seeing this scene in the initial ads for the movie? When Farquaad enters where Gingerbread Man, better known as “Gingy”, is being harmed, the shadows on the wall behind him reveal that the poor cookie man is being doused repeatedly with what is quickly revealed to be milk. It’s obviously a nod to a controversial real-life practice, but of course, they could never say that in the movie itself.
19 What Was Lord Farquaad Doing In Bed?
There are seriously tons of grown-up jokes throughout Shrek, but many of them are obvious if you’re above a certain age. However, there’s one scene that’s a little subtler, but once you get what’s happening it’s hard to believe Dreamworks got away with it in an animated PG-rated movie. In this scene, our boy Farquaad appears to be sans clothing and in his zebra-print bed, sipping from a drink and asking the magic mirror to show him an image of Princess Fiona. The mirror looks uncomfortable but obliges. Farquaad then pulls the blankets closer to himself and looks very happy indeed.
18 The Painting Behind Farquaad’s Bed Is Him Looking Down On Himself
While we're discussing this scene, another subtle joke in Farquaad’s bedchambers is the painting we see up on the wall directly behind his bed. It’s a depiction of himself, posed a la Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, looking down directly at where he sleeps (and drinks while watching images of his princess crushes). Is this weird though or just plain narcissistic?
17 The Duloc Cathedral Worships Farquaad
His bedroom art isn’t the only thing Farquaad has done in his image. If you look closely during the wedding scene, both a statue and multiple stained glass windows of Farquaad himself can be seen in the Duloc cathedral (there's only one shot during the scene where the focus zooms out and shows all of it for a brief moment). This is the only kind of seemingly-religious imagery in that place, so it seems that it must be entirely focused on him. What kind of a religion is this supposed to be?
16 The Subtle Indiana Jones Reference
We all know that there are tons of pop culture references throughout the Shrek movies, but some are a bit harder to recognize than others. Nevertheless, it’s more fun when they’re on the subtle side. In the first movie, for example, the bridge from Dragon / Fiona’s castle collapses over the lava moat in the exact same manner as the bridge at the end of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Fortunately, it was just Dragon chasing Shrek and the gang, not members of a human sacrifice-happy cult.
15 Princess Fiona Gets Her Fighting Moves From Pop Culture
Princess Fiona must have learned all of her fighting skills from movies and video games, because not only was there that move from The Matrix when she fought Robin Hood and his men, but later in Shrek 2, she is seen using Chun Li’s spinning bird kick from Street Fighter II. Did she spend all her time in that tower watching action movies and playing video games?
14 We Never Get Donkey’s Backstory
Was he once a human who was transformed into a donkey? We’re never told how he came to be, despite it being obvious that talking donkeys seem to be a rarity in this universe. Also, it’s suggested that the old woman who turned him into authorities knew him for a while by that point and simply had grown too annoyed with him to bother anymore. One fan theory is that Donkey is actually one of the unfortunate boys who ended up on Pinnochio’s cursed Pleasure Island.
13 What’s The Deal With Dragon?
This movie sure doesn’t seem to care much for backstory in general, because it’s also never made clear why dragon is in the castle holding Princess Fiona captive in the first place. In Shrek 2, we do learn that it was her parents who sent her there (for “safety”), but Dragon’s presence is just never explained. Did Fiona’s parents willingly sign guardianship of their daughter over to Dragon? Did Dragon show up later? If she’s “good,” then why did Fiona expect her captor to be slain? There’s a lot of questions here that, unfortunately, just aren’t likely to be answered.
12 Shrek’s Appearance Is Supposedly Based On A Real Person
Shrek’s unusual build is strongly rumored to be based on a real-life person who was a boxer in the 1940s. Known as “the French Angel,” Maurice Tillet had a hormonal disorder called Acromegaly that caused increased bone growth in his hands, feet, and face. While the film’s producers and animators have never confirmed nor denied Tillet as the source of inspiration (likely due to legal reasons), Shrek’s resemblance to the boxer is pretty uncanny when we look at photos.
11 There’s A Reason Why Robin Hood Is French
Robin Hood is most notable in Shrek for his boorish behavior while trying to “save” Fiona from the ogre. While it seems like just an interesting creative choice that he appears to be French, the truth is that there’s some historical reason behind it. Yes, the legend of Robin Hood is set in England. However, it also took place during the Anglo-Norman period of England, and during this period French was a common language. French was most commonly spoken among England’s nobility and those who associated with them, such as Sir Robert Locksley, a.k.a. Robin Hood or “Monsieur Hood.”
10 The Three Pigs’ Hats Represent Their Housing Choices
Ever notice how the Three Pigs are each wearing a different hat and nothing else? The one with a construction hat likely built his house out of sticks or lumber, just as the one with a straw hat probably used straw. Meanwhile, the one with the white hat that has an image of what appears to be either a trowel or a masonry brush most likely used bricks. That said, it is curious that the white masonry hat changes to a railroad hat in the sequels. Maybe he decided to get out of the brick business in between movies?
9 Dragon Channels Her Inner T-Rex
When Dragon is chasing Shrek and the gang through the castle, we’re definitely reminded of so many sequences in the Jurassic Park franchise. Later, when Dragon charges into the cathedral and eats Farquaad, she scoops him up in almost the exact same way that the T-Rex in the first Jurassic Park movie did while picking up the ill-fated Donald Gennaro. Farquaad may not have been on a toilet seat, but he stared up at the dragon that was also reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Are dragons related to dinosaurs?
8 Duloc Is A Parody Of Disneyland
In addition to being a blatant visual gag due to Farquaad’s “compensating for something,” Duloc also serves as a parody of Disney parks. There’s a parking lot, and Shrek and Donkey are greeted by tiny figurines that are awfully reminiscent of the infamous “It’s a Small World” ride. Once they enter, a souvenir shop can be seen, along with guests eating cotton candy. Does anyone actually live here besides Farquaad, or do they just spend a fortune bringing their families there in the summer?
7 Gingy’s Legs Are Held On With Icing
Remember how this little cookie man’s legs were cruelly snapped off as part of Farquaad’s torture process? It seems he never made a complete (that is, fully baked and healed) recovery from that. If you look closely at the end of Shrek and throughout the sequels, poor Gingy’s legs are just held back on with icing. He seems to be getting by just fine though, as he’s still as nimble and as high-pitched as ever.
6 Shrek 2 Referenced The O.J. Simpson Car Chase
This scene isn’t just a blatant reference to Cops. After Donkey is transformed into a white horse and Shrek is changed into a human man, the two find themselves on the run from the palace guard. From a hot air balloon overhead, the scene is depicted like a police car chase, only this one specifically mentions the suspect fleeing on “a white Bronco.” They could have said “horse” or “stallion,” but no, they purposely said “Bronco.” Hmm, what famous police chase from the 1990s involved a white bronco?
5 The Three Blind Mice Are The Only Nursery Rhyme Creatures
This is more of an interesting tidbit of information rather than a hidden reference. Aside from the Muffin Man (whom we don’t meet until Shrek 2), the three blind mice are actually the only “fairytale creatures” who are not really from a fairytale of their own, but a children’s nursery rhyme. That’s right – every other magical character seen in Shrek is either from a short story or fairytale, known legend, book or movie. As for the three blind mice, well, anyone who has ever been in Kindergarten knows the rhyme of their origins.
4 The Three Blind Mice Are Still Blind When They’re Turned Into Horses
At the end of the movie, we see the three blind mice magically transformed into two horses and a carriage driver to take Shrek and Fiona away on their honeymoon after their wedding. Trouble is, they’re still very clearly depicted as being blind. Nevertheless, just seconds after we start scratching our heads over that one, we see the mice back in their original rodent forms, dancing along with the wedding guests to the catchy rendition of “I’m a Believer” by Smash Mouth (remember Smash Mouth?). Is this a movie blooper or just magical coincidence?
3 Cinderella And Snow White Fight Over Fiona’s Wedding Bouquet
On the surface, the humor here just seems to be that this ogre wedding is really just like any other wedding, complete with people fighting over who gets to catch the bride’s bouquet. However, the two women in this scene pushing and shoving to catch Fiona’s wedding bouquet at the end are none other than Cinderella and Snow White (even funnier is the dwarf off to the side who breaks out into a huge smile once Snow White gets slapped) Though mentioned throughout the first movie (with Snow White even being seen sleeping in her glass casket), the two of them would not go on to have more prominent roles until Shrek the Third.
2 That Rocky Horror Reference In Shrek 2
The sequel is perhaps filled with even more movie references than the first movie, though some are definitely not easy to catch. When Shrek and Fiona are having dinner with her parents on their first night in Far Far Away, they all shout each other’s names in an exasperated pattern that is very reminiscent of a certain famous scene from 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There have even been multiple fan videos made that edit the scenes from both movies together in one glorious mashup. Shrek! Dr. Scott! Donkey!
1 The Spinal Tap Reference In Shrek 2
Another great, yet subtle, reference in Shrek 2 is a poster that can be spotted in the background of Fiona’s old childhood bedroom. And no, we’re not talking about that Justin Timberlake poster that’s directly above her bed. At least two members of the semi-fictional band, Spinal Tap, can be seen in this “Stonehenge” poster wearing medieval garb, as well as two dwarves with tiny Stonehenge statues. Who could’ve guessed that teenage Princess Fiona was a fan of one of England’s loudest bands?
Are there any other references, hidden jokes or trivia that everyone missed? Let us know in the comments!