History, Legacy & Showmanship

Fractured Fairy Tale: Remembering “Shrek” on its 20th Anniversary

May 17, 2021 - 1:22 pm   |   by
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Shrek sits alongside Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter as one of the definitive ‘new’ franchises of the global tentpole era, while making both animated features and rom-coms ‘safe’ for male-centric protagonists and PG ratings.” – Scott Mendelson, box-office analyst

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Shrek, PDI and DreamWorks Animation’s popular, award-winning animated film based upon William Steig’s picture book and featuring the voice talent of Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, Austin Powers), Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) and Cameron Diaz (The Mask, There’s Something About Mary).

Shrek, directed by Andrew Adamson (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Vicky Jensen (Shark Tale) and also featuring the voice talent of John Lithgow (The World According to Garp, 3rd Rock from the Sun) as Lord Farquaad, was released to theaters twenty years ago this month. For the occasion The Bits features a package of statistics and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context, along with passages from vintage film reviews, a reference/historical listing of the movie’s Digital Cinema presentations, and, finally, a film historian interview who reflects on the movie (and franchise) two decades after its debut. [Read on here...]

A scene from Shrek

In 2020 the Library of Congress selected Shrek for preservation in the National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,” and earlier this month, Shrek was released for the first time on 4K UHD (review coming soon here at The Bits).



  • 1 = Box-office rank among animated movies released during 2001
  • 1 = Number of Academy Awards
  • 1 = Number of weeks nation’s top-grossing movie (Week 1)
  • 1 = Rank among DreamWorks’ all-time top-earning movies at close of run
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
  • 2 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning movies released during 2001 (calendar year)
  • 3 = Box-office rank among Shrek movies (adjusted for inflation)
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies starring Cameron Diaz (adjusted for inflation)
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies starring Mike Myers (adjusted for inflation)
  • 3 = Rank among DreamWorks’ all-time top-earning movies (adjusted for inflation)
  • 4 = Rank among top-earning movies starring Eddie Murphy (adjusted for inflation)
  • 4 = Rank among top-earning movies released during 2001 (legacy / lifetime / retroactive)
  • 6 = Number of months between theatrical release and home video release
  • 13 = Peak all-time box-office chart position
  • 33 = Number of weeks in release
  • 3,587 = Number of theaters playing the movie during opening weekend
  • $42.3 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
  • $60.0 million = Production cost
  • $90.5 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $216.7 million = Box-office gross (international)
  • $267.7 million = Box-office gross (domestic)
  • $326.9 million = Box-office gross (international; adjusted for inflation)
  • $403.8 million = Box-office gross (domestic; adjusted for inflation)
  • $484.4 million = Box-office gross (worldwide)
  • $730.9 million = Box-office gross (worldwide; adjusted for inflation)



“Two big thumbs up!” – Roger Ebert & Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper and the Movies

“It’s impossible to ogre-state the sheer fun of Shrek.” – Glenn Kenny, Premiere

“The characters are perfectly cast with stellar vocal talents. John Lithgow brings silken arrogance and iron-willed petulance to his effective voicing of Lord Farquaad. As Fiona, Cameron Diaz winningly conveys more than sufficient spunk and sensitivity for the movie’s revisionist take on the archetypical fairy-tale princess. Mike Myers – who, you may recall, played an even surlier Scottish-accented fellow in the last Austin Powers movie – hits all the right notes, light and dark, enabling Shrek to be likeable in spite of himself. And Eddie Murphy proves here, as he did in Mulan, that his sassy and brassy motor-mouth jive-talking qualifies as a special effect all by itself. Does Donkey steal the movie? You bet your… well, never mind, see and hear for yourself.” – Joe Leydon, San Francisco Examiner

“This animated fractured fairy tale is much like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: When it’s good, it’s very good, and when it’s bad, it’s horrid. Full of industry jokes (for all those 6-year-olds who read Variety), the movie is gratingly ’hip.’ It’s also clever, imaginative and fast-paced. If it only had a heart.” – Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, The Atlanta Constitution

“As swift and sophisticated as it comes.” – David Ansen, Newsweek

“The most enjoyable animated movie since Toy Story burst out of its box.” – Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today

Shrek is a world-class charmer that could even seduce the Academy when it hands out the first official animation Oscar next year.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“A gleeful piece of wisenheimer computer animation, Shrek doesn’t have much patience for traditional once-upon-a-time fairy tales: The only time one appears, its pages end up as reading material and then some in the hero’s outhouse…. Smarty constructed to appeal to children and their parents, this fractured fairy tale not only knows there’s no substitute for clever writing, it also has the confidence to take that information straight to the bank.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Beating up on the irritatingly dainty Disney trademarks is nothing new; it’s just that it has rarely been done with the demolition-derby zest of Shrek.” – Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

Shrek, which outdoes PDI/DreamWorks’ own Antz, has a beautifully sharp, realistic look. But beyond that, it’s a gas to watch.” – Desson Howe, The Washington Post

“With Shrek, DreamWorks stakes its claim to Disney’s cutting-edge animation crown while blowing a raspberry in Mickey Mouse’s face.” – Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

“The movie is wall-to-window-to-door noise, babbling and jokes, and demographically it’s a hard-sell shotgun spray.” – Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice

“With scintillating animation, [Shrek] needles the Disney magic while honoring its spirit.” – Jay Carr, The Boston Globe

Shrek is an instant animated classic. Rudely sending up even the most beloved fairy tale traditions while at the same time effectively embodying them, this spirited and often very funny lark accomplishes something that most films in the bygone Hollywood studio era used to do but is remarkably rare in today’s world of niche markets: It offers entertainment equally to viewers 4 to 104. This story of an ogre’s odyssey from contented oblivion to unexpected love will make out like a Prince Charming wherever it plays, repping a bonanza for DreamWorks theatrically and forever after in home-viewing markets.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

A scene from Shrek

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