Shrek movies are like onions. They have layers.
It’s not often that an animated children’s movie maintains such a strong legacy amongst its aging audiences, nor is there one that’s infiltrated popular culture quite like Shrek. The 2001 DreamWorks movie won an Academy Award for Best Picture and was even placed on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2020.
Shrek (2001) was successful in its own right, but later installments helped to broaden the Shrek-verse by exploring worlds “Far Far Away” and the origin stories of side characters, too. What began as a simple premise, a tale of an ogre fighting for his swamp and eventually true love, has since spawned a franchise of sequels, specials, and shorts. But according to fans, some Shrek movies and specials fared better than others. More importantly, can a sequel actually be better than the original?
In the DVD and VHS version of Shrek 2, fans were treated to an interactive singing competition video, Far Far Away Idol. Based on the hit reality show at the time, American Idol, the special starred judge Simon Cowell as himself.
In what one Reddit user describes as a “fever dream,” Fiona, Shrek, Donkey, and other beloved characters compete in the parody singing competition. Unfortunately, Cowell’s character refused to crown anyone a winner – but audiences were later able to vote online for their favorite singer. Leave it Shrek to stay on top of pop culture moments.
Throughout the 2000s, the Shrek franchise was a gift that just kept giving (literally). Shrek the Halls released on television during the 2007 holiday season. If you’re keeping up with the Shrek-verse, that means it takes place between Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After.
Shrek the Halls follows the titular green ogre as he searches for the perfect gift for Fiona and prepares the swamp for festivities with his new family. But what is the meaning of Christmas? That’s what Shrek – deemed “Ebenezer Shrek” by his wife – must find out with the help of his fairytale friends and classic holiday stories. While some Redditors deem the special “kinda mediocre,” user u/STAugustine-Of-Hippo writes that it is a “lovely family holiday experience.”
In a 30-minute television special, Shrek, Fiona, and a slew of fairytale creatures go around telling scary stories – the winner will be deemed “King of Halloween.” The 2010 special was released just a few months after Shrek Forever After and included the three new ogre babies. Certainly, the stories would have been too scary for them?
Regardless, three stories were told that night parodying three classic tales: “The Bridge of Gingy,” “Boots Motel,” and “The Shreksorcist.” Was there a point to the television special? Maybe not. But Reddit user u/oh-ok-yeah writes, “I was thinking about the Shrek Halloween special where the deceased characters of the Shrek cinematic universe have been reanimated, and I realized that every antagonist that has ever wronged Shrek have been killed for doing so.”
Never shying away from borderline inappropriate lines and situations, Shrek the Third upped the ante on mature content. After all, Shrek and Fiona had begun to discuss having children – all in the midst of a plot to overthrow the throne.
There is much contention across Reddit, with some calling the franchise’s third installment “useless” or had “little story” past the first few scenes. But Shrek the Third has its moments, namely it’s humor geared towards older audiences and Prince Charming’s clever “transition from a side villain to a main villain.” It’s difficult to be the third movie of any trilogy, but Shrek the Third did go on to have its place in popular culture. Unfortunately, the movie could not overshadow the two that preceded it.
In the fourth and final Shrek installment, Shrek and Fiona celebrate their triplets’ first birthday. This leaves Shrek contemplating his new version of life: marriage, children, celebrity. He makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that results in Shrek no longer being born. And because this is the fairytale world, the only way Shrek can break the curse and return to his own life is with true love’s kiss.
A lot has changed for Shrek since the 2001 original – it’s that midlife crisis that has him craving his bachelor days hiding out at the swamp. As Reddit user u/Cineflect points out, the plot of Shrek Forever After is similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, teaching fans to appreciate what they have and how life changes.
The success of Shrek, in part, can be attributed to its beloved characters and their own stories. With this in mind, Puss in Boots became the franchise’s first origin story/prequel for a side character. The movie followed the titular furry fugitive on his lawless adventures. And careful not to mess with the timeline of the Shrek saga, the creators set Puss’s story two years prior to his appearance in Shrek 2.
The 2011 movie brought inn over $500 million from the box office during it’s run and received an Academy Award nomination the following year. So what about this sword-wielding cat was so appealing for fans almost nearly a decade after the first Shrek premiered? Reddit user u/Daviddv1202 explains, not did Puss in Boots have “one of the best soundtracks in the whole saga,” but it’s script also weaved in a great amount of action sequences with character background. But the story of Puss in Boots didn’t end there, as the character continues to show up in television shows and movies even today.
The early aughts were filled with exciting animated films, but Shrek offered a buddy story that had never seen before on screen. Shrek and Donkey’s friendship forms as they trek across Duloc, hoping to regain his swamp from Lord Farquad. This leads to the duo on a dangerous mission to rescue Princess Fiona, filled with many musical montages and moments of self-discovery. The plot is fairly straightforward as with any fairytale story, but Shrek challenges these tropes all the same.
Since 2001, Shrek has gone on to become a pinnacle of culture. Smash Mouth's “All Star,” after all, will forever be associated with the movie’s opening montage and vivid imagery of Shrek’s swamp. Aside from its many memorable moments, according to Redditor u/_Wadsy_, the movie that spearheaded a franchise has an overall fun plot, a great villain, and a beautiful friendship that formed between Shrek and Donkey. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet has kept a strong fan-base even 20 years later.
The honeymoon is over for Shrek and Fiona, and now it’s time to meet the in-laws. The two – along with Donkey, of course – trek to a land Far Far Away, where Fiona’s parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian, are preparing a royal ball for the newlyweds. As it turns out, Far Far Away resembles big, consumerist cities like New York or Los Angeles, and is filled with new fairytale characters from Fiona’s past. Some of whom (like Prince Charming and his mother, Fairy Godmother) look down on the marriage and seek to destroy the two ogres from their happy ever after.
Shrek 2 isn’t just a sequel, but a continuation of Shrek and Fiona’s love story amidst the backdrop of a twisted fairytale world. As Reddit user u/ZacktheKingsfan shares, Shrek and Fiona remaining as ogres “reaffirmed the message” that was presented in the first Shrek. Shrek 2 offered the same meta-perspective on classic fairytale tropes, while also including exciting Disney characters, new villains, and even more show-stopping musical numbers.
NEXT: Raunchy Jokes In 'Shrek' That You Missed As A Kid
Ilana is a writer for Collider. Her previous work can be found on her blog, entertainmental.co. Aside from analyzing the deeper meaning of popular TV and movies, Ilana is passionate about writing in any form, doing puzzles, and exploring cities around the world.
8 Best Shrek Movies & Specials Ranked, According To Reddit – Collider
Shrek movies are like onions. They have layers.