A CGI-animated tetralogy by Dreamworks Animation loosely based on a 1990 book about an ogre in a fairy tale land who just wants to live in his swamp undisturbed, but is dragged against his will into fighting for the fate of entire kingdoms.Overall there have been four movies:
Notorious for its humor, both witty and slapstick, for turning everything we knew from fairy tales upside-down, and for a ridiculously modern feel of its medieval fantasy setting. The first film's huge success (combined with it easily outdrawing the Disney Animated Canon entry Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which opened a month later) convinced Dreamworks that 2D is dead, and scrapped their 2D films all together, "apologized" for them, and even convinced other executives in the same idea, paving the way for all films thereafter — it is unclear if 2D films will regain top priority again. Shrek was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Shrek and its sequels are Dreamworks' defining hits, "Fiona's Theme" plays during the studio's Vanity Plate in all their animated films now, and the character of Shrek is now their unofficial mascot.Adapted into The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2008 and has since closed and launched a United States tour. There is also a Christmas Special, Shrek the Halls, and a Halloween Special, Scared Shrekless. Another film, entitled Puss in Boots was released in 2011. It is set before the events of Shrek 2, and chronicles the backstory of Puss in Boots. It's worth to note that the film is "ogre-less". Guillermo del Toro is the executive producer. Universal Studios features Shrek 4D (titled as The Ghost of Lord Farquaad on some video releases), which is set immediately after Shrek and Fiona's wedding and details a ghostly Lord Farquaad's attempt to get Fiona back. Finally, there's an extensive series of tie-in games of varyingquality.A fifth film is being planned according to Jeffrey Katzenberg, as the series was originally planned to be a Pentalogy. The company has yet to officially announce what it will be about or who will be involved.Now has a fledgling character sheet and a Fanfic recs page.
The series as a whole commonly provides examples of the following tropes:
The Spanish dub substitutes Puss' generic Spanish accent for a thick Malaga accent (Banderas is from Malaga). Banderas voices Puss in the English, Spanish, and Italian versions.
Acrofatic: Shrek — and all ogres — are exceptionally nimble and agile for their size.
Adaptation Expansion: Really, when you're adapting a short children's book into even a single feature-length movie, let alone an entire franchise, this is inevitable.
Adaptational Villainy: Played straight and inverted for different characters. The Big Bad Wolf is one of the heroes (and, in the third film, so is one of the Ugly Stepsisters) while some traditionally malevolent fairytale creatures like Dragon and the ogres are for the most part sympathetic. On the other hand, Red Riding Hood is a thief while Lancelot and Guenivere are both Jerkasses who mistreat a young King Arthur, and Geppetto, far from the benevolent father figure he is usually depicted as, is seen turning in Pinocchio. Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother are also major antagonists.
Ascended Extra: Many of the fairy tale characters from the first film get gradually more important as the films go on. They are specifically the Gingerbread Man, Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, and Pinocchio. Dragon also becomes more important, and Mavis the Ugly Sister in the second film becomes quite important in the third.
This even occurs for the villains. Captain Hook makes an appearance playing piano in the Villain Bar in the second film, before making a more prominent appearance in the third. And Rumpelstiltskin briefly featured in the third (albeit with a completely difference appearance), before going on to be the Big Bad of the fourth.
Action Girl: Princess Fiona. She gets it from her mother, who is now a Retired Badass (she can smash through a wall with her head with no problem even in her old age.)
Arbitrary Skepticism: Several instances. For example, In Scared Shrekless, Donkey refuses to believe that Farquaad's ghost haunts Duloc castle. Even though he has in fact seen and interacted with Farquaad's ghost.
Babies Ever After: The ogrelings, whom the fourth film reveals to be named Fergus, Farkle and Felicia.
Badass: Most notably Fiona and Puss in Boots, and especially Shrek himself.
Bad-Guy Bar: The second and third movies have a straight example featuring fairy tale bad guys. "The Poison Apple Bar" features Captain Hook on piano. It also has signs saying "Unhappy Hour" and "We Reserve the Right to Behead Anyone".
Big Little Man: Our first glimpse of Lord Farquaad involves him striding dramatically along a corridor, camera focused on his face or body at a strange angle, then when the camera and scenery go still, he's revealed to be maybe half the height of the guards.
Rumpelstiltskin in Shrek the Third and Rumpelstiltskin in Shrek Forever After.
There's a similar case in the original Shrek. Who's that right at the end turning the onion and mice into a carriage? Hint: It's the Fairy Godmother.
Maybe the fourth movie's Rumpelstiltskin was the actual trickster from the fairy tale and the third movie-version was simply some random guy who played on everyone's assumption of Rumpelstiltskin's appearance?
One might guess that they just forgot what they did in the previous movie only 4 years ago, but comments in the DVD special features of Shrek Forever After indicate that it's more likely they hoped the audience did.
Cat Stereotype: Puss-in-Boots is a swashbuckling, wisecracking orange cat.
Cheated Angle: When Puss in Boots is introduced in Shrek 2, his upper and lower halves are separated. The scene is dark enough that you can't see it, but they wanted the head and boots farther apart than they would actually be.
Chekhov's Gunman: The Muffin Man. First mentioned briefly by Gingy in the first movie, then is enlisted in first sequel to help Shrek stop Fiona from kissing Prince Charming in time by baking a giant version of the Gingerbread Man. And shows up in the last sequel baking the birthday cake for the Shreklings.
Cultural Translation: The Polish dub of the Shrek movies are full of Polish pop-culture references. For example Donkey sings the theme song of a Polish TV drama when Shrek decides to go to the Potion Factory in Shrek 2. Donkey also generates much Actor Allusion to the known actor voicing him.
Dance Party Ending: All the Shrek films love this trope. Taken to even greater levels in the DVD releases, which include bonus 'dance party' epilogues such as the first film's 'Swamp Karaoke Party' and the second's parody of American Idol.
The running gag in the first movie — "Do you think maybe he's compensating for something?" Kids think it refers to his height. Adults think it refers to his... length.
The constant use of the word "ass" to mean a literal donkey but in phrases where it usually means the human buttocks. "Nobody likes a kissass." "I have to save my ass." "You still look like an ass to me."
Dragon Hoard: Dragon sleeps on-top of a mountain of treasure. She doesn't seem that bothered by the collection of treasure in the sequels, though.
Dub Species Change: In some languages that don't have an equivalent for the word "ogre", Shrek is a "troll" instead. Curiously averted in the Dutch version, where "ogre" became "oger".
Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have: Fiona's mother looks pretty good for being in, presumably, her sixties. And if the we go off what the Fairy Godmother looks like now, one can only imagine how attractive she must have looked in her younger years
Gratuitous French: Robin Hood, who ,despite being a British folklore character, speaks with a French accent for no particular reason.
Half Empty Two Shot: Used twice to show how alone Shrek and Fiona feel after their big fight. Fiona is shown sitting at an otherwise unoccupied table, with the table in the center of the shot. This is immediately followed by Shrek sitting at his table, on the opposite side (from the camera's perspective).
Happily Married: It's not always smooth sailing, but Shrek and Fiona definitely love each other. The same goes for Donkey and Dragon.
Headless Horseman: One of the patrons of the Poisoned Apple in the second film, and part of Charming's army of villains in the third.
He also got a DUI during the second movie. Shrek and Co. plow into him while he's taking a field sobriety test. Touching the nose he doesn't have.
The Hermit: Shrek in the first film, due to society's views of ogres.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Shrek & human!Fiona in the first film and inverted with Dragon & Donkey, Fiona & Farquaad. The second has Charming and his mum, inverted with Harold and Lillian even BEFORE he's changed back...
Still as both ogres or humans, Fiona is quite petite compared to Shrek.
It's hinted that Shrek wants this too, but his hermit persona hides it, because deep down he has realized he can never have friends, thus at least requiring privacy.
Iconic Sequel Character: Puss in Boots was introduced on the second film, and became popular enough to get his own movie.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Frequent from Shrek, but Donkey never gets them. Also a lot of the names of shops.
Informed Attractiveness: Shrek when he becomes a human in the second film. He's definitely handsome, but not quite at the level where every female characters start fawning over him.
Interspecies Romance: Donkey and Dragon. Also Queen Lillian and King Harold in 2. And, depending on which you think Fiona's original race is (human or ogre), her relationship with Shrek may or may not be this.
Knight in Sour Armor: Shrek is crude, hot-tempered and cynical, but nearly always manages to do the right thing, especially for people (and donkeys) that have proven they're able to see past the idea of "big, stupid, ugly ogres".
Lord Farquaad and Prince Charming also have their moments (Charming especially during the climax of Shrek the Third: "With soft and bouncy haaaaaaaaiiiiiiir!")
Puss in Boots has his moments. Witness this immortal line from the fourth movie: "Feed Me...if you dare!"
A non-talking example in Shrek 2: As a troupe of trumpeters from Far Far Away make their grand entrance into Shrek and Fiona's swamp, concluding their performance as they reach Shrek's hut, one of the trumpeters within the troupe decides to continue on, giving an over-the-top, show-stopping performance that sounds like the Hawaii Five-O theme that leaves Shrek, Fiona and Donkey confused and the herald that has an invitation for the two quite clearly annoyed.
"Shrek" is the Yiddish word for "monster", derived from the German word "Schreck", meaning "terror" or "fright".
Also, "Farquaad" is a slightly-slurred mispronunciation of an obscene term for an unpleasant person.
This one gets a lampshade in a FoxTrot comic, where Paige tries to convince Peter (who works at the theater) to let her into the movie for free. She starts describing the cast ("Shrek and Fiona and the evil Prince..."); Peter interrupts, saying there's no way he'll let her do that, and in the last panel she finishes her sentence ("...Farquaad.") while shooting him a death glare.
Farquaad was actually named after one of the quadrangles in Notre Dame University, where many of the filmmakers graduated - allusions to it can be found throughout the movies. The quadrangle was situated far away, i.e. a "far quad".
Lord Farquaad was widely rumoured to be modelled on Disney's then-CEO Michael Eisner as a Take That on the part of the film's executive producer (and former Disney executive) Jeffrey Katzenberg. His kingdom is a parody of Walt Disney World.
Sequel Reset: The first movie ended with Happily Ever After, but the sequels have been putting that off ever since. The second film reveals there was in fact an actual Prince Charming that was supposed to break the curse on Fiona, and that her royal parents are still around; the action picks up after the lovers' honeymoon as they're forced to meet her parents, causing another go-round of problems regarding Shrek's self-esteem. The amusing new characters as well as ones who got expanded roles helped mitigate this for audiences, but reaction to the third film (where Shrek now has to get out of being king if he ever hopes to live out his life in the swamp, and the loose end of 2 involving Prince Charming's fate is brought up) suggests the formula is wearing thin. And the fourth movie does a total reset with time travel.
Shout-Out: Lots of them, mostly to Disney, though the giant gingerbread man is named "Mongo" as a tribute to Blazing Saddles and there's a lot to other fantasy stories and films.
The sequel numbering of the first three films reference Blackadder. Shrek Goes Forth was actually a working title for the fourth film.
Left the Background Music On: This happens 3 times in Shrek the Third. The first is when the music during the king's funeral turns out to be singing frogs. The second is when Shrek and Artie are about to have a heart-to-heart talk, and Merlin turns on the music for mood. Finally, the dramatic music during a fight scene is actually Captain Hook playing on the piano.
Inverted, kinda, in Shrek 2. The Fairy Godmother starts singing "Holding Out for a Hero", then the dramatic rescue begins, with the song as BGM. But she's still singing throughout as it switches between dance and rescue.
The Christmas SpecialShrek the Halls does with a sound effect: the "squealing kettle" noise that accompanies Shrek losing his temper is revealed to be an actual squealing kettle.
It even shows up in the original film: When Shrek's rescued Fiona and the group is journeying back to Lord Farquaad's castle, they get waylaid by Robin Hood. Cue fight scene. A lively accordion piece quickly starts up, holds a note during a Matrix-style Orbital Shot (where (mostly) everything stops in place), and stops again as Fiona knocks out Friar Tuck, who was playing the instrument.
The first film also has Fiona's Theme playing while Farquaad is admiring Fiona's image. It then turns out the music is coming from the Magic Mirror itself.
Spoiled By The Merchandise: Plush toys of Shrek and Fiona's triplets were in stores and on shelves at various different retailers long before the release of Shrek the Third, in which Fiona breaks the news to Shrek that she's pregnant.
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: King Harold in Shrek 2 has a good example of a non-death Heroic Sacrifice, as he throws himself in the path of the Fairy Godmother's wand to save Shrek and Fiona. The result is that his previous 'happy ending' is removed and he is turned back to the frog he was. But he's still alive at the end of the movie, and his wife doesn't mind his being a frog at all. Unfortunately, within the first act of Shrek the Third, King Harold, well, croaks.
Shrek: I'm an ogre! You know, 'Grab your torch and pitchfork!' Doesn't that bother you?
Also lampshaded in the sequel, when Shrek and Fiona step out of their carriage in Far Far Away and are revealed to be ogres. Shrek sees some pitchforks in the crowd and gets nervous, commenting "Let's go before they light the torches."
And in the fourth movie, Shrek and family are celebrities, so people mob now to ask him to sign their torches and pitchforks.
Trademark Favorite Food: Donkey loves waffles, which is based on an off-hand comment from the first film. Also, parfaits.
Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: This trope is used in the first two movies: While Lord Farquaad isn't exactly good looking, he does play upon Shrek's ugliness to try to incite villagers against him. The second provides a better example, with the Fairy Godmother and her son Charming as good-looking villains opposing Shrek.
Villain Song: Shrek subverts it every way it can. The main villain of Shrek 2 gets not one, but two songs: The first one is the self-titled "Fairy Godmother Song", a cheerful upbeat ditty about how she wants to help everyone; the second comes complete with an ominous orchestra and backing choir... except the song in question is "Holding Out for a Hero".
Prince Charming also gets a song in Shrek the Third, set to a musical that was set up as an excuse to publicly execute Shrek. Lord Farquaad didn't have a bona fide villain "song" (except in The Musical), but he has a menacing leitmotif in the first movie, played upon his first appearance.
Adaptation Expansion: The extra half-hour that the film didn't have is used to elaborate on the backstories of Shrek, Fiona, and Farquaad, as well as give more focus to the Fairytale Creatures as characters.
Fiona's time in the tower is expanded on and we see how it' affected her outlook, namely why it makes her so eager to marry the first prince who comes. It also shows how being locked in a little room for twenty years can result in slight Sanity Slippage.
Shrek's cynicism comes from a harsh life of learning that ogres are the biggest recipients of Fantastic Racism out there and having his dreams of maybe getting to be a hero crushed by that harsh life.
Dragon doesn't really like her job, feeling she's essentially Fiona's babysitter and hating how no one will ever want to rescue her instead of the classically beautiful princess, explaining why Donkey's flirting works so well.
All There in the Manual: The Fairytale Creatures get a surprising amount of characterization, sometimes even a little backstory, in the behind-the-scenes webisodes and their individual profiles on the (now defunct) "Shrekster" website, most of which isn't given in the show itself.
Possibly due to it's half-spoken, half-sung nature, "Forever" is left off the soundtrack. The song contains a lot of Dragon's motivations (she's annoyed that she's a glorified babysitter and no one will ever want to rescue her) and the reason Donkey becomes attracted to her (in stating that Fiona's not his type, he declares he "likes a big, big girl").
Ambiguously Gay: From the sassy Donkey, to the prissy Farquaad, to the entire pride-anthem vibe of "Freak Flag", the musical is full of this trope.
Pinocchio: I'm wood. I'm good. Get used to it!
Anthropomorphic Shift: Donkey, being portrayed by a live actor in costume, went from the quadruped Talking Animal he was in the films to an upright biped wearing a vest, at least in early productions. Inverted in later incarnations as the clothes were removed and he began walking in a torso-first fashion with his forelegs held up - a stance more like that of a real quadrupedal animal on it's hind legs.
Ascended Extra: All of the Fairytale Creatures ensemble to an extent, but especially Pinocchio.
Ascended Fridge Horror: Pretty much any struggles you could think of with Fiona being locked in the tower with just one little room in the film are lovingly spelled out in the musical, making it clear she was mroe a prisoner than anything. Sanity Slippage from isolation, having to boil her chamberpot due to lacking a toilet (or plumbing, it's implied), not much headroom when she grew taller...hell, she even admits that it's a good thing the walls were padded.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The still-living prisoners of Dragon tell Donkey the reason they weren't incinerated is that she keeps them around to sing backup.
Pinocchio: We may be freaks, but we're freaks with teeth and claws and magic wands...and together, we can stand up to Farquaad! Humpty-Dumpty:"We've got magic! We've got power! Who are they to say we're wrong? All the things that make us special Are the things that make us strong!"
Fat Admirer: Donkey, as it turns out, as he sets the record straight during the song "Forever".
Gender Flip: The Three Blind Mice are females in the musical, while in the films there males.
For the Evulz: According to his Ballad (see below), Farquaad plans on total domination "with some torture, just for fun!"
Triumphant Reprise: "Big Bright Beautiful World." The first version is a cynical opening number about how it's awesome being anything but an ogre. The reprise is a tender song about how Shrek's life has become worthwhile.