‘Shrek’: the animated movie made to criticise Disney
(Credit: Netflix)


'Shrek': the animated movie made to criticise Disney

As the new millennium dawned, the illustrious era of the ‘Disney Renaissance,’ marked by the release of numerous iconic animated masterpieces, came to a close. Audiences were eager for a new sensation to capture their imaginations. Enter Shrek, a cantankerous ogre with a Scottish accent, who arrived on the scene at precisely the right moment, quickly becoming nothing short of a sensation.

In addition to earning almost half a billion dollars at the global box office and winning the first-ever Academy Award for ‘Best Animated Feature’, the film marked a new dawn for computer-animated features. Post-Shrek, the classical approach was out, with pop culture references and just as many jokes geared towards the adults in the audience as the children definitively in.

What makes its success even more admirable is the widely-held belief that the movie was born from entirely cynical and spiteful origins, something that’s been hinted at by several of its most important creative cogs. A key part of the aforementioned ‘Disney Renaissance’ was Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the head of Walt Disney Studios between 1984 and 1994.

He ended up resigning after a fall-out with CEO Michael Eisner and Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney and founded DreamWorks the very same year he exited the Mouse House. While it’s clear and obvious that Shrek is deconstructing, dismantling, and mercilessly mocking the fairy tale content of Katzenberg’s former employers, it goes much deeper than that.

When it was put to director Andrew Adamson that the repeated shots being fired in Disney’s direction were hardly subtle, he tried to downplay it altogether. “It’s unavoidable that people are going to bring up the whole rivalry thing,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “But that was certainly not the basis of what we were doing. The first thing we wanted to do is go for what’s funny.”

Of course, it can’t be overlooked that the nefarious Lord Farquaad doesn’t only have a name that’s a thinly-veiled approximation of ‘fuckwad’, but he also bears a passing resemblance to Eisner and oversees an idyllic kingdom with more than several shades of Disneyland. Beyond that, he once said of Katzenberg, “I think I hate that little midget,” meaning it surely isn’t a coincidence that Farquaad is so diminutive in stature.

Even in the opening scene, Mike Myers’ title character literally wipes his arse with the pages from a book of classic fairy tales, the likes of which served as the backbone of Disney’s animated output for decades. Shrek wasn’t made for the express purpose of giving Katzenberg a measure of revenge. Still, it’s patently clear that it played into his thinking, especially when he wasn’t just instrumental in the development and story processes. He was the founder and head of the studio responsible for making it.