Analyse the Techniques Employed by DreamWorks which engage the audience in ‘Shrek’ Essay

‘Shrek’ is based on the children’s book by William Steig. It features the talents of one of the top comedic actors; Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow. ‘Shrek’ is an animated film created by DreamWorks. The 275 animators have created realistic yet stylised human characters, which is one of the most technical and artistic advances in ‘Shrek’. They have created clothing that moved, wrinkled and reacted to light just as in real life. ‘Shrek’ has many techniques that DreamWorks have employed and this is the main reason that viewers of all ages have become engaged.

One of the main elements used is the use of camera angles. At the start of the torture scene, Farquaad appears to be bigger and fiercer than he is. This optical illusion is very effective as the crop shots make him larger than we see him in the rest of the scene. As Farquaad is striding down the corridor, the camera looks up at him and this effect makes us feel intimidated by him. We think of him as sinister as crop shots of his boots make him look soldier-like when he is marching to the dungeon. The same effect is used in the first scene, however Shrek seems friendlier and childish in the crop shots.

We take an immediate preference to Shrek compared to Farquaad as his friendly looks are more appealing. He is an ordinary character as he brushes his teeth, has a shower and plays around. These are everyday, ordinary things which we can relate to. We also find him hilarious as he passes wind in the bath. In contrast, the use of camera angles and the way he walks and is animated makes Farquaad look unfriendly. Much to the amusement of the audience, the camera pulls away from him as he enters the dungeon to reveal a much smaller character than expected.

The music is also sinister and it makes Farquaad look foolish and overrated in size. We take an immediate disliking towards Farquaad when we see how he tortures the gingerbread man. The director shows it from the gingerbread man’s perspective so that he can gain our empathy. The camera angle is used to the full effect when Farquaad is choosing a princess. The camera is focusing on his face and we can see the concentration as his eyebrows are burrowed. Also, he chews his lips as if the decision is very hard to make. This is a very good technique as it builds up tension up to the point when he chooses Fiona.

It grips our attention as we are waiting in anticipation. The torture scene contains very clever and significant editing. For example, when Farquaad is marching through the corridor, we consider him to be big and menacing. However, as he comes down the stairs into the dungeon, we see that he is very short and this realisation makes him comical. The director achieves this by cutting the camera at the right moment and changing it’s position. The viewers know that he is trying to look big and overpowering and the director’s clever technique makes it clear that Farquaad is trying to create a false image of himself.

Farquaad’s false image of himself gives us a sense of mistrust whereas Shrek is not misleading but down-to-earth. Therefore, we find Shrek more appealing. The audience naturally feels attached to this film as they have developed feelings for the characters; in this case it is dislike to Farquaad. Lighting is also one the clever skills used in this scene that helps to grip the audience. Lighting is used in a powerful way as it makes the scene more dramatic. It is used effectively at the opening of the scene as it sets the mood for the rest of the scene.

Along with the sound effects, the use of lighting immediately gives a sense of wickedness in action. When Farquaad enters the dungeon, we can see a shadow of the gingerbread man being tortured. This is very expressive as we know at once that something bad is happening. The dungeon is very gloomy and as Farquaad approaches the table, he turns the lamp towards the gingerbread man. All the attention focuses on the gingerbread man and his surroundings which causes us to sympathise with him. We can see that Farquaad has been torturing him because the cooking utensils are highlighted on the table.

As the lamp is positioned underneath Farquaad, it up-lights his face, making him look eerie. Even when Farquaad is choosing a princess, lighting is used to full effect. One good example is whilst the mirror is showing the pictures of Snow White and Cinderella, they light up when he says their names. Fiona is made more exciting as more action is included, as DreamWorks have purposely arranged. When he is showing her animation, the light from the lava reflects onto Farquaad’s face and it shows how much detail is present in this film. This impresses the audience because of the complexity of the production.

Although music is not used much in this scene, there are some instances when it is applied. For example, when the mirror arrives, the music is enchanted and magical. At this point, the audience is surprised by the unexpected arrival of the mirror and the music builds up the wonder of what is going to happen. When the mirror shows Fiona, the animation has many sound effects and exciting action. This makes her thrilling as she seems fun and adventurous, unlike a typical princess. It is the first time the viewers have seen Fiona and she has already started to challenge their expectations.

The animators have cleverly used music to develop even a small amount of liking towards Fiona as the tune is welcoming and pleasant. Farquaad threatens the magic mirror to talk by ordering his guard to break another mirror. When breaking, the mirror makes a very realistic sound of shattering glass. There are other details like this which makes this scene very impressive. One example is the ‘clunk’ when the gingerbread man is thrown in the breadbin. These sound effects may seem miniscule, but when combined with other effects such as the lighting, they enhance the quality of the filming.

In this scene, Farquaad’s mission is to make his kingdom the perfect world. He thinks that he could achieve this by removing the magical creatures. Through the magic mirror, he finds out that in order for his land to be a kingdom at all, he has to marry a princess. Thus, Farquaad decides to marry Fiona. This story is different from an average fairytale, although it has the basic elements, like a princess, dragon, castle and Disney characters. On the other hand, the audience know it is distinctive as Farquaad is not a prince and he is not marrying for love but for land.

Usually there is a tall, handsome prince who rescues the princess and falls in love. It is a fairytale with a twist and it is exciting for the audience as they cannot predict what happens. The plot is well-written as it engages the audience throughout the whole scene. One of the best qualities in ‘Shrek’ is that it entertains an audience for all ages. This characteristic in ‘Shrek’ is very useful as it engages a larger audience rather than targeting certain age groups. The different levels of humour means that adults as well as children can enjoy the film.

An adult would laugh at the gingerbread man being dipped in the milk whereas a child would laugh at Farquaad’s height. It is usually very difficult to entertain such a wide range of viewers but DreamWorks has managed it successfully. In this scene, Farquaad is the main character and he also speaks the most. Through his dialogue we learn much about his personality, which furthers our dislike towards him. This is because his spoken script mainly consists of him either commanding or threatening someone . His hostile attitude is emphasised by his impolite and harsh voice.

The magic mirror resembles a presenter hosting a dating show, when he displays the princesses. The audience are not expecting the mirror to be like the one in ‘Snow White’, which is plain and serene and only talks when necessary. In ‘Shrek’, the mirror has a personality and leaves more of an impression on the viewers. Once again, the film-makers have challenged the expectations of the audience by using spoken script to give attitude to the characters. When the gingerbread man talks to Farquaad, it is with great dislike as he is bullied into revealing the whereabouts of the magical creatures.

At first he says, “Eat me! ” But then Farquaad threatens to remove one of his buttons if he does not talk. At his point, the gingerbread man pleads, “Not the gumdrop buttons! ” The audience pities the gingerbread man at this point. This also bemuses the audience as items such as gumdrop buttons, milk, cooking utensils and a breadbin could be used as means of torture. The plot is well thought out as it makes sense for a biscuit to be threatened by milk, which breaks it down. The film-makers have not only designed new characters in ‘Shrek’ but have also used existing, well-known characters.

Most of them were taken from Disney, their main competitors in film-making. By doing this they could have been seen as imitating them. On the contrary, it has paid off as it has promoted this film. The animators have adopted their rival’s logo, the Castle, as the dark and frightening dwelling of the dragon who guards Princess Fiona. As well as making fun of Disney, it also makes them look sinister. DreamWorks have used characters we link with Disney. Contrary to the viewers expectations, Farquaad chooses Fiona over Cinderella and Snow White, who are well-cherished Disney characters.

Thus making fun of their competitors again. In conclusion, there are many techniques that the makers have employed to promote their film. Their aim was to fully engage the attention of the audience and the torture scene has enabled them to do this. The use of camera angles, editing, lighting, music and sound effects, dialogue and the use of Disney characters have all played an important part in improving the quality of the film. It is evident that DreamWorks have succeeded in the making of ‘Shrek’ as it has become one of their most productive films.