“Shrek: Parody or Form of Retaliation?”
DreamWorks’s Shrek, a new age fairly tale with a comical twist, has been praised for its visual effects and humorous script. Todd McCarthy of Daily Variety stated, “Shrek is an instant animated classic” (Digitalmediafx). However, a long time legal battle seems to seep through this so-called classic. Shrek reveals more to the audience than just an animated parody. Behind its own moral themes and comic story essentially reveals a creative form of retaliation.
Producer of Shrek and cofounder of DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, once employed by Disney and Disney’s chairman, Michael Eisner, filed a lawsuit in 1996, where he claimed that Disney owed him over two hundred and fifty million dollars in unpaid bonuses from his tenure as one of the chairmen of Disney studios (Errico). He believes that during his tenure he redefined the animation industry at Disney, with such successful films as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Aladdin (1992) (Prince of Toons). These films not only kept up the company’s trademark genre but also helped raise the attraction of its amusement parks, resorts and their commercial industry (Jeffrey Katzenberg). This dispute became more of a battle of personalities between Katzenberg and his former boss, Eisner, than a civil law suit (Mickey Mouse Deal…). To add to the suit, Katzenberg claimed Eisner insulted him when he promoted his friend, rather than Katzenberg, to corporate president in 1994, after all the success Katzenberg had brought in for Disney (Errico). After leaving Disney’s studios, Katzenberg quickly teamed up with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to form
DreamWorks SKG (Jeffrey Katzenberg). This would cause some major tension in the film industry. Hollywood and the media quickly became aware of this dispute and made it known to the public the extreme hatred that Eisner and Katzenberg had for each other, which led to a competitive race for success between Disney and DreamWorks. However, not until 2000 did Katzenberg, successful with his own company, get back at Eisner as well as enjoy the success of his new company, DreamWorks and animated film, Shrek. Katzenberg, besides determined to create an animated blockbuster, looked to make his ex-employer pay again (Pulver). Now, ironically while Katzenberg enjoys his success, -Eisner and Disney have had their worst movie season ever (Stamper).
A definite sense of tension between DreamWorks and Disney exists throughout the film. DreamWorks even admitted that they showed the film in progress every bit of the way to avoid any legal battles with Disney, because of the many innuendos towards Disney in the film (digitalmediafx).
However, DreamWorks had some legal leeway with the making of the parody, Shrek. Parody defined as “a literary composition imitating the characteristic style of some other work or writer, but treating a serious subject in a nonsensical manner in an attempt at humor or ridicule”, leaves some room for cruel jokes (digitalmediafx).
Lord Farquaad’s kingdom, Duloc, shows one particular ridiculing scene. Obviously inspired by Disneyland, a place where a man obsessed with order rules (Shrek). The perfect streets, the perfectly linear buildings, even the perfect flowers and trees, all contribute to creating a fairytale-like land. Icons of Lord Farquaad’s face lines the entire kingdom, similar to Disneyland with Mickey Mouse’s head and ears. Even the
parking lot of Duloc resembles that of Disneyland where the sections have distinct and appropriate titles and numbers. People dressed up as Lord Farquaad, (like Disneyland’s characters), greet Shrek and Donkey when they first arrive at the kingdom. Also, an information stand, placed at the entrance, filled with wooden people that dance and sing a warm, welcoming song, very closely related to Disney’s popular song, It’s a Small World, gives the rules and regulations of Duloc.
Eisner inspired the character Lord Farquaad. Farquaad and Eisner share a very strong resemblence (Pulver). However, Farquaad, at a height of three feet, ironically resembles Katzenberg. Katzenberg’s height once caused a comment made by Eisner, “I hate that little midget” (Digitalmediafx). Obviously, Katzenberg used his height to get back at Eisner by creating a character that had to constantly compensate for his height, for example, the overly gigantic main building of Duloc. Katzenberg showed Eisner that height has nothing to do with true success, which goes along with one of Shrek’s running themes. Katzenberg stated in an interview,
of our characters comes to understand that there is something wonderful –
warts and all – about who
they are. I think that’s true for all of us – that the people, who ultimately come to know and love us, see the
strengths inside of us. Whether you’re a princess, a donkey or even a big, green, stinky ogre, you can find
love and happiness” (Shrek).
This theme runs true not only in Shrek but also in Katzenberg’s own life today. Katzenberg, an extremely noticeable short, successful man with a new company, puts out blockbuster after blockbuster, while Eisner struggles with Disney and their many sequels to their many once successful films.
In conclusion, one can see that there are definitely tons of inside jokes that only people closest to the falling out between Eisner and Katzenberg would understand and even more based on widely publicized situations (digitalmediafx). According to a statement made by DreamWorks,
“Instead of slamming
Disney in public statements, Katzenberg has chosen a more
creative release mechanism through Shrek and it doesn’t solely target Disney, either,
in its jokes. This competitive twist put into the movie has actually increased its publicity
and will likely result in more people seeing the movie ” (Digitalmediafx).
Katzenberg skillfully and successfully used an entertaining, animated fairy tale that became a blockbuster hit, to attain sweet justice on a long time rival.
Digitalmediafx. 2001. Digital Media FX Magazine. 25 January 2003
Errico, Marcus. “Katzenberg Wants Eisner’s Personal Tapes.” E! Online News. 25 June
1997. 25 January 2003 <http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/Pf/0,1527,1344,0
“Jeffrey Katzenberg.” Hollywood.com. 27 January 2003 <http://www.hollywood.com/
“Mickey Mouse Deal for Katzenberg.” BBC News. 8 July 1999. 25 January 2003
“Prince of Toons.” Urbancinefile. November 2002. 27 January 2003 <http://www.
Pulver, Andrew. “The Katz That Bit the Mouse.” The Guardian. 18 May 2001.
27 January 2003 <http://film.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4188489,00.html>
Shrek. Dir. Andrew Adams and Vicky Jenson. With Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy.
California, 2001. DVD. Dreamworks, 2001.
Stamper, Chris. “A Disney Divorce.” World. 22 May 1999. 30 January 2003