The film ‘Shrek’, released in 2001, is enormously popular. It appeals to everyone – adults, teenagers and children. The film has “layers” meaning people see the film at different levels. Initial interest first arose around ‘Shrek’ because of the computer generated graphics the film used, which at the time of release were a very new and original at the time of release, which in turn attracted people to see the film, to see this ‘new’ form of medium. Another reason for this initial popularity is the cast list, which features voiceovers from some very famous, well-liked, funny actors and actresses who have good reputations amongst the public. The film also featured lots of new, modern and popular music from ‘fashionable’ music artists. However after this initial interest arose, more and more people decided to watch ‘Shrek’ especially families, and ‘Shrek’ still is a popular film. But how did the films producers achieve this overall popularity for ‘Shrek’?
One reason for ‘Shrek’s’ popularity is the traditional fairytale elements it contains. The film immediately begins with an old leather bound book. An old, conventional voice reads the traditional fairytale beginning – “Once upon a time…in the tallest room at the top of the tallest tower…but none prevailed.” Being at the start, this sets the scene for what is to come. All the usual fairytale characters are featured too all collected from different stories. We see the Three Pigs, the Wolf that blew their house down, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, the Gingerbread man and many more. ‘Shrek’ also has a traditional storyline – the knight’s quest to save the beautiful princess. This feature works well because a lot of people know about fairytales, meaning that parents would be prepared to bring their children along to see the film, because the fairytale storyline guarantees that the film will be child friendly, leaving parents satisfied that they can bring their children to see the film therefore increasing the overall popularity of the film because children are a large type of group who visit the cinema. All this is what one would expect from a boring old fairytale.
Yet not all is this way. One feature that makes ‘Shrek’ so well-liked is the clever way in which the films’ producers manager to ‘subvert’ the fairytale. It is this that makes ‘Shrek’ so funny making the film popular. Whereas all the roles for a traditional fairytale are there, the characters that play them are wrong and mixed up in some way. The rescuer of the princess isn’t the handsome prince people would expect – it’s actually a green, smelly, ugly ogre. The princess too is supposed to be a beautiful princess yet she ‘unfortunately’ turns into an ogre at night. Eventually the two ogres fall in love which the audience find amusing because it’s the most unlikely relationship. The ‘fierce’ dragon is mixed up too. On first impression the dragon is nasty and wants to eat the good characters. Yet it turns out to be a girl dragon that falls in love with the donkey. The dragon then changes and becomes friendly and helpful to Shrek. The King is another example of a subverted role. In usual fairytales the king is powerful, great and strong. He is the ruler and in charge. Yet in ‘Shrek’, Lord Farquaad is a midget. ‘Shrek’ also subverts ideas from other fairytale themes. One notable example is where Fiona sings to the blackbirds to get their eggs for breakfast which is a parody of Princess Aurora in a scene of Disney’s classic film Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is seen singing to birds and other woodland creatures. That adds a critical ‘twist’ to the film, which needs to be there to keep the interest of the audience there, especially teenagers and adults, which the fairytale plot won’t appeal to as much as the children. This therefore keeps children entertained, yet teenagers and adults, who see the film also entertained, making ‘Shrek’ truly a family film.
‘Shrek’ also has lots of modern elements in which add to the humour and fun the film provides. Examples of this include the modern soundtrack the film has throughout which contrast with the traditional music seen for example in Disney films. The rock and pop music seen in ‘Shrek’ help to attract children and teenagers, whom the majority of will listen to this sort of music. Some of the props seen in ‘Shrek’ are from modern day life too, which the audience find amusing and interesting because they are items they see at home or on television, mixed into this fairytale story. An example of this is the cocktail Lord Farquaad is drinking after the knight’s tournament. It is very over the top with a cherry in much like drinks seen in modern day cocktail bars and is not the traditional ale one would expect him to be drinking which again adds to the humour of the film. Another instance of a modern day object is Lord Farquaad’s castle seen which Shrek and Donkey encounter trying to get Shrek’s swamp back. Several things in the castle are modern for instance the animated information booth found in the courtyard. Both music and dance are modern and funny and is a favourite with viewers. The castle also has a parking area called ‘Lancelot’ similar to Madame Tussaud attractions like Alton Towers which is funny and modern which appeals to viewers who might have visited Alton Towers for example. Some more examples of modern day life in Shrek are the tournament which Lord Farquaad holds where instead of a traditional jousting fight, it is like a modern day wrestling match and another example is matrix style fighting Fiona performs against Robin Hood. By having lots of modern day life modifications, ‘Shrek’ gives the audience something to relate to and also adds an interesting and humourous twist to the film. This helps account for ‘Shrek’s’ enormous popularity.
However it is as easy as it sounds to put modern elements into a film like ‘Shrek’. Not just any contemporary objects or themes can be put in. They need to fit in with the film and compliment the storyline. The elements also need to be suitable for the target audience, which is aimed at everyone meaning some elements would not be suitable to fit into ‘Shrek’. Examples would be adult material or things to do with war like a nuclear bomb. These would bring the age certificate up meaning a reduced audience, less revenue and perhaps the film being criticised by the press. So this is another way the film has become popular – by the film makers carefully and thoughtfully inserting the modern elements and making sure modern themes that wouldn’t fit in are left out.
The dialogue in ‘Shrek’ is also important for ‘Shrek’s’ popularity. The dialogue is crucial because the audience hear it all the time. A good dialogue is important because it affects the film. The dialogue greatly varies with ‘Shrek’ and changes with the mood of the story. The dialogue makes the film funny a lot of the time by Eddie Murphy who makes jokes which can make an awkward or boring situation interesting. An example of this is when Shrek and Donkey have just reached the castle where the princess is being held. The castle is dark, big and scary and is in the middle of a lake of lava. Normally this would be quite a scary scene yet Donkey cheers up the situation with his humour – implying Shrek had “cracked one off” which is both modern language and funny especially for younger children.
There are lots of other examples of this modern dialogue in ‘Shrek’ too. Near the beginning of the film when the guards approach Shrek for Donkey, the words “designated settlement facility” are used. The words would seem out of place normally but with Shrek, this modern vocabulary just seems to fit in. Old-fashioned, traditional vocabulary is also used such as that used by the princess like “yonder window” and “champion”. The dialogue in ‘Shrek’ gets the film good reviews from the press, because it’s so clever and good, bring more people in, increasing popularity.
‘Shrek’ has lots of ambiguity in it. Mostly this is in dialogue form such as where Shrek says “Well I have to save my ass” which is true in one way because Shrek needs to fetch Donkey from the dragon yet also true in another, because Shrek needs to get out the castle without getting caught by the dragon and hence saving his life. By using clever ambiguous dialogue like this, the film creates an interest point – did you see it as this meaning, or the other, or perhaps even both? Different groups of people may see it in different ways like children, teenagers and adults. This gives the film humour also because of the dialogue used to create the ambiguity.
Psychology also plays a small part in making ‘Shrek’ a good film and therefore popular. Psychology is all about the mind, thoughts, and behaviour. Psychology can be very subtle and this adds depth to the film. An example is the language Donkey uses with Dragon. “I’m not emotionally ready for a physical relationship…unwanted physical contact” and also Shrek says so interesting things “sometimes things are more than they appear” and “I’m not your type”. This dialogue is clever because we have a cartoony, fun, fairytale style story yet we have this deep feelings coming out, which would normally be seen in older, more complex films. With this technique, ‘Shrek’ can appeal to older viewers such as parents who have taken their children to see the film and therefore creates a larger audience making it more popular.
There is another way that ‘Shrek’ appeals to an older audience through too. Shrek fits in lots of adult ‘stuff’ which is very clever because it appeals to adults and teenagers yet not being to obscene or offensive for children. This is sometimes dialogue like which tends to be humorous like when Shrek says “sure it’s big enough but look at the location”. This is a parody of estate agents and shows like ‘Location Location Location’. Children wouldn’t understand it at all, but adults would. Another example is Robin Hood’s dance. The dance is very homosexual and Robin Hood is portrayed as gay. Adults find this funny, but children are not left out because the dance itself is humorous. It is seen at different levels.
In conclusion I have learnt why and how ‘Shrek’ has become and still is a popular film. It achieves this popularity by the numerous techniques used in the film. The main reason I think there is for how popular the film is, is the humour it has. Lots of techniques create this, like the subverting of the fairytale, the dialogue and the modern day elements. Through this the film becomes very funny and attracts lots of attention. Another important reason for how well-liked ‘Shrek’ is how ‘Shrek’ can be seen at different levels. It appeals to different groups of people, and is attractive to them for different reasons. Adults enjoy the adult humour cleverly put in; children enjoy the fairytale story line, and the funny characters. All this makes ‘Shrek’ an enjoyable, humorous, family movie. That is why ‘Shrek’ is such a popular and well liked film.