Sunday, January 21, 2018

Don't Make a Scene: Shrek

The Story: Disney has been at the top of the animated castle for a long time now. But, as the film technology behind cartoons has gone from pen-and-ink analog and photography to moving pixels around, they've been seeing challenges from other fronts. Disney got the first releasing dibs for (then acquired) its competitor Pixar, but one of their chief rivals is the team of Steven Spielberg (who executive-produced cartoons for Warners) and Jeffrey Katzenberg—formerly one of their own executives and, while there, responsible for Disney's resurgence in cartoons starting with The Little Mermaid. When Katzenberg reached a brick wall in the Disney hierarchy despite his animation success, he jumped ship, joined forces with Spielberg and David Geffen to form Dreamworks SKG, and set about to head up that up-start start-up's animation department, both by cell and computer.

Shrek, based on William Steig's character (but not his book!), was one of their first successes, a rather crude—by today's standards—CGI film, that battled awkward movement and the Uncanny Valley, but managed to surpass that with such humor and a very snarky attitude towards anything with a sentimental past, that to gripe about the animation seemed...ungrateful.

Speaking of which, Katzenberg's former employer got a lot of tsouris in Shrek, most notably in the introduction to the town of DuLoc (that's how it's spelled in the script), with its themed parking lot segregations, serpentine rope lines (embarrassing when no one's waiting), bobble-headed crowd referees, surprise insta-pics, and most cleverly, one of their attractions, the "it's a small world" ride,** created by Disney for the UNICEF pavilion (sponsored by Pepsi) for the 1964 New York World's Fair*** to promote world brotherhood (in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis). It's the best zinger at Disneyland's expense since the "Sleeping Beauty" episode of "Fractured Fairy Tales" from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" (included here)****, over which Uncle Walt nearly sued producer Jay Ward (Ward's usual reply to lawsuits was "Go ahead. We need the publicity!").

But the final punch-line: after making comedy hay out of the concept, they un-apologetically created their own "Shrek 4-D" ride at Universal Theme Parks...because, evidently, they don't understand irony when it comes to themselves...or making money.
The Set-Up:  Shrek (voiced by Mike Meyers) is an ogre, living in a swamp outside Duloc, run by the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), who has been cracking down on all the "fairy-tale things" that have been besmirching his perfect kingdom's rep (and property values no doubt—although I'm not sure why, as they're all in the public domain). Anyway, they're all squatting in Shrek's swamp, and that he does not like. So, of he goes with the recently en-chatted donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy) to give the Lord Farquaad a piece of his mind.



Shrek and Donkey emerge from the cornfield by the gates of DuLoc. They look up at Farquaad's tower, erected in the center of the city, looming above them.
DONKEY Well that's it. That's it right there. That's DuLoc. I told ya I'd find it.  
SHREK (distaste) So...  
SHREK ...that must be Lord Farquaad's castle.  
DONKEY Uh-huh. That's the place. 
SHREK Do you think maybe he's compensating for something? 
Shrek laughs to himself and looks towards Donkey to share the joke. Donkey continues to looking at the tower, tilting his head from side to side....
...trying to make sense of Shrek's comment. Shrek heads off towards the gate.  
DONKEY Hey, wait. Wait up, Shrek.  

Donkey takes off after Shrek, who's passing through a parking lot dotted with carts. Signs on stanchions read "You Are Parked in Lancelot 17" and "You Are Parked in Percival 12."

Donkey catches up, breathless.
MAN Hurry, darling. We're late. Hurry.  

Donkey stops as they reach the entrance, a velvet rope crowd-control maze, and see a life-size cut-out of Lord Farquaad waving; a sign reads "45 minute wait from here."
SHREK Hey...
SHREK (irritated) Wait a second. 
SHREK Look, I'm not gonna eat you. 
SHREK I just - - I just - -  (exasperated sigh)
Domkey trots into the maze. Shrek watches in bemusement, then lumbers right through the ropes.  
At the far end is a turnstile; 

Donkey follows Shrek through, and gets stuck.
They stop and look around. Muzac plays from medieval speakers.

A booth features Farquaad figurine souvenirs.
The place is deserted.
 SHREK It's quiet. 
SHREK Too quiet. 
SHREK Where is everybody? 

Donkey spots a Mall style 'Information' booth with a large handle on the side that says "Pull." 
DONKEY Hey, look at this!  
Donkey rushes over and pulls the lever.
The device starts to click...
...then clunks into action.
The doors fly open...
...revealing rows of perfect little wooden dolls who start to sing.
WOODEN PEOPLE Welcome to DuLoc/such a perfect town 
WOODEN PEOPLE Here we have some rules/ Let us lay them down  
WOODEN PEOPLE Don't make waves, 
WOODEN PEOPLE ...stay in line  
WOODEN PEOPLE And we'll get a-long fine  
WOODEN PEOPLE DuLoc is a per-fect... 
WOODEN PEOPLE ...plaaace/  
WOODEN PEOPLE Please keep off of the grass  
WOODEN PEOPLE Shine your shoes, 
WOODEN PEOPLE wipe your... 
WOODEN PEOPLE DuLoc is a perfect plaaaace.  
SLAM! The doors close.
Donkey and Shrek are a little stunned.
Then Donkey steps forward.
DONKEY Wow! Let's do that again! (makes ready to run over and pull the lever again) 
SHREK (grabs Donkey's tail and holds him still) No. No. No, no, no! 

(O.S.) Donkey and Shrek hear trumpets and cheers. They turn to see a stadium.


Words by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman (plus Cody Cameron, Chris Miller and Conrad Vernon)

Pictures by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and the Dreamworks animation department.

Shrek is available on DVD from Dreamworks Home Video


"The Happiest Place on Earth"

* The updated lyrics for the DuLoc song from "Scared Shrek-less" are:

Welcome to DuLoc/Such a creepy town
What was once pristine/Now is all run down
We will chop off your head/and then laugh when you're dead
DuLoc is a creepy place.
Come on in/What the heck
Fall right down/break your...face
DuLoc is
DuLoc is
DuLoc is a creepy place!

** At an introductory get-together at a job, the new recruits were asked to introduce ourselves, give some brief background a bonus question tell the group what our favorite...or least favorite...ride was in Disneyland.  When it got around to me, I answered that my least favorite was "It's a Small World" "but if you play Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while you're in it, it improves it a 1000%."

*** To movie fans, it is now the site of the Stark Expo 2010 (from Iron Man 2), and, according to Men in Black, was designed to cover up the first landing of extra-terrestrials: "Why else would they hold it in Queens?"

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