The rights to the books were originally bought by Steven Spielberg in 1991, before the founding of DreamWorks, when he thought about making a traditionally animated film based on the book. However, John H. Williams convinced him to bring the film to DreamWorks in 1994, the time the studio was founded, and the film was put quickly into active development by Jeffrey Katzenberg after the rights were bought by the studio in 1995. Shrek originally cast Chris Farley to do the voice for the title character, recording about 80-90 percent of his dialog. After Farley died in 1997 before he could finish, Mike Myers was brought in to work for the character, who after his first recording decide to record his voice in a Scottish accent. The film was also originally planned to be motion-captured, but after poor results, the studio decided to get PDI to help Shrek get its final computer-animated look.
Earning $484.4 million at the worldwide box office, the film was a critical and commercial success. Shrek also received promotion from food chains such as Baskin-Robbins (promoting the film's DVD release) and Burger King. It was acclaimed as an animated film worthy of adult interest, with many adult-oriented jokes and themes but a simple enough plot and humor to appeal to children. Shrek won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was also nominated for six British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film's main (and title) character was awarded his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2010.
Shrek established DreamWorks Animation as a prime competitor to Pixar in the field of feature film animation, particularly in computer animation. The film's success prompted DreamWorks to create three sequels, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever After, two holiday specials, Shrek the Halls and Scared Shrekless, and a spin-off film, Puss in Boots. A fifth film, planned as the last of the series, was cancelled in 2009 with the announcement that the fourth film would conclude the series. The film's success also inspired other merchandise, such as video games, a stage musical and even a comic book by Dark Horse Comics.
Shrek is a green ogre that has always enjoyed living in peaceful solitude in his swamp, finds his life disrupted when numerous fairytale beings, including Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Donkey, are forced into the swamp by order of the obsessive and fairytale-hating Lord Farquaad .
Shrek leaves the swamp to ask Lord Farquaad for the return of his privacy, with Donkey tagging along. Meanwhile, Farquaad tortures the Gingerbread Man into revealing the whereabouts of the remaining fairytale creatures until his guards rush in with an object Farquaad has been searching for: the Magic Mirror. The Mirror tells him that Farquaad can only become a real king by marrying a princess. The Mirror gives him three princesses to choose from including Cinderella, Snow White, and Princess Fiona. Farquaad chooses Fiona and silences the Mirror before he can mention "the little thing that happens at night".
Shrek and Donkey arrive at Lord Farquaad's palace in Duloc, where they find themselves in the midst of a tournament; the winner will have the "privilege" of attempting to rescue Fiona from a castle surrounded by lava and protected by a fire-breathing dragon so that Lord Farquaad may marry her. Shrek (with some help from Donkey) easily beats the other knights in a fashion that resembles a wrestling match and Farquaad agrees to remove the fairytale creatures from the swamp if Shrek rescues Fiona.
Shrek and Donkey travel to the castle and split up to find Fiona. Donkey encounters the dragon and sweet-talks the beast to save himself before discovering that the dragon is female. Dragon takes a liking to Donkey and carries him to her chambers. When Shrek finds Fiona, she is appalled at his lack of romanticism. As they are leaving, Shrek manages to save Donkey, caught in Dragon's tender clutches, and causing her to become irate, chasing Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey out of the castle. At first, Fiona is thrilled to be rescued but quickly becomes disappointed when she finds out that Shrek is an ogre. The three make their return journey to Farquaad's palace, with Shrek and Fiona finding they have more in common with each other along the way, and falling in love. However, at night, Fiona refuses to camp with them, taking shelter in a nearby cave until morning. Shrek and Donkey stay awake and watch the stars while Shrek informs Donkey that he plans to build a wall around his swamp when he returns. When Donkey persists as to why Shrek would do this, Shrek tells him that everyone judges him before they know him, therefore he is better off alone.
The next night, Fiona takes shelter in a nearby windmill. When Donkey hears strange noises coming from the windmill, he finds Fiona has turned into an ogre. Fiona explains she was cursed as a child and turns into an ogre every night, which is why she was locked away in the castle, and that only a kiss from her true love will return her to her proper form. Shrek, about to confess his feelings for Fiona, overhears part of their conversation, and is heartbroken as he misinterprets her disgust at her transformation into an "ugly beast" as being disgusted with him. Fiona makes Donkey promise not to tell Shrek about the spell, vowing to do it herself, but when the next morning comes, Shrek has brought Lord Farquaad to Fiona. The two return to the castle, while a hurt Shrek returns to the now-vacated swamp.
Shrek finds that despite his privacy, he is miserable and misses Fiona. Donkey shows up and tries to convince Shrek to go back for Fiona, but Shrek tells him that he heard Fiona say that he was a hideous beast. Donkey tells Fiona wasn't referring to him and tells Shrek that she will be getting married shortly, urging Shrek into action to gain Fiona's true love. They are able to travel to Duloc quickly thanks to Dragon, who had escaped her confines and followed Donkey. They interrupt the wedding before Farquaad can kiss Fiona, but not before the sun sets, which causes Fiona to turn into an ogre in front of everyone. While her transformation causes Shrek to fully understand what he overheard at the windmill, Farquaad, disgusted over the change, orders Shrek killed and Fiona imprisoned, but Dragon bursts in and devours Farquaad. Shrek and Fiona admit their love for each other and share a kiss; Fiona is bathed in light as her curse is broken, but is surprised to find that she has remained an ogre. Shrek calms her by assuring her that she is still beautiful. The two of them get married in the swamp and depart on their honeymoon while the rest celebrate by singing "I'm a Believer".
- Robin Williams was originally going to have a role in the film, but dropped out when he found out that one of the producers, Jeffery Katzenburg, was producing the film, he dropped out. The reason why is because Williams recently worked with Katzenburg on Aladdin and had disputes with each other.
- There are so many Disney references in this movie.
- Chris Farley was originally cast as Shrek and even recorded almost 100% of the dialog. But after he died from his drug overdose, his fellow Saturday Night Live member, Mike Meyers, took the role and demanded the screenplay re-written after looking at it.
- Fairy Godmother was going to be in here but was cut, bu was put in Shrek 2.
- Computer animation for the movie began in late 1996 and took four and a half years to complete. In fact it took so long that the crew began production on Shrek 2.
- Donkey was modeled after a real donkey from California.
- The burp that Fiona burps in the movie was a real burp that Cameron Diaz (Fiona's voice) did after she drank a Coke.
- Even though John Lithgow loved voicing Lord Farquad, he was dissappointed that he never saw the other voice actors.
- The opening song, "Rockstar", by Smash Mouth was just a test song until the team found a different song. But the test audiences loved the song so much the team let it stay and even let Smash Mouth sing the ending song.
Shrek received generally positive reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 89% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 173 reviews, with an average score of 7.7/10. The critical consensus is: While simultaneously embracing and subverting fairy tales, the irreverent Shrek also manages to tweak Warner Bros's nose, provide a moral message to children, and offer viewers a funny, fast-paced ride.
At the Oscars, Shrek won the first ever Academy Award For Best Animated Feature, beating Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Prince Charming? So last. This decade, fairy-tale fans--and Princess Fiona--fell for a fat and flatulent orge. Now, that's progress." Eddie Murphy became the first actor to ever receive a BAFTA nomination for a voice-over performance.
- "All Star" by Smash Mouth
- "Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright
- "I'm a Believer" by Smash Mouth and Eddie Murphy
- Mike Myers as Shrek
- Eddie Murphy as Donkey
- Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona
- John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad
- Mike Myers as The Narrator\Blind mice
- Frank Welker as Dragon
- Aron Warner as Wolf
- Kathleen Freeman as the Old Woman who Lives in a Shoe
- Jim Cummings as Captain of Guards