L-r: Donkey, Shrek, Fiona.


Original medium: Children's picture story
Animated by: Dreamworks
First Appeared: 1990
Creator: William Steig
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The hero of a medieval fantasy adventure story, escorting a fair maiden through unspeakable danger to deliver her to her intended husband, must be brave and strong to get the job done at all — but to reach the conclusion likely to satisfy most audiences, where the hero winds up with the girl despite the original intention, it also helps if he's reasonably handsome, and starts out with a good attitude toward the Quest — and the heroine. Shrek easily met the first two criteria, but as for looks and demeanor, he was a real ogre — literally. Shrek was an ugly old monster who wanted nothing more …

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… than to live alone in the woods, driving away anyone foolish enough to attempt befriending him, and be as ill-tempered as can be expected of an ogre.

Shrek had been placidly leading an ogre's life when his remote woodland hideaway was suddenly overrun with fairytale creatures. They'd been banished there by Lord Farquaad, the local potentate, who had a "thing" about fairytale creatures. Farquaad, convinced he could become a true king only by marrying a princess, had set his sights on Princess Fiona, whom Shrek agreed to rescue from captivity (despite hints that Fiona was subject to a curse that struck her every night) in return for the restoration of his privacy. Shrek set off, reluctantly accompanied by an annoying talking Donkey.

Having accomplished the task, Shrek and Donkey brought Fiona back to Farquaad despite the fact that Shrek had fallen in love with her on the way. Shrek went home, but missed Fiona so badly, he decided to rescue her from the amazingly unappealing Farquaad — especially on learning that her nightly curse was to turn into an ogre, and it could be lifted (restoring her true form) only by love's first kiss. He got her out of Farquaad's clutches and found the curse-removing kiss turned her into a full-time ogre. Shrek and Fiona lived happily ever after, and simply put up with the lingering presence of Donkey.

The film was released May 18, 2001. In the sequel, Shrek 2, released May 19, 2004, Shrek and Fiona, accompanied by Donkey, visit Fiona's home, a kingdom called Far, Far Away, and Shrek forges a relationship with his new in-laws. A third movie, Shrek the Third (released May 18, 2007), a fourth, Shrek Forever After (released May 21, 2010) and a few scattered shorts, established Shrek as a regular series.

Shrek's voice was done by Mike Myers (who played a live-action Cat in the Hat), and Fiona's by Cameron Diaz (who lacks other voice credits). Donkey was Eddie Murphy (Mushu in Disney's Mulan) and Farquaad was John Lithgow (Jean-Claude in Rugrats). Fiona's parents, King Harold and Queen Lilian, were John Cleese (Samuel the Sheep in Charlotte's Web and Julie Andrews (Gru's mom in Despicable Me.

The production company, Dreamworks, goes back only as far as the late 1990s, but has gone on to establish itself as a powerhouse of 21st century animation, with productions like Chicken Run and Shark Tale under its belt. The Shrek films are among the highest-grossing series of all time, and its individual films also set box-office records. In live-action, Dreamworks is also responsible for the Transformers movies, and plans Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, for 2011.

Shrek has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Dreamworks.