Shrek film series Character Studies

Character Studies

One of the great attributes of the “Shrek” film series is its unique and personable characters. The filmmakers were particularly excited about their new tools, because it meant they would be able to capture the depth and emotion of Shrek and his friends better than ever before. “When we started `ShrekShrek the Third,' we gave a lot of thought to what we were going to do with what we call the `legacy characters,'” explains Lucia Modesto, one of the film's character TD supervisors. “Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Dragon are eight-years-old. We can't handle an eight-year-old character like we do a brand new one, because the technology has changed so drastically. Now, we are able to achieve more. We have more control of the face; we have higher resolution; we're able to add many details that the original characters didn't have. Since we feel that these characters deserve the best, we decided to redo everything.”

“Our characters have a lot of life to them,” says Tim Cheung, head of character animation. “We've added a lot of details to them this time around that are truly astonishing. For instance, when Shrek winces, you can actually see the wrinkles in his nose. We weren't able to do things like that in the first two films. It really helps to add a sense of realism to the character.”

Enhanced Reality

These details give “Shrek the Third” what Lamorlette calls a new “stylized reality”- a more natural look that adds up to an extraordinary visual experience. “You can really feel the material of the fabric in Fiona's dress,” explains Hui. “It's a little bit shinier when it's facing the light. I swear you can feel the texture of it; you can feel the softness.”

“Technologically, this movie has taken a huge leap, which seems to happen every time, but is particularly noticeable this time around,” says director Miller. “The clothes, the princesses' hair - it's an amazing level of reality.”

Baer echoes that sentiment. “We've refined many aspects of our effects work - down to the most subtle details. We developed new hair simulation tools allowing for more realistic motion and collisions with geometry.”

“What we try to do is create a fantasy that is believable,” says production designer Guillaume Aretos. “When you walk into a forest in `Shrek,' you feel as if you can touch the trees or the grass - you can actually feel things.”

Character TD supervisor Lawrence D. Cutler was excited about what his team was able to accomplish with the throngs of people in the background during some of the film's most dramatic scenes. “We were able to populate the world with very different and sophisticated secondary characters. Before the movie started, we created this catalog of nearly 5,000 characters, and we actually made sure each of them was approved by the directors and the art directors. It was the equivalent of having a casting sheet with all the extras at your disposal. In this way we were able to make sure that anyone who appeared in a shot - whether it was a secondary character or even someone way off in the background that you might not even notice - looked good and moved just like they ought to. It's amazing to see.”

“I think there were something like 4,500 different possibilities, but I think they were narrowed down to about 2,500 different looks for the crowd scenes,” says costume designer Israel Segal. “If you can find two who look alike, you get a reward.”

These advancements do more than provide a treat for the eyes, according to visual effects supervisor Philippe Gluckman. “If you look at the princesses, they wouldn't be nearly as funny or distinct if we weren't able to execute all these different hairstyles. Sometimes it actually enables the storytelling. We have one scene in which Shrek and Fiona are in royal outfits and they look ridiculous - they can barely move and, through a series of events, all hell breaks loose. That scene is only possible because we've expanded what we could do with our technology.”

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