About The Production
In some ways. "Shrek" is your classic fairy tale. It has a hero, a beautiful princess, and a
dastardly villain. Unlike the fairy tales of old, however, the hero is an ugly, ill- tempered ogre, the princess is not all she appears to be, and the villain has some obvious shortcomings.
"Shrek" producer and Dream Works principal Jeffrey Katzenberg notes,
Shrek' kind of looks backwards at all the fairy tale traditions we grew up on, and takes great fun turning all those storytelling conventions upside-down and inside-out."
Producer and head of PDI/DreamWorks Aron Warner agrees that a lot of the fun in "Shrek" comes from lampooning some of our most beloved fairy-tale characters, even throwing in some Mother Goose favorites for good measure. "We basically took every fairy tale in the book and turned it on its side. Nothing is sacred; every fairy tale gets roasted. These characters are ripe for parody because they're part of the cosmic consciousness, so to speak."
In addition to breaking the mold of fairy-tale conventions, "Shrek" also showcases some amazing breakthroughs in what have been referred to as the "Holy Grails" of computer animation, the first being realistic humans, who are able to express both dialogue and emotion through a complex facial animation system developed at
PDI. Using special tools called "Shapers," the animators were able to achieve sophisticated facial and body movements by applying interacting layers of bone, muscle, fat, skin, hair and clothing.
There are also advances in the creation of rich, organic environments; clothing that moves, wrinkles and reacts to light like real-life fabric; fire; and fluids of different viscosities, achieved using
PDI/DreamWorks' award-winning Fluid Animation System (FLU).
"The computer has been revolutionary in animation not evolutionary, revolutionary. There is absolutely no question that
'Shrek' is far and above anything that's been done in computer animation," says
Katzenberg, who is quick to qualify, "for at least ten seconds. Yes, it's state of the art, but do I think it will be the benchmark for a long time to
come? No. It will be the benchmark for about a day or two. I say that with a sense of humor, but that's what's exciting about computer animation; it's evolving exponentially. With today's digital tools, it seems if we can dream it, we can make it."
Of course, long before they could dream it, the filmmakers had to read it. The movie "Shrek" has its origins in a short illustrated book of the same name by award-winning children's author William
Steig. Steig's story of an ogre who sets out into the world to find adventure first came to the attention of producer John H. Williams via a very close source. Williams recounts, "Every development deal starts with a pitch and my pitch came from my then kindergartner, in collaboration with his pre-school brother. Upon our second reading of Shrek, the kindergartner started quoting large segments of the book pretending he could read them. Even as an adult, I thought Shrek was outrageous, irreverent, iconoclastic, gross, and just a lot of fun. He was a great movie character in search of a movie."
Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who had previously worked with Katzenberg and Warner on "Antz," collaborated with Joe Stillman and Roger
S.H. Schulman to adapt the story into an animated action adventure, told with humor and heart, under the direction of Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson.
The heart of the story is found in what could be called in the language of all fables—the moral of the story. Vicky Jenson relates, "The story is about self-acceptance and that things aren't always as they appear. We definitely turn the concept of beauty on its ear, which I think is a very powerful theme."
That being said, Adams
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