Toonzone Goes to the "Shrek Forever After" Press Conference
Last Friday, Paramount invited the media for a press conference to ask questions for the cast and crew of Shrek Forever After (also going by Shrek: The Final Chapter). Two separate panels were held, one featuring the production crew and the other featuring the voice cast members.
PRODUCTION CREW PANEL
The production panel consisted of director Mike Mitchell (also the voice of Butter Pants and several other bit characters), producers Teresa Cheng and Gina Shay, and executive producer Aron Warner. The highlights follow:
- Mitchell talked about the process of casting Walt Dohrn in the role of Rumpelstiltskin. Dohrn started out doing temporary or “scratch” voices for the movie and DreamWorks Animation has a history of casting in-house staff for roles in their movies. Mitchell said that he and the rest of the staff found Dohrn’s temporary voice of Rumpelstiltskin irreplaceable. Animators were incredibly happy with the announcement that Dohrn was cast in the role and enjoyed the chance to animate the character behind Dohrn’s weasely and ratty voice. Warner also joked that Dohrn was less expensive.
- One reporter commented that Shrek Forever After seemed very “final” and asked if this was in fact the final film. Aron Warner joked that after working on Shrek for twelve years, Warner’s paychecks for Shrek will stop coming after May 21, 2010, “so that’s pretty final.” Mitchell added that the crew tried to sum up all the other Shrek films with the new movie, but that there will also be a new Puss in Boots animated movie that will be The Jeffersons to Shrek‘s All In The Family.
- Mike Mitchell discussed the influence of It’s a Wonderful Life on the plot for Shrek Forever After and embracing the concept of Shrek not being the ogre he was as at the start of the first movie. In response to a reporter’s question, Mitchell explained that the goal was to make Shrek Forever After more of an homage to the storytelling of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life rather than overdoing the parody.
- Mitchell talked about the evolution of the Puss in Boots story and how the crew conceptualized a flashback sequence where Puss gives up the boots and sword because he is ashamed of being an ogre hunter.
- Mitchell stated that the production crew embraced 3-D technology early on. In addition, the crew also received help from Avatar director James Cameron, who spoke with Dreamworks Animation about 3-D. The production crew that made How To Train Your Dragon in 3-D at Dreamworks, assisted the Shrek Forever After production as well. Mitchell noted his desire to use 3-D in the rollercoaster ride action sequences, but also as a storytelling device. Mitchell hopes that if audiences do not notice the storytelling and depth of the 3-D technology, at least they will feel the utilization of 3-D technology, much like the experience of surround sound. Teresa Cheng said the goal was to use 3-D to make the movie an immersive experience for the audience.
- Gina Shay and Mitchell talked about their experience at kids’ party palaces and how the birthday party sequence early in the movie compare to their experiences. Shay and Mitchell do not enjoy going to party palaces, because they are so loud and there’s always something going on.
- A reporter asked about special features that will be on the DVD. Cheng said there would be an animated short called “Donkey’s Christmas Carol Spectacular,” directed by Walt Dohrn. Mitchell said the DVD would also contain a deleted scene that was completely finished, animated, and lighted. In the deleted scene, a group of fairy tale creatures attack Shrek. The scene was cut for being too dark, but Mitchell said the scene is dark and funny. The scene was taken out at the last minute. Other short deleted scenes in storyboard form will also be on the DVD.
- Toonzone asked about Artie (played by Justin Timberlake in Shrek The Third) being one of the few characters not returning for the fourth movie. Mitchell said the cast was getting crowded and all of Shrek’s kids and Donkey’s kids were required for this film, so Artie just didn’t fit into the story. He added that the crew imagined that Artie went on a quest for a grail and the Queen (Julie Andrews) took over in the meantime.
- Mitchell talked about the design style of the wicked witch characters in the film and scaling back on the designs. The earlier designs of the witches looked too ugly and scary for kids. Warner and Mitchell mentioned that surprisingly, kids understand the story a lot more than Warner and Mitchell expected.
- Mitchell talked about Jon Hamm working on the movie and having a great sense of humor and even recording a song for the DVD. Teresa Cheng said that originally Hamm’s character, Brogan, was named Gnimrahc (Charming spelled backwards). Gnimrahc/Brogan was going to be Prince Charming with a spell cast upon him, getting involved in a romantic triangle with Fiona and Shrek. Hamm even recorded those lines, but Mitchell said that Hamm was so charming and sexy in the role that it hurt the main story of the movie.
- Teresa Cheng said at times the animators gained inspiration from the live actors’ recording sessions. The character animators recorded all the voice actor sessions on video and used as reference for certain facial expressions. Mitchell stated that animators will even reference the actors’ expressions during quiet moments that are also recorded on video.
VOICE ACTOR PANEL
After a short break, the panel restarted with the voice cast members of the movie. Ryan Seacrest moderated the panel which included Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Walt Dohrn (Rumpelstiltskin), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Jon Hamm (Brogan), and Craig Robinson (Cookie). The American Idol host joked about his short two-line role in the movie (Seacrest plays the “Father of Butter Pants”). Here are the highlights of the voice actor panel:
- Seacrest began by asking Mike Myers what Myers’ favorite moment was in the Shrek franchise. Myers reflected back on when producer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, asked Myers to work on an animated movie to be called Shrek, to which Myers remarked, “That’s the worst title I’ve ever heard in my life.” Myers remembered the moment when he saw the first Shrek movie with an audience and people gasped at the line, “But you are beautiful.” Myers was blown away by an animated movie that moved people.
- Seacrest asked Eddie Murphy what he felt was the secret to the success of the Shrek franchise. Murphy said the movies are just well made. Myers joked about how Murphy had such a short, succinct answer and Myers went on for 15 minutes. Murphy then discussed how the movies are just well made, smart, and very funny and “those things add up to hits sometimes.”
- Cameron Diaz noted how the love story between Shrek and Fiona gets to happen all over again in the movie. A reporter asked Myers and Diaz how challenging it was to have Shrek and Fiona starting over, but both said the writing is so good and well structured that it was easy. Diaz added that the animators are truly the actors, putting the emotions and looks into the characters on screen.
- Walt Dohrn mentioned that he worked on the movie for over a year before being officially cast in the role of Rumpelstiltskin, saying what a great honor that was.
- When asked how much fun he had making the movies, Antonio Banderas said, “A lot.” Banderas related his experience of coming to America without speaking English and how surprised he was that people would want to use his voice for something.
- Jon Hamm said he Hamm does not know how the character he plays in Mad Men would lend itself to animation, but he simply wanted to be a part of the franchise. As mentioned earlier, the production crew was not sure of the type of character Brogan would portray in the movie, making him a competitor for Fiona early on.
- Myers and Diaz addressed the idea of doing a Shrek: The Final Chapter Part 2, perhaps ten years from now, saying they would do it if Katzenberg asks. Diaz, in a roundabout way, joked about how doing Shrek again would be a lot easier than trying to fit into her pants from the Charlie’s Angels movies ten years from now.
- Diaz was asked about Fiona getting to be a warrior and a leader in the new movie and if Fiona would have had a better life without Shrek. Diaz replied that Fiona has always been a warrior. Diaz has always seen Fiona as a warrior of love in all the films. In Shrek Forever After, Fiona is simply a warrior with a different tone.
- A reporter asked Myers about the moments in the movie where Shrek is hounded and observed constantly by the public and if there’s any parallel between that part of the Shrek movie and the rise of Myers’ own career. Myers joked that, “I do now live in a swamp.” Myers continued to talk about his love for privacy and how he likes doing events like the press conference with the movies, but when he’s not working, Myers just enjoys being a person and going away. The reporter followed up with whether being a Canadian is part of that for Myers. Myers said it is hard to be super full of yourself when you are Canadian and that if there was a motto in Canada it would be, “Who do you think you are, eh?” Myers stated that many people around the world might call Canada boring, but “in praise of boring,” Canada is a civilized place to grow up.
- Hamm said his transition to voice acting was easier, but different to learn and adapt to. It was interesting and fun for him to learn on the fly.
- A reporter asked the panel what they love about life and what they think kids will learn from watching the movie. Ryan Seacrest said he loves “all the free time I have. And my body of work in film continues to grow.” Walt Dohrn talked about his seven year old daughter. Myers said he loves living in New York City. Diaz said she’s in love with life and loves her family and her friends and the experiences she gets to share with them. Murphy said he loves everything and everyone and then said, “Love, love, love. Love is a mother******!” This got some laughs. Banderas said that he loves that he has been married for fourteen years as of that day, which drew applause from the audience.
The reporter again tried to bring up the follow-up part of the question: “What will kids learn from watching the movie?” Diaz interrupted and noted that Hamm and Robinson had not gotten to the first part yet. Hamm graciously decided to take the second part of the question to move things along. Hamm said that we are in a time where a lot of people have a lot of information about lots of people but all that is only surface information. Hamm continued that kids can learn the important thing is about actually getting to know people and who they really are and having real relationships with people. Hamm said kids can also learn about not taking life for granted, mentioning that he is very appreciative of what he does and his presence in a panel with all the cast members. Robinson glibly talked about moments in life and being with everyone on stage. He then added that a good message for kids is that where there’s a will there’s a way, and you have to fight for what you believe in.
- A reporter asked Eddie Murphy whether he has a different method for doing Donkey’s singing and regular voices. Murphy said doing the singing and the regular voices are all pretty much for the same for him.
- Walt Dohrn was asked about working on the movie before being cast in the role of Rumpelstiltskin. Dohrn said he never thought he would be cast in the role but always wanted to so he could do things like the press conference. Diaz talked about working with Dohrn in the booth, since Dohrn would do the scratch voices for other actors to play off of when recording their lines. Myers and Dohrn joked about doing the “Just kiss me” line from the movie as Shrek and Fiona. Dohrn then did a perfect imitation of Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots character, “Feed me, if you dare!” Diaz joked that now everyone knows who does the Bumblebee commercials. Diaz said she was so surprised and amazed by Dohrn’s work in the movie. Murphy stated he did not even know that Dohrn played Rumpelstiltskin until he saw the movie and was blown away by Dohrn’s performance.
- A reporter asked the actors about doing the voices for kids or if anyone ever comes up to them and asks them to do the Shrek characters. Banderas told a story about how a mother introduced her young son to Banderas as Puss in Boots, and the mother asked Banderas to do the voice. The kid then looked at Banderas and recognized Banderas as Zorro. Murphy says people do not really come up to him and ask him to do Donkey, but he will sometimes do a Donkey shadow puppet when watching a movie at home with his family, offering commentary if the movie isn’t good. Murphy then got up and demonstrated the Donkey shadow puppets on stage, saying in Donkey’s voice, “This movie is ****!” Murphy then added that sometimes he wears the Shrek ears to make a Shrek shadow puppet to talk with Donkey, saying he has “had some wild times in the house.”
Diaz says no one really asks her to do Fiona, but when kids are told that she is Fiona, the kids almost start crying. So Diaz asks parents not to tell kids that she plays Fiona since kids want to believe the animated characters are real people. Myers told a story about calling sick kids on the phone as Shrek and how the kids are so un-excited they are talking to Shrek on the phone and ask for the tooth fairy. In Shrek’s voice, “Yeah, I’ll go get the tooth fairy.”
- Banderas confirmed that he is working on a Puss in Boots animated feature and thinks it will be a lot of fun.
- One of the international reporters asked the voice actors about watching their characters in different languages. Diaz said she had seen parts of the first three minutes or so in different languages when touring and promoting the movie, but she had to leave quickly in order to go to the next country. Banderas noted that he also voices Puss in Boots in a Spanish version for Spain and a Latin-American Spanish version as well as the Italian language version. Myers said that he also does the Canadian version which is probably a lot like the American version.
Toonzone News would like to thank the cast and crew of Shrek Forever After for taking the time to speak with the press, and to the PR staffs of DreamWorks Animation and Paramount for managing the press conference. Shrek Forever After opens May 21, 2010.