How The Film Shrek Parodies The Traditional Fairytale
How the film ‘Shrek’ parodies the traditional fairytale
In 1994 Jeffrey Katzenberg left disney after a decade of service to the famous animation corporation “Walt Disney”, after being denied his much anticipated promotion to second in command to Micheal Eisner. He then formed DreamWorks SKG; Spielsberg, Katzenberg, Geffen as Disneys rival animators.
Dreamworks produced this animated film because it challenged the typically predictable fairytale story of “Walt Disney” productions. Dreamworks had to make a big movie so it could create an impact into the world of media like their rival company Walt Disney. They produced this type of animated film because it would appeal to a mass audience, ranging from the elderly, surprisingly entertaining the middle age adults and of course the children who are the main targeted audience. This was a risky step for Dreamworks, as not many have attempted this type of film, with the use of digital animation instead of the hand drawings which brings a modern appeal to children who are fascinated in visual effect, brings it up-to-date to modern society. They simply made this film because It refreshes the scene of animation, Walt Disney has been in the Hollywood light since 1923, no other company has dared to challenge the so called big shot of the film industry and “Dreamworks” knew if they released a film which everyone can enjoy and was different, they will be able to knock Walt Disney from the top. As Dreamworks have kept quite before Shrek was released, in that time they were able to learn from Walt Disneys past mistakes, such as; repetitive genres, unoriginality, predictability, and was able to capitalize on this. I believe these were some of the reasons why Dreamworks decided to produce Shrek.
Dreamworks seems to manage to blend in everything that has to do with tales, with the structuring of the characters, their rolls, we have the hero, Shrek, the villain, Lord Farquard, the donor, The Dragon, the helper, Donkey and the heroine who is Princess Fiona, this was Vladimir Propp’s theory that in order to understand the way narrative operate, and to consider the characters as narrative function, rather then personality. They have made the film very simple to understand, which can attract any age. They have used finely detailed computerised animation, which makes Walt Disney seem dated. Well-known actors are used, such as Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, which draws more media attention by having these types of actors/actresses. How the characters are introduced in the film is clever, the makers have used juxtaposition to announce the characters, an example of this is when Eddie Murphy’s name comes up, and the background song says ‘stars’ at the exact moment the name comes up. By having well-known actors/actresses, which the general public realises for there talent in previous films, they can expect a good film from this. Dreamworks uses the characters in an interesting way to capture audience attention through the use of accents and tone uncharacteristic of the characters, for example, when the opening of the movie begins, it starts with a calm Scottish accent and who would you expect it to be?
It turns out to be Shrek, the Ogre, whose appearance is alot like his voice. The audience least expects this combination.
The other main character Donkey brings the most humour into the film because it’s a talking Donkey, which is out of the ordinary because having a talking donkey is funny, instead of a ordinary donkey which wont be anything new, that is one of the reasons why this film is original and not keeping to the conventional use of characters. There is also a dragon in the film and when it’s shown to us it is a fierce and violent creature but later in the film the dragon turns out to be a loving and passionate female. This has made me notice that Dreamworks likes to mislead the audience’s perception.
They parodise other productions such as The Matrix, Robin Hood and Snow White. Dreamworks have taken characters and scenes from other productions and introduced greater humour to the characters than the original use of the characters in their previous films. For example, when Princess Fiona is fighting in the forest Robin Hood enters into the scene but its not the English Robin Hood who everyone knows but it’s a French version of Robin Hood and they use the typical sterotype of a French person to be romantic and more effeminate. Another example where references to the movie Snow White have been taken and made comical, is when Princess Fiona is singing through the forest with a bird, the singing goes into a loud scream and the bird explodes. The film The Matrix has been used when Princess Fiona is fighting in the forest and the camera shot goes into “Bullet Time”, once again, its bringing the film up-to-date and has used an idea which was ground breaking when shown to the public for the first time, although it might not have the same effect has the first time it was used. Dreamworks seem to analyse other films and adapt their ideas to make it a lot more different, much more exciting and appealing to a wider audience, the effect it has achieved is that by using current films out today it can use the advantages of the good points in the films they are trying use and make them better for a certain target audience which can secure universal appeal. Dreamworks appears to bring modern references into its movie, for example, when Shrek arrives at Lord Farquard’s castle with Donkey and during the fight scene, Shrek says ‘Lets settle this over a beer’, once again this is bringing the film up-to-date, as a lot of people these days use this expression.
Shrek appeals to a lot of different people, it portrays different eras, which is why it is so popular and a lot of people can relate to. It works on many levels because the film offers variations in the story to capture the interest of a mixed audience so it is not just targeted for a certain group. Shrek is a U certificate but differs in its nature from other U films. In Shrek they use sexual language so it will appeal to adults and they can get away way with it because the younger children usually don’t understand this use of language directed to the adults. This film is great for the teenagers because they will understand both the adult and children humour. There are parts the older generation will like, for example, when Lord Farguad decides on who his princess should be by having a dating show.
They use an old T.V show in the 70’s called “The Dating Game” which was a real T.V programm were people went on finding their true love. Just like our programme Blind Date.
Dreamworks did this so the older people will remember when they were younger watching the show and another example isn’t a visual remembrance of the older days but it’s the music which is played, with music from The Monkeys and other 50s, 60s and 70s music. The music in “Shrek” is effective for the audience because they play the modern up-to-date music for the middle age and younger people.
Dreamworks have made this film work on different layers so it could provide entertainment for all ages, and secure universal appeal. The adults have the refference references, ‘so that’s farquads castle? Do you think he might be compensating for something?’ what Shrek means by this, is that, the reason why he has such a big castle is because he is compensating for his height. The children have the toilet humour, for example, they refer to the word “ass” and the opening scene of the film seems like Shrek is ripping out pages of the story book to use as toilet paper, and the teenagers have both sides of the humour because they are at that age where they can relate to the children’s side and the adult side. The final soundtrack shows us that this film is not purely for children; the music is from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, so this will appeal to the adults and grandparents.
Dreamworks made this film work on many levels to simply secure universal appeal, without universal appeal, the film will not be able to attract specific people. Universal appeal means that it appeals to everyone, meaning it will appeal to males, females, the old, the middle age, teenagers and children. Without its universal appeal it would only capture the interest of a specific audience, which would make the film not as successful as it is. Comedy is used for those who enjoy humour and drama to draw the audience into the moment.
Shrek achieves universal appeal by using light-hearted comedy, which is easily enjoyed by everyone regardless of their age, sex, background and of course the originality of the film. It is entertaining to kids as it uses obvious humour, which is understood by that age group and witty jokes for adult enjoyment. It pokes fun at Disney throughout the film. As I said before, there is parts of the film were everyone will enjoy and can relate to.
Dreamworks aimed for universal appeal because it will attract more people into watching the film and it will show the success of the film and draw people to see it. If more people see the film the more money Dreamworks rakes in.
The reason why this film is so successful is because it deviates from the traditional universal type productions that were popular and with its originality attracting public curiosity. It’s light-hearted fast delivery of its theme and comical characterization leaves the audience amused and entertained throughout the duration of the film.
In conclusion, this film is a great comedy for a family to watch and enjoy. The film is easy to understand and it’s a fast flowing story line, which will keep you entertained and will suit everyone’s liking. Most people would think that Shrek is just for children but it’s far from it, even myself thought it would be for children much younger then me and I was surprised that I enjoyed it. It is refreshing having an animated film breaking the predictable story line, which “Walt Disney” brings to the public.