Shrek is an American computer-animated fantasy comedy film loosely based on the book of the same name by William Steig.
Shrek is a towering, green ogre whose fearsome appearance belies a kind heart. “Shrek” means “monster” in Yiddish, and is derived from the German word “Schreck”, which means “terror” or “fright”.
At the beginning of the 2001 film Shrek, the title character lives as a recluse in a remote swamp in the fairy-tale land of Duloc. When other beings cross his path, he frightens them away so that he can be left alone to enjoy taking mud showers and snacking on slugs and bugs. After coming to the aid of a talking donkey named, simply, Donkey, he becomes drawn into the machinations of the evil Lord Farquaad, who wants to rule Duloc and rid it of its fairy-tale characters. Shrek ultimately saves Duloc and rescues the beautiful Princess Fiona, who turns out to be an ogre herself. The two fall in love and marry.
After purchasing rights to Steig’s book in 1991, Steven Spielberg sought to produce a traditionally-animated film adaptation, but John H. Williams convinced him to bring the project to the newly founded DreamWorks in 1994.
Computer animation production started on the project on October 31, 1996, and took more than four and a half years to complete.
Shrek premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or, making it the first animated film since Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) to be chosen to do so. The film was theatrically released by DreamWorks Pictures in the United States on May 18, 2001, and grossed over $487 million worldwide, becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 2001. It was widely praised by critics for its animation, voice performances, soundtrack, writing and humor, which they noted catered to both adults and children. Shrek was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and won for Best Animated Feature. It earned six nominations at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), winning for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The principal actors never met each other. They all read their parts separately, with a reader feeding them the lines. John Lithgow later admitted that, while he enjoyed playing Lord Farquaad, he was a little disappointed that he never actually worked directly with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, or Eddie Murphy.
The line “You’re on your way to a smacked bottom” was improvised by Mike Myers after he got annoyed at one of the directors. He had also used this line a few years earlier while playing his Austin Powers character in the popular music video of Madonna’s song ‘Beautiful Stranger’.
Mike Myers originally voiced Shrek with his natural speaking voice before the film was test-screened. Then he tried country Canadian accents for Shrek. However, after viewing a rough cut of the film, he felt that something was missing from his performance, and re-recorded all of his lines with a Scottish accent, based on the voice his mother used when reading him bedtime stories as a child. The original voice can still be heard in the technical goofs on the DVD. The decision to revoice Shrek in a Scottish accent ended up costing an additional $4 million, as it took him twenty sessions to complete the re-voiceover. It can also be stated that Shrek’s accent is similar to the one Mike Myers uses for his character Fat Bastard in
the Austin Powers series. This was his first voice performance in an animated film.
The song “All Star” by Smash Mouth, heard in the opening credits, was only a placeholder for test screenings until a new song could be found. But test audiences loved it, and the producers kept it in. When the producers decided to keep “All Star” they decided to let the band perform the last song in the movie, “I’m a Believer.”
Shrek received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Mike Myers was in New York City when they realized that the line “What are you doing in my swamp?!” had never been read. So producer Jeffrey Katzenberg flew to New York City, and had Myers read the line in the back of a limo.
The late Alan Rickman was the initial casting choice for the role of Lord Farquaad. However, Rickman opted to portray the role of Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) instead. The role ultimately went to John Lithgow.
Steven Spielberg was originally going to produce the film in 1991, when he was in charge of Amblin Entertainment. Then, the film would have been in hand-drawn animation, and was going to star Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey.