Shrek is, quite possibly, the biggest piece of crap Disney ever made. Although it did extremely well at the box office and won an Academy Award for lowbrow humor, the fact remains that the story is, at heart, quite foul.
Shrek revolves around an ogre named, appropriately enough, Shrek. He is supposed to be a nice fellow who is unfairly judged because he's ugly and eats eyeballs (the origin of which is never discussed). By watching how the world treats Shrek, viewers are supposed to learn that people are not to be judged by their looks, no matter how they smell or whose body parts they enjoy consuming.
Too bad the film doesn't listen to its own lesson. Shrek himself constantly makes fun of a local ruler because he (the ruler) is short, and he (Shrek) abuses a donkey for being a jackass. This broken point is hammered home by the situation in which Shrek's love interest, Princess Fiona, finds herself. Fiona is cursed to be a beautiful woman by day (which she prefers) or an ugly ogre by night (which she hates). At the end of the film, the moment arrives when the curse will be broken and Fiona will be either beautiful or ugly forever. In what is supposed to be a big surprise twist, she permanently becomes what Shrek wants (the ugly ogre) instead of what would make her happy. One would think that having her turn beautiful and be loved by Shrek anyway would make the "looks don't matter" point much better than having her hate her appearance for the rest of her life in order to make her husband happy. That the film features a remake of a Monkees song about falling in love with someone because of how good they look doesn't help matters much. And neither does the donkey turning into an ogre donkey so that Shrek can stand looking at him.
A certain amount of controversy also arose over the fact that Shrek has a Jewish name (shrek is Yiddish for "obnoxious eyeball eater") and is forced to flee his home when it becomes a concentration camp.
Because of the immediate reaction in the press to Shrek's sexist and looksist (if that's even a word) underpinnings, and its seething undercurrent of potential antisemitism, Disney has attempted to disassociate itself from the film ever since its release.
Update: Shrek 2
At the time of this writing, Shrek 2: Lost in New York has been in theaters for less than six hours, and it is already the largest-grossing (no pun intended) animated feature in the history of the world. So the question must be asked, has this success vindicated Michael Eisner's desire to make endless sequels to everything successful and spend as little money as possible? And are the rumors true that it is incredibly inexpensive to make a sequel to an animated feature (because the models have already been made and much of the work can be done by underpaid third-world children)? To quote an unnamed spokesman for Eisner, "Shrek 2 has made an enormous profit and not a cent of Disney's money went into making it."
The success of Shrek 2 has encouraged Disney to make sequels to several other of its films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Ice Age.
Trivia: To save on licensing costs, Disney reused a variety of characters from previous films in Shrek. You'll see the seven dwarfs, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, the three little pigs, and many others, all based on model sheets rendered nearly unrecognizable from their classic originals by the translation to 3D. I, for one, it's incomprehensible that Disney would make this film and not do a better job of ensuring that the characters looked familiar. Seriously, Snow White looks nothing like herself, and the self-centered, overbearing, abusive, obnoxious, and incredibly grating Lord Farquaad may act exactly like Michael Eisner, but he looks nothing like him.
Trivia: Since this page was first posted, DisneyLies.com has received an unprecedented number of e-mail "correcting" our listing of Shrek as a Disney film. There seems to be a significant minority that believes Shrek is the product of Dreamworks SKG. However, saying that a fine company like Dreamworks would make a piece of garbage like Shrek is tantamount to slander. After all, these are the people who made such classics as Sinbad, which, aside from getting the main character's nationality wrong, was a fine and wildly successful film.
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