The producers of the film, ‘Shrek’, successfully modernise a traditional fairy tale plot, by adding a subtle twist and imaginative exploration into the notion of stereotypical characters. In this essay, I will analyse how the producers of ‘Shrek’ have constructed the film so that it appeals to a wide audience, including the whole spectrum of generations. In particular I am going to specifically focus on the characters of Shrek and Lord Farquaad, and investigate how reversing their roles, from evil ogre and knight in shining armour, as in Snow White and the seven dwarfs to the complete opposites, adds to the effectiveness of the film.
During the opening shots of ‘Shrek’, which opens as a heavenly light shining down on the beautiful book and its contents. This symbolises a nice story that ends happily ever after, calm and goodness. In traditional stories and fables, shadow and darkness represents danger and evil and so light is safety and pure. The producers have used this imagery to portray the film to have an angelic plot, which is usually of love rather than laughter. As the audience is introduced to the main character, the ogre himself. The film opens like a traditional fairy tale narrative, with the book and the text showing the familiar layout of a children’s book. Therefore highlighting a friendly atmosphere through the large text and brightly coloured pictures.
The first few camera shots allow the audience to get used to the Scottish accent of the narrator. The Scottish accent suggests a gentle and kind person, which creates a lasting good-natured impression upon the viewer’s minds. All of a sudden, a large green hand tears away the page breaking the soft atmosphere with a harsh reality check: “Yeah; like that’s ever gonna happen.” The calming voice of the narrator changes to that of a loveable and laughable rogue. A loud upbeat rap song interrupts the romantic slow pace of the film and the background music. Following this, a long shot featuring a humble little hut and its surroundings. A flushing toilet sound effect leaves little to the imagination as to the destiny of the missing page from the book, especially when Shrek appears fully for the first time looking rather relieved. It is at this point, the audience are made aware that the film is not going to be a conventional fairy tale, and a certain element of humour becomes evident. The director uses various aspects of humour in order to appeal to the wide audience, which the film is aimed towards. For example since Shrek is a parody of fairy tales the variety of jokes are enhanced by the audiences past back-story knowledge of the fairy tale creatures. A sequence with a surprise ending between a songbird and Princess Fiona, further on in the story, has the audience in stitches, young or old, adding extra value and emotion to the experience.
After a further two shots, the camera zooms in, onto a humble and secluded home, which quickly switches to a mid-shot of a very happy and satisfied ogre, it is at this point, I believe, that the main plot of the film is revealed. This is, that the traditional and stereotypical ‘evil’ ogre will in fact become the hero of the tale. And so pointing out, that the true beauty lies within and don’t judge a book by it’s cover, two very strong morals, which young children need to be taught as well as adults reminded of.
The following shots consist of a skilfully arranged cast list. We see the character taking a mud-shower, in order to mislead the audience into believing the first impression of Shrek’s character, that he is a disgusting and unsociable ogre. At this point an actor’s name is revealed. By revealing the cast in this way the director adds to the unusual and diverse layout of the film to come, rather than using a traditional vertical column layout as this suggests a regimented and predictable plot and story line. However seeing as the director is trying to escape from this formal and customary format he wants the credits to reflect the tone and mood of the film. Other effects used by the animators to show the main voices of the characters, are by using a mirror which consequent of Shrek’s non-existent beauty breaks and falls. This relates to other traditional fairy tales such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for the reason that in sleeping beauty, the wicked queen looks into the mirror asking, “Who is the fairest of them all?” Furthermore so as Shrek looks into the mirror and it shatters, the adult audience throughout the film realise that this image sub consciously says that beauty is only skin deep. However the image also appeals to the younger audience through the fact that the mirror breaks and so being young and naïve they laugh at not understanding the concept. Again the producer’s keep the spectators guessing as to what will happen next, despite the predictable story line, is Shrek good or evil? If Shrek turns out to be evil, then the audience’s preconceptions are accurate, therefore adding to the misconception of ‘ugly’ people and the traditional fairy tale ‘baddies’. Nevertheless if Shrek turns out to be good, then who is destined to be the evil character? Many films provide a contrast between good and evil, this adds a sense of unpredictability to the plot and so intrigues the audience. Usually the evil character is the least expected by the audience in order to shock and surprise the viewers.