On a brisk, rainy day outside of a foggy San Francisco in Northern California, the DreamWorks/PDI Studios looms amidst a conglomeration of nondescript office buildings. Within these walls, however, cinematic artistry is in motion. For myself, this is the third visit to the studio since it created ‘Shrek’, the most profitable animation franchise in movie history. PDI helped to forge CGI animation with Antz, crude by todayï¿½s standards. When I visited the facility for the first Shrek, who knew that this loose adaptation of a childrenï¿½s novella would soar to new heights? At that time, the co-director of ‘Shrek the Third’, Raman Hui, was a mere animation supervisor, a role he would continue onto ‘Shrek 2′. Hui remarks that making the transition to co-director ï¿½was a great experience because before I had been concentrating just on animation.ï¿½ It was clear, as we say some 20 minutes of footage from the new Shrek, that Hui and his co-director Chris Miller, had crafted a worthy and dazzling successor to its blockbuster predecessors. In a screening room at PDI, it is co-director Miller who walks us through the new Shrek, a film bursting at the seams with great visual gags and some advanced animation.
As we begin, Miller assures us that “Everybody is back, all of the original cast,” Miller confirmed. “Prince Charming as Rupert Everett is definitely the bad guy this time around. In “Shrek 2,” he was supposed to take over the kingdom which was going to complete his happily ever after and become king and it didn’t work out for him. He lost his mom and now he’s got a major chip on his shoulder.” Indeed, we are shown a scene that truly redefines this not-so-charming prince.
In addition to the cast we know and love, Justin Timberlake plays the young teenage Arthur ï¿½who is really a lot like Shrek in this film as they share certain personality traits,” Miller continued. “Very stubborn, very much an outsider at his school who is very difficult for Shrek to deal with.ï¿½ The film pokes fun at the Arthurian legend and there are early glimpses of Lancelot and even, apparently, a bratty teenage Guinevere. As for the story in Shrek the Third, Miller confirms that it continues pretty much from where Shrek 2 left off. ï¿½Shrek and Fiona are still in Far, Far Away. They wanted to go back to the swamp, but unfortunately, the frog king, Fiona’s dad, has taken ill. While he’s sick, Fiona and Shrek have agreed to take over the day to day duties of the kingdom. That’s kind of where the film opens.” And what an opening it is, very funny.
“Okay you have a very full day sitting in for the king and the queen. There are several functions that acquire your attendance,” Puss in Boots says.
Donkey chimes in, “Come on. Time to get movin’. He goes to pull back the covers from Shrek and screams, “You really need to get yourself a pair of jammies.” The fun begins as the tone of the third Shrek is once again realized from the outset.
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up,” Shrek admits.
“I’m sorry Shrek. Please just try to grin and bear it. It’s just until dad gets better,” Fiona says sympathetically.
“Who do you think we’re kidding,” Shrek angrily bursts out. “I am an Ogre. I’m not cut out for this Fiona. I never will be.”
“Just think, in a couple more days, we’ll be back home in our vermin filled shack strewn with fungus filled with the rotting stench of mud and neglect,” Fiona says to him.
“Oh you had me on vermin filled,” Shrek says.
“And um maybe even the pitter patter of little feet on the floor.”
“That’s right, the swamp rats will be spawning,” Shrek says clueless.
“No, what I was thinking of is a little bit bigger than a spawning rat.”
“Donkey?” Shrek asks.
“No Shrek. What if theoretically, they were little Ogre feet?”
“Oh honey let’s try to be rational about this. Have you seen a baby lately? They just eat and poop and they cry and they cry when they poop and they poop when they cry. Now imagine an Ogre baby. The extra cry and the extra poop.”
“Don’t you ever think about having a family?” Fiona asks.
“Right now, you are my family.”
“Shrek maybe you should just stay and be king.”
“Oh come on. There’s no way that I could ever run a kingdom. That’s why your cousin Arthur is a perfect choice.”
“No, it’s not just that. No, it’s seeï¿½”
“Shrek interrupts, “And if he gives me any trouble, I’ve always got persuasion and reason. Fiona soon it’s just going to be you and me and our swamp.”
“It’s not going to be just you and me.”
So that is how the third movie begins, and we see a Merlin, Far, Far, Away transformed into an evil town by a ruthless Prince Charming, and it is implied that Shrek and Fiona will be Ogre parents. Miller says that thematically, Shrek the Third has more to say about responsibility and maturity, and is full of the more adult references of the first Shrek in particular. And yes, the guys at PDI are already hard at working at a fourth Shrek, not to mention a Xmas special called Shrek the Halls. With more sophisticated and fluid animation, especially with the likes of water and other natural phenomena, this Shrek is destined to prove that you canï¿½t keep a good ogre down.
More on Shrek with some of the key voice talents closer to its release.