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For Better Or Worse, 'Shrek' Changed Animated Movies 20 Years Ago

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Twenty years ago, you could tell right away "Shrek" was not your typical animated movie. For instance, how many characters from other childhood favorites have you heard use the toilet?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHREK")

MIKE MYERS: (As Shrek) What a load of...

(SOUNDBITE OF TOILET FLUSHING)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Shrek the green ogre then farts in a pool, chows down on a bowl of eyeballs and uses a burp as a blowtorch, all in the first three minutes of the movie.

KELLY: And forget about your noble Disney hero. Shrek was crass, and he was mean.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHREK")

MYERS: (As Shrek) Stop singing. Well, it's no wonder you don't have any friends.

KELLY: "Shrek" looked and sounded different. Instead of Snow White pining for her prince...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS")

ADRIANA CASELOTTI: (Singing) Someday, my prince will come. Someday, we'll meet again.

KELLY: "Shrek" hit you in the face with a buzz saw named Joan Jett.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD REPUTATION")

JOAN JETT: (Singing) I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation. Living in the past, it's a new generation.

SHAPIRO: Elamin Abdelmahmoud wrote about the influence of "Shrek" for BuzzFeed this week, and he says a lot of fans like him have that moment where they realized they were watching something new.

ELAMIN ABDELMAHMOUD: And for me, like, it really begins with that scene with the Gingerbread Man being tortured.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHREK")

CONRAD VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) Do you know the muffin man?

JOHN LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) The muffin man.

VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) The muffin man.

LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Yes, I know the muffin man.

ABDELMAHMOUD: Oh, I'm watching something that's a bit more willing to push the envelope in terms of, like, what we're presenting to children. "Shrek" was this turning point in the sense that suddenly animation studios realized there's actually a pretty good market for this. It sort of became the standard, the thing that you do, is that, like, you hide jokes that maybe later audiences can maybe grow into.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHREK")

LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Now, tell me. Where are the others?

VERNON: (As Gingerbread Man) Eat me (spitting).

LITHGOW: (As Lord Farquaad) Urgh (ph).

KELLY: "Shrek" and the sequels that followed were a cash cow for DreamWorks, and Abdelmahmoud says "Shrek" changed the tone of animated movies forever. People love Shrek because people relate to Shrek, even maybe especially his warts.

ABDELMAHMOUD: I think you get a lot of people who just, like, identify with that vision of the world, of saying, we've been sold all of these Disney movies, but, like, life is a lot more complicated. It's a lot dirtier than that. It's a lot harder than that. And this guy is going to be our guy.

SHAPIRO: And it turns out a lot of people's guy is a disgusting, green giant with a Scottish accent. Happy 20th, Shrek.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL STAR")

SMASH MOUTH: (Singing) Hey now, you're an all-star. Get your game on. Go play. Hey now, you're a rock star. Get the show on. Get paid. And all that glitters is gold. Only shooting stars break the mold. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.