Shrek: The Whole Story Boxed Set Blu-rayDreamWorks Animation's Shrek films series has become the most popular and financially successful animated franchise in movie history. Not only has the entire series earned $2 billion worldwide and gone on to become the most successful animated franchise of all-time, but it is the fifth most successful film franchise of all-time, right behind Star Wars, Harry Potter, James Bond and Batman, respectively. Not to mention that the original Shrek won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated feature. While Shrek 2 is the most successful animated film in history domestically, Shrek Forever After is DreamWorks' highest grossing international film of all-time. Now on December 7th, fans will finally have a chance to bring the entire series home with them on Blu-ray, with the release of Shrek: The Whole Story Boxed Set.
Earlier this week, we had a rare opportunity to visit the DreamWorks Animation Studios in Glendale, California to learn more about the new collection, which includes all four films newly re-mastered and converted for Blu-ray. In addition to the four original theatrical films, the collection will also include an all-new holiday special called Donkey's Christmas Shrektacular. We began our visit to the studio in their digital dailies room, where each day filmmakers review and judge their own work to see what is good enough to make the cut. We had a chance to review some scenes from the original theatrical releases and then compare them with the same scenes on the brand new Blu-rays. You can really see the difference, and the new Blu-ray version is sharper, crisper and more colorful that its original counterpart.
We were soon greeted by DreamWorks Animation's CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg who began by discussing what the Shrek series has meant to the studio and the process of converting these films to Blu-ray. "I thought I would take a couple of minutes and talk about what Shrek has meant to DreamWorks. We have incredible artists who have been achieving amazing efforts over more than a decade of filmmaking. One of the things that we are very excited about is to see how this body of work has translated to the 3D world," said Katzenberg. "There is a lot of excitement as well as questions about how you take some great existing content and translate it into 3D space. What we are going to show you today is what happens when you have state of the art tools, the full financial resources, the time that it takes and most importantly the vision and knowledge. I think particularly with these first three films and what they looked like, now that we have gone through a year and a half adapting them to Blu-ray with our artists here at the studio, will set a very high standard of what it should look like."
"To talk a little bit about Shrek and what it has meant for the company, when we started DreamWorks, now more than fifteen years ago one of the missions that we had with the animation company was to find a different kind of animated film," Katzenberg continued. "As you know I spent many years at the Disney Company and we always felt challenged, excited and rewarded by the incredible legacy and heritage of Walt Disney. We started something there and I loved every minute of every day of making those movies. When I left Disney it was very important for me that here at DreamWorks we find our own path. What will be a DreamWorks film, we asked ourselves," he explained."The Disney legacy and heritage is singular, very special and something I have always held in high regard," Katzenberg continued. "I wanted us to find something that some day might be held in high regard but that could very much be something of our own. Our own brand that would have our own set of values that people would associate when they hear DreamWorks, a set of ideas, ideals and values that mean something to us. So we set out on a path here to find that holy grail. We made a really serious and dramatic movie in The Prince of Egypt. Next we made a very sophisticated unique comedy with Antz. Then we made a satirical, unique style of animation called Chicken Run and other films along the way. All of these were building blocks and experiments for us trying to find what is a DreamWorks animated film," the CEO explained.
"Then in 2001 the great green ogre arrived and there was our answer," said Katzenberg. "What Shrek has meant for DreamWorks is so much more than all the statistics, numbers and facts. But when I was reading the list to myself I realized that while all of those things are fantastic, the Shrek movies have meant more to us than even all of this. Because what Shrek did is it become our north star. It showed us what a DreamWorks animated movie could and should aspire to be. It is distinctive and it's not like anything else that anyone does. It's not a Disney movie, its not a Pixar movie, its not like anyone else's. That has led us on our path for more than a decade now. It has informed us in many of the creative choices that we have taken and that we take everyday," said Katzenberg.
"I look at this as so much more than its business success, as important as that has been," he continued. "It really was the film that shined the light and showed us what we should be aspiring to do on movies that we are making. These films have been important all of the world and a generation has grown up on and enjoyed these movies. They will now be able to bring them all together in one great collection for the first time on Blu-ray. I hope you will see how much care we have taken, because this is now our heritage, to insure that these four films are presented in the best way possible. I think it will be a great experience and value for Shrek fans all around the world. I believe this is one of the happiest work places in the world," he said in conclusion.
After that, Mr. Katzenberg invited us to take a tour of the beautiful studio campus. The studio is equipped with a state of the art game room, fitness center, and cafeteria stocked with health conscious food for its employees. The sixteen-year-old studio also features an outdoor amphitheater where fun events are often planned for the employees to help keep spirits high. There is also a small lagoon in the middle of the campus, which homes over three hundred coy fish and a giant water fountain. We were told that when the fountain is off, it means that Katzenberg is having a meeting in his office. Once we were taken inside the facility to see where the actual animation magic is created, we were given a step-by-step description of exactly how the company produces one of their animated films. While on our tour, we saw Katzenberg walk by with popular director Guillermo del Toro, who is supposedly working on a new animated project for the studio.
Our next stop on our tour was to the recording stage where we had a chance to find out what it is like to be a voice actor on a Shrek film. In the recording session with us, coaching us along, was Conrad Vernon and Walt Dohrn. Vernon directed Shrek 2 but is probably most famous for providing the voice for the beloved character, the Gingerbread Man. While Dohrn was a writer on Shrek the Third but is probably best known for voicing the role of Rumpelstiltskin, the villain in Shrek Forever After. With the two voice-over experts at our side, we were confident that we could accomplish the task at hand. We were attempting to voice the character of Shrek in a scene with Fiona and Puss in Boots from Shrek Forever After. We put a set of headphones on and could hear the original track, with Mike Myers' voice, in our ears and tried our best to sink up our voice with the character's lips on screen. It was a lot harder than it looks but with Dohrn and Vernon's help, the recording came out pretty good. Although we can now see why talented voice actors are really needed for this process.We also got a chance to take a look at the upcoming 3D conversions of the film, which will be available on Blu-ray exclusively with the new 3D televisions from Samsung. We put the 3D glasses on and were surprised to find that the 3D looks as good, and perhaps even better, than it did in the theaters because you are looking at the screen straight on, rather that from an angle in the theater. It's pretty remarkable to think that solid 3D capability is very close to being truly accessible in your own home!
Finally, although last summer's Shrek Forever After did mark the end of the green ogre's story, it does not mark the end of the franchise. DreamWorks is currently working on Puss in Boots, a feature film spin-off based on the popular feline character. The film is scheduled for fall of 2011 and will feature actor Antonio Banderas reprising his role as the famous cat. The film will also act as a Desperado reunion for Banderas, as actress Salma Hayek is also part of the cast. The film will act as an origin story for the character and is a prequel to the other movies in the series.