In celebration of fifteen years of Shrek, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has released the original Shrek in an Anniversary Edition Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. Packed with special features and a code for digital versions of Shrek short films, the release gives you a lot of Shrek for your buck. But is it something you want on your shelf? I dare say you should, if you’ve either kids or a keen interest in the animation history.
When Dreamworks Animation released Shrek in 2001, it made a clear statement, a statement that Dreamworks was first and foremost, not Disney. In doing so, they solidified their standing as one of the most important, money-makingest studios in modern day animation. They did this by expressly refusing to play Disney’s game, all the while mocking Disney tropes. And man did it work! The film spawned a franchise of sequels that include two of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Shrek’s story is a simple one, one rooted in fairytale lore—the same story stuff that makes up the bulk of Disney’s classic cinematic output. It’s a story that appeals to audiences of all ages, because its component parts are classic fairytale one: kings, princesses, dragons, monsters and true love’s kiss. And yet those parts feel fresh in Shrek as they’re presented with a wink and a nod to the audience. Princesses know kung fu. Our prince charming is an ogre. And the three little pigs find themselves evicted rather than having their houses blown down. It’s all in good fun and kids to this day love the film, including my own son.
It’s a film that’s in many ways timeless and yet so very clearly of its time. In that regard, one thing that amuses me about this Shrek: Anniversary Edition is that the release’s packaging makes no mention of precisely what anniversary the film’s celebrating, as if to obscure the film’s age. (Although, if you squint really hard, the year 2001 is at least listed on the back of the case near the running time). This is something I’ve noticed Disney does with their films quite often by leaving films’ production years off home video packaging altogether. In this, Dreamworks, though trying to declare themselves so not Disney with the release of Shrek, find themselves aping Disney’s approach to its own history by refusing to note the age of their films.
The funny thing is, try though they might to obscure just how old Shrek is at this point, there’s no mistaking this as a product of the earliest aughts. The bulk of the soundtrack as well as some of the gags, such as the Matrix/bullet time fight and Macarena bits for instance, can hardly be considered timeless. The presence of Smash Mouth alone on the soundtrack wildly dates the film!
Still, the Shrek: Anniversary Edition is a fine package given the wealth of featurettes, deleted scenes and interactive content packaged here as special features. The only issue I have with any of the content is that the shorts cannot be activated through a Vudu/iTunes code but seem to be accessible exclusively through a Fox extras website, which makes them worthless when you do most of your digital streaming through a Roku. So that’s a major disappointment.