A Storybook World
The first computer animated fairy tale, "Shrek" takes audiences into a fantasy world comprised of 36 separate locations, more than any previous computer animated feature. "When we started
'Shrek,' we wanted to make a fairy tale come to life.., as if you opened a storybook and stepped into that world," Adamson says.
"We envisioned a magical environment that you could immerse yourself in," Warner continues. "Every leaf on every tree moves, the dirt moves, the dust rolls.. .there's a sense of atmosphere, a sense of weight to all the props. You can almost smell it."
Audiences might appreciate that Warner is only being facetious about the smell, especially during the film's opening sequence in which we see Shrek enjoying the creature comforts of his muddy swamp home. Production designer James Hegedus offers, "We designed Shrek's swamp to be a very organic environment, more like a hovel that he built using materials he found in the swamp. It's wet, mucky and overgrown perfect for him."
To capture the natural feel of the swamp, art director Douglas Rogers made a research trip to a magnolia plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina. He found himself a little too close to nature when he was chased by an alligator. Rogers and fellow art director Guillaume Aretos took less adventurous research trips to such far-flung locations as the Hearst Castle, the village of Stratford-On-Avon, and Dordogne, France, the last for Inspiration for the look of
In stark contrast to the soft edges and warm earth tones of Shrek's home is the kingdom of
Duloc, ruled by Lord Farquaad. "Duloc is the place of a man obsessed with order," Aretos notes. "The streets are perfect, the flowers are always being replaced, and at the center of it all, there is that huge rectangle rising out of a big, flat
"It's a very linear, angular setting pristine, minimal and hard. The colors are cool, the tones are subdued," Hegedus adds. "What we tried to do was reflect the characters in their environments. Shrek is tied to earthiness, Farquaad to a more controlled space, and Princess Fiona is between those
Shrek and Donkey first come upon Princess Fiona in a dark and forbidding castle, where she has been held captive by a fire-breathing dragon. The design team modeled the castle to be a formidable silhouette that seems to rise out of a rock island too small to hold it. It has an appearance akin to a towering rock mountain, surrounded by a vortex of danger and darkness, epitomized by a lava moat.
To get to the castle, Shrek and Donkey must first traverse a rickety rope bridge over the molten lava, which presented some challenges to the layout team, headed by Simon J. Smith. The equivalent of cinematography in a live action film, layout is the first step of turning two-dimensional storyboards into three-dimensional images by essentially camera blocking the scenes in the computer.
For the dangerous trip across the lava divide, the layout team applied a camera technique similar to that of a Steadicam to put the audience onto the rocking bridge and heighten the tension. Once inside the castle, Shrek and Donkey battle the dragon, rescue the princess and make their escape in a major action sequence involving dozens of quick cuts and even a classic crane shot as we pull out of the dragon's keep.
Together, the characters in "Shrek" posed another kind of challenge for the layout team. Whereas the ants in "Antz" had all been roughly the same size,
Shrek, Donkey, Fiona
and Farquaad could not be more disparate in terms of size and shape. "You have
Shrek, who's huge, Fiona who is small and lithe, and a short, squat Donkey, so it was sometimes difficult to find the right camera angles for everyone," Smith explains. He goes on to reveal that they would sometimes employ th
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