© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For Better Or Worse, 'Shrek' Changed Animated Movies 20 Years Ago


Twenty years ago, you could tell right away "Shrek" was not your typical animated movie. For instance, how many characters from other childhood favorites have you heard use the toilet?


MIKE MYERS: (As Shrek) What a load of...



Shrek the green ogre then farts in a pool, chows down on a bowl of eyeballs and uses a burp as a blowtorch, all in the first three minutes of the movie.

KELLY: And forget about your noble Disney hero. Shrek was crass, and he was mean.


MYERS: (As Shrek) Stop singing. Well, it's no wonder you don't have any friends.

KELLY: "Shrek" looked and sounded different. Instead of Snow White pining for her prince...


ADRIANA CASELOTTI: (Singing) Someday, my prince will come. Someday, we'll meet again.

KELLY: "Shrek" hit you in the face with a buzz saw named Joan Jett.


JOAN JETT: (Singing) I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation. Living in the past, it's a new generation.

SHAPIRO: Elamin Abdelmahmoud wrote about the influence of "Shrek" for BuzzFeed this week, and he says a lot of fans like him have that moment where they realized they were watching something new.

ELAMIN ABDELMAHMOUD: And for me, like, it really begins with that scene with the Gingerbread Man being tortured.


CONRAD VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) Do you know the muffin man?

JOHN LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) The muffin man.

VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) The muffin man.

LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Yes, I know the muffin man.

ABDELMAHMOUD: Oh, I'm watching something that's a bit more willing to push the envelope in terms of, like, what we're presenting to children. "Shrek" was this turning point in the sense that suddenly animation studios realized there's actually a pretty good market for this. It sort of became the standard, the thing that you do, is that, like, you hide jokes that maybe later audiences can maybe grow into.


LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Now, tell me. Where are the others?

VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) Eat me (spitting).

LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Urgh (ph).

KELLY: "Shrek" and the sequels that followed were a cash cow for DreamWorks, and Abdelmahmoud says "Shrek" changed the tone of animated movies forever. People love Shrek because people relate to Shrek, even maybe especially his warts.

ABDELMAHMOUD: I think you get a lot of people who just, like, identify with that vision of the world, of saying, we've been sold all of these Disney movies, but, like, life is a lot more complicated. It's a lot dirtier than that. It's a lot harder than that. And this guy is going to be our guy.

SHAPIRO: And it turns out a lot of people's guy is a disgusting, green giant with a Scottish accent. Happy 20th, Shrek.


SMASH MOUTH: (Singing) Hey now, you're an all-star. Get your game on. Go play. Hey now, you're a rock star. Get the show on. Get paid. And all that glitters is gold. Only shooting stars break the mold. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Gabe O'Connor
Christopher Intagliata
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.