Everyone loves Disney at one time of his or her life. I have to admit I fell in love with Disney when I was very young. Swedish television would show excerps of Snow White and Donald Duck during Christmas day. The next day, all my friends would talk about how funny it was. I must admit I have only seen a few Disney films in their entirety during my life, and I saw those very recently. Eventually, I started to critique and judge the films and animations I saw. Many adults would say that animations are a kids media and, therefore, look at them negatively. Further critisism is aimed at the Disney Corporation because of the companyıs greed and the questionable moral lessons it includes in its animations.
One particular company called DreamWorks has created an animation called Shrek which lampoons and parodies Disney. Shrek is fairy tale that is loosely based on William Steigıs childrenıs book of the same name. It confronts the conventional Disney concept of what a fairy tale should be. Disney creates contemporary fairy tales according to their own set of morals (Bell Hass and Sells). In Shrek, we see DreamWorks doing the same thing, but they offer us moral lessons that Disney would not support. Beauty, nobility, innocence, and other such medieval concepts cannot be portrayed positively in contemporary fairtales. Shrek starts off as a typical Disney cliche fairytale by opening a book. On the pages of the book, we see ³Once upon a time an imprisoned princess her true love² written in an old style of calligraphy. Suddenly, a green hand rips a page from the book, and we realize Shrek is using it to wipe his bottom. The message is clear: Shrek shits on the traditional fairytale. From here, we can tell that this animation is going to mock the Disney genre.
In Shrek, we have four main characters: Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Lord Farquaad. ³Each character has [purpose in this film] and has a [stereotypical] personality for Disney film (Bell Hass and Sells). However, Shrek takes the concept and twists it in such a way that would not be appropriate for a Disney movie.
Shrek is an ugly Ogre with a split personality. He is both an outsider and a sensitive individual. He is what the average fairytale hero is supposed to be except he is ugly and has some rude behaviors. Shrek is portrayed at first as a person who wants to be alone in his swamp. In a Disney movie, we hardly ever see an ugly hero who wants to be alone. Also, we see that this character has a puerile mind. He makes Freudian jokes stating Lord Farquaadıs castle is compensating for his penis size. This joke continues throughout the movie. In Disney movies, this is not acceptable. Throughout the movie, we get to know Shrek personally. We find that he is sensitive but also unabashedly sincere, witty and has the proverbial heart of gold. Furthermore, we find that he has even more human qualities through his insecurity about his appearance.
Donkey is Shreks associate, who keeps him in line. In most Disney movies and in most Fairy Tales, we find a helper who has powers to help the hero. He makes Shrek reveal his feelings. Also, he is the comedian and the dummy relief. With this stereotypical character, we also get some slapstick jokes. When the Donkey was invited to stay over, he just invited himself into the house, sat down in Shrekıs chair, and said, ³we can stay up all night and exchange man stories,² which implies bragging about how many women they have slept with.
Lords Farquaad is an evil King or Lord that has a Napoleon complex. He is a middle-aged man who is a midget and seems harmless, unlike Disney films in which most evil villains bodies ³are constructed on a predatory animals to heighten the dangerous consumptive powers² (Bell Hass and Sells). From this, we can see Lord Farquaad and laugh at him. Also, we can see that Lord Farquaad is attempting to sexualize himself as do the femme fatales, evil woman characters in Disney movies (Bell Hass and Sells). This is a common character trait in Disney movies. We see this in many scenes in Shrek, such as when he lies in his zebra bed, drinking a Martina and fantasizing over Fiona. We can see that DreamWorks wanted to point out that Lord Farquaad is not the ordinary villain. He is a mockery of the villain. Additionally, Lord Farquaadıs face is modeled after Michael Eisner face, who is the president of Walt Disney. This is obviously a nasty reference to Disney showing that Disney is greedy and implying that the Head Honcho rules an evil company or empire. Also the name Lord Farquaad sounds like ³fuckwad.² I have a feeling that Disney would never name a character so closely to this profane word.
Fiona is introduced to us as a ³stereotypical Disney fairytale² character by Lord Farquaad (Bell Hass and Sells). She is locked up in a castle with a dragon guarding her. Our first reaction to her is that she has been created out of ³contemporaneous popular images of feminine beauty and youth, we can see the source image came from glossy pin-ups² or video game women (Bell Hass and Sells). She looks like every other digital woman in computer adventures games. However, she does not turn out to be the ordinary Disney pinup girl but rather to be a gamine who knows Karate. We wonder why she could not rescue herself from the castle. However, we learn that she wanted the pathetic story of a knight coming to rescue her, marriage, and the dream of the ³happily ever after life² to come true.
In the movie Shrek, there are many sets of beliefs at play. The first and most obvisious moral is that beauty is on the inside. This was seen many times. We first see it when Fiona over hears Shrek talking about how people judge him by his ugly looks before they get to know him. This is similar to judging people simply by the color of their skin, their ethnic heritage and their religion. The following day Shrek makes a comment to Fiona after she burps, ³you arenıt exactly what I expected,² and she replies, ³maybe you shouldnıt judge people before you get to know them.² This is clearly a moral statement, and it carries on through out the whole film. At the end of the movie, this moral is further emphasised and becomes the primary moral of the movie. We especially see this when Fiona is kissed by her true love, Shrek, and the spell over her is broken. She becomes beautiful. However, she is still in her eyes an ugly ogre, yet Shrek says ³but you are beautiful.²
Another moral issue in Shrek is we sometimes hide our real selves for fear of rejection or censure. The Princess has more going on below the surface. Fiona has some secret, and she is terrified that people are going to discover it. We find that the very thing that she is so desperate to hide from others is, in fact, the very thing that will transform her from a metaphorically ³imprisoned princess² into a being capable of giving and receiving ³true love.² How many of us hide our real selves for fear of rejection or censure? But if we don't dare to reveal our true selves, then how will people come to see and understand the real ³us² beneath the surface? Additionally, Shrek faces the same challenge.
There are several more of these credos in Shrek. These moral lessons makes this movie into a modern fairy tale by imparting values, norms, and aesthetic taste which focus on both adults and children (Zipes). It was common practice for fairy tales to be moral lessons, and it becomes a guidebook for becoming a moral person. It is like the Bible, which is the ultimate guide for morality. Disney understood this and DreamWorks understands this.
They had made an interesting moral issue concerning the history of race in this movie. Lord Farquaad, who is a peewee in this movie, gathers up all the fairy tale creatures or anyone who even looks like a fairy tale creature and ousts them from his kingdom. This is for his kingdom to look better, for him to rule over the perfect race. This is what Hitler did in the War II by killing Jews, Gypsies, people with disabilities, and anyone else who did not look like a perfect aron.
Shrek utilizes some of the stereotypical qualities of Disney movies and fairytales. The fundamental beginning for most Disney movies and fairytales is ³Once upon a time.² This creates distance from the present and from reality. It also offers an invitation to enter another world, a past world, one that does not exist. This is commonly what Disney wants, and DreamWorks made sure to mimic this by including fairytale creatures which Disney may have used. This helps us to see this Disneyesque, unreal world and in the realm of a fairytale. It is very blatant, and this helps us laugh.
Then we have a hero who must struggle to attain happiness or return to his grumpy status quo. Shrek first wants to get rid of all the unwanted fairytale creatures from his swamp, so he can live in peace and quite. However Shrek is not the not the typical roll model for a fairytale. In a fairy tale, formula we need to have a hero with positive appeal to him. DreamWorks has made Shrek into an ugly person but with a simple humble person within. DreamWorks knows that Disney makes their heroes into simplistic characters because it is easier for children to relate to them.
In most Disney movies and fairytales, we find a character who embodies evil whom the hero needs to defeat. This would be Lords Farquaad. Once again this character is not the stereotypical Disney antihero. However, what DreamWorks did is to make him into a character that you like and dislike. He is a presumptuous, devious little tyrant, yet we can still enjoy his sadistic sense of humor. Usually in a Disney film, we prefer to dislike the villain, not to think he is humorous.
Next in a typical Disney film, we need to have some type of quest or journey. This usually the part were we get to learn more about the hero (Shrek) and the of the heroıs helper (Donkey). Also, this is what creates the plot of the story and what develops the main theme of story (Bell Hass and Sells). This would be the part in which Shrek is given the quest from Lords Farquaad to go rescue princes Fiona from the castle and kill the Dragon. Furthermore, a common sub-theme is to have some kind of struggle between the main characters. We see this when Shrek and Fiona try to express their feelings for each other.
As with most Disney films and fairytales, we encounter two vertical moments where decisions must be made, which will result in either the main heroıs survival or demise. This is when Shrek must decide to live alone in the Swamp or to go and rescue Fiona from a bad marriage. Finally, Shrek follows all the predicable Disney movies and fairyfales, it has a happy ending. In the end, we see Shrek and Fiona get married and ride off into the sunset. Aawwwww.
Another condemnation that DreamWorks directs at Disney can be seen in the treatment of the Magic Kingdom. They had made Lord Farquaadıs kingdom of Duloc into a sterile environment with Lord Farquaad propaganda in every store, banner, garden, and everywhere, we see his royal blue color. We get the sense that these theme parks have only products or things that will relate to Lord Farquaad and reject any other things. It is similar to Disneyıs desire for profit; this is, after all, its sole reason for existence (Steeves, H. Peter). The unify theme across Duloc is greedy capitalism and consumption. Also in this city, when Shrek and the Donkey go to the information booth, they receive a mockery of a Disney theme park. There are ridiculous rules sung to a Disney tune telling them that this is perfect place in which they are viewed as fools in their photo.
In Conclusion, we can see a healthy rivalry between DreamWorks and Disney. DreamWorks takes stereotypically Disney fairy tale and does some parodies that us adults can understand but for children it is harder to pick up. DreamWorks offers us an alternative to the limited world of Disney morality creating an animation for both young and old.