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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Shrek animates Cannes
Shrek stars an ugly, fat ogre
Shrek stars an ugly, fat ogre with low self-esteem
BBC News Online's entertainment correspondent Tom Brook reports on fantasy feature animation Shrek as it prepares to create waves at the Cannes Film Festival, from 9 to 20 May.

Shrek is not like any other cartoon. It is a big-budget fairy tale computer animation that makers DreamWorks hope will become a vehicle to box office glory.

The leading character is an ugly, fat and flatulent ogre who suffers from low self-esteem.

This strange green creature with a Scottish accent, supplied by Mike Myers, captivates the heart of a seemingly beautiful princess voiced by Cameron Diaz.
The Princess
The princess is voiced by Cameron Diaz

With its visually striking computer generated images, a subversive fairy tale and a satire that seems to be taking aim at Disney, this animation has a lot to offer both adults and children.

The film has not even been released in America but it will be screened on 12 May at Cannes, where it has already distinguished itself by becoming the first animated film to compete in the film festival since 1953.

Mike Myers said: "I take that as a tremendous compliment and I think it's very high praise indeed and I'm very proud to be part of it."

'Revenge'

Shrek has been a pet project of Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of DreamWorks co-founders. He appears to have put his stamp on the content.

Katzenberg had a long and very public legal battle with Disney, his former employers, when he left the studio after being passed over for a top job.
Shrek character
The lord is an unpleasant character

Many think that Shrek is Katzenberg's revenge fantasy against Disney. The film has an unpleasant Lord Farquaad, who some say resembles Disney boss Michael Eisner.

Farquaad lives in a sanitised theme park called Duloc which looks like the Magic Kingdom.

Everyone from Snow White to Pinocchio are lampooned in this animation which takes aim at beloved Disney characters.

Katzenberg said: "Yes we do have fun with them but I don't believe we're dissing them."

Katzenberg claims Shrek is no revenge movie. He adds: "I have no agenda other than to make a really fun and entertaining movie."

At first viewing the technology in Shrek is quite startling in that it has been harnessed to create characters that are quite lifelike.

Shrek himself has very human facial expressions, which came about through an exhaustive creative process by a team of animators who gave him 900 moveable muscles.

Katzenberg boasted: "The amount of facial acting that we're able to achieve today is far, far greater than anybody's ever seen before."

But it's not just facial expressions that make this animation different because Shrek presents animated images of clothing, fluids and fire that look entirely new.

Complex

It would be wrong to say that the animation seen in Shrek is approaching "photo-reality" because the images that emerge represent a new computer-generated aesthetic that is almost surreal.

Not all the animated characters are flawless. Princess Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz, seems a little stiff and the audience is at times reminded that she is more a feat of technological wizardry rather than lifelike being.
Donkey
Donkey shows "state of the art" technology

But Donkey, an animal who befriends Shrek and voiced by Eddie Murphy, represents an artful coming together of state-of-the-art technology.

Donkey is a loveable and complex screen character whose body movements, fur, facial expressions and voice have all been cleverly synchronised to create a memorable screen personality.

Shrek is not saccharine; it definitely tries to subvert fairy tale conventions but it does contain that clichéd storyline that you should not judge a book by its cover.

The screenplay, which is based on a children's story by William Steig, conveys the view that how you look physically is not that important.

Mike Myers said the message of the film was: "Be happy with who you are and happy with what you look like and just accept what God's given you."

Shrek
Shrek falls back on fairy-tale cliché

With its feel-good content, loveable and irreverent characters Shrek, looks set to have broad audience appeal, especially among families in the summer months.

If it does become a breakout hit then it could be the first DreamWorks animation that makes its competitors at Disney truly nervous.

In recent years DreamWorks has delivered a range of animated films, everything from the disastrous Road To Eldorado to the critically acclaimed Antz.

But Shrek possesses a sophisticated animated look that now makes Disney offerings look rather mundane.

Shrek's first major box office test will come when it opens in US cinemas on 18 May.

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The BBC's Tom Brook
"Dreamworks is hoping it has created another blockbuster"

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