How Shrekfest retains the 20-year legacy of ‘Shrek’ alive

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In 2014, Grant Duffrin and his mates noticed a Fb occasion for Shrekfest: a five-day celebration of all issues Shrek. It promised an onion consuming competitors, a roaring contest, and Smash Mouth cowl bands. Duffrin was excited to attend, as have been the hundreds of different individuals who responded to the occasion.

As Shrekfest drew nearer, Duffrin realized that the occasion was faux. However now that the thought was in his head, and clearly of curiosity to a variety of individuals, he took issues into his personal fingers to make it a actuality. He deliberate to include all the things marketed on the faux occasion web page into real-life Shrekfest and maintain it in Madison, Wisconsin, the place faux Shrekfest had been suppose to happen.

“The blueprint was laid out for me,” Duffrin mentioned in a latest cellphone interview with Mashable. “It was like somebody left their automotive working and I simply jumped within the driver’s seat and took off.”

2021 is a giant 12 months for Shrekheads, as it’s the twentieth anniversary of the discharge of Shrek. The DreamWorks basic had its world premiere on April 22, 2001, and its theatrical debut on Could 18 of the identical 12 months. It went on to win the primary Oscar for Greatest Animated Characteristic; acquired three sequels, in addition to a Puss in Boots spinoff; and was tailored right into a stage musical (which now you can stream on Netflix). In brief, Shrek was a juggernaut.

As Shrek turned an even bigger franchise, its later movies could not at all times compete with the attraction of the unique. What had began as a intelligent send-up of Disney fairytale tropes risked changing into a parody of itself. However throughout this time, Shrek developed a brand new, bizarre life on the web. You may by no means be briefly provide of Shrek memes, be they parodies of Smash Mouth’s All Star or bizarrely edited images of the great green ogre himself.

It is sensible, then, that Shrekfest, one of many best contributions to Shrek fandom, was born from a bizarre web joke itself. 

Run by Duffrin and 3GI Industries (a pseudonym Duffrin makes use of to “sound legit”), Shrekfest is now in its eighth 12 months. For one wonderful day on the finish of summer time, attendees slather their faces with inexperienced paint, don their finest Shrek costumes, and collect in James Madison Park to have fun the story of the world’s best ogre. Sure, there are nonetheless the onion consuming and roaring contests. There’s additionally reside music, free beer, and a night screening of Shrek. Individuals of all ages attend the pageant, and a few Shrekfest-goers have even flown in from different nations, making Shrekfest a world affair. 

“It is similar to a household reunion if you happen to received amnesia and forgot who your loved ones was.”

Shrekfest is a celebration, and an opportunity to attach with different Shrek followers. “It is similar to a household reunion if you happen to received amnesia and forgot who your loved ones was,” mentioned Duffrin. 

Spotlight movies of earlier Shrekfests seize the occasion’s strangeness and its sense of neighborhood. A younger boy participates within the roar contest and the gang cheers him on. A bunch of individuals in Shrek costumes do a conga line within the rain. Two males face off within the finals of the onion consuming competitors, consuming not one, not two, however two-and-a-half uncooked onions every.

It is positively bizarre, nevertheless it’s a purposeful and supportive weirdness. “For just a few hours a 12 months, we will create a spot the place it is okay to be bizarre, to be totally different, to be your self, and to hang around with others who really feel the identical manner,” the Shrekfest web site guarantees.

Shrekfest moved on-line in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is going to be digital once more in 2021. “In some methods, it made sense, doing Shrekfest on-line,” mentioned Duffrin. “Somebody described it as a homecoming as a result of the pageant was born on-line in a meme, so to have the occasion on-line made sense.”

Whereas the sensation of in-person connection was lessened considerably when Shrekfest went digital, the present went on, with 3GI Industries showcasing followers’ video and artwork submissions. Duffrin already has concepts to make this 12 months’s Shrekfest much more interactive, and he’s serious about working digital Shrekfests alongside reside ones sooner or later.

In some ways digital Shrekfest, with its crowd-sourced quick movies, costumes, and fan artwork, bears a  resemblance to a different Shrek-related venture from 3GI: the 2018 crowd-sourced movie Shrek Retold, directed by Duffrin.

Crowd-sourced remakes of well-liked motion pictures have existed for some time, the place administrators select a film, break it down into components, after which assign every half to a unique creator to remake it in no matter manner they see match. They then sew all of the components again collectively to create one thing that’s each acquainted and new. Some examples embrace Star Wars Uncut and Our Robocop Remake.

Duffrin had at all times been serious about making a crowd-sourced film and figured that Shrek could be the right alternative. He reached out to creators in 2014 in regards to the venture however did not get any responses. In 2017 (a number of Shrekfests later), he tried once more and acquired rather more curiosity. Over 200 creators labored on Shrek Retold, every getting a small snippet of the film to recreate in no matter manner they appreciated. The mediums within the movie differ drastically, with all the things from 2D animation, claymation, reside motion, and puppets making it into the combo.

The end result is weird. It is absurd. It is completely bonkers. Nevertheless it’s additionally an unbelievable feat of collaborative storytelling and a testomony to Shrek‘s endurance. When watching Shrek Retold, viewers get to see how these many, many various creators interpreted their portion of Shrek. The artists concerned took the freedom to re-contextualize Shrek staples: for instance, Shrek attracts the “Preserve Out” signal for his swamp in MS Paint, and his battle in opposition to Lord Farquaad’s troopers is reworked into an epic anime battle. Even Smash Mouth’s iconic “All Star” is reimagined in an acoustic cowl by Fauxny, Kevin Gonring, and 3GI. It is moments like these the place you notice, certain, you are watching the acquainted plot of Shrek play out, however you are additionally seeing it by means of a completely new artistic lens.

Whereas Duffrin takes dangers like including a completely new dream sequence showcasing Shrek’s interior turmoil (on the 47:00 mark) to the movie, these dangers add new depth to Shrek, which is one thing that may be mentioned about the remainder of Shrek Retold and even Shrekfest itself. Each ventures not solely have fun Shrek‘s story, however in addition they contribute to a brand new story: the story of Shrek and its fandom, in addition to its legacy rooted in web tradition and memes.

“Every thing we do is honest, as a result of we’re working our asses off to do this type of factor,” defined Duffrin in regards to the seriousness of the venture. “It isn’t simple to run a pageant. To place that a lot work into one thing, it is gotta be honest. The angle we’ve is to attempt to ship excellence.”

This angle appears to be shared by Shrekfest attendees. In footage of the roaring and onion consuming contests, nobody is halfheartedly doing their finest ogre roar or paradoxically consuming a uncooked onion. “They’re genuinely chomping these onions as quick as they’ll as a result of they wish to win the title of onion consuming champ. And after we’re watching Shrek, we’re not paradoxically quoting the film. It’s all real as a result of it’s a great film,” mentioned Duffrin.

The identical goes for creators concerned in Shrek Retold: it is clear a variety of exhausting work went into the movie, whether or not it was animating scenes or making costumes or creating authentic music. Elements of the film do draw on meme tradition, including one other layer to the movie’s unusual enchantment, however individuals are far too dedicated to the venture for it to simply be disregarded as a easy joke.

Duffrin and 3GI Industries are already trying to the long run. This 12 months’s digital Shrekfest will probably be held on Friday, September 10, with the hope that 2022’s Shrekfest can as soon as once more be held in particular person. On prime of that, Shrek 2 Retold will probably be coming to YouTube within the close to future. Whereas no launch date has been formally introduced, it is clear from the teaser that followers can anticipate extra of the identical madness and creativity that made Shrek Retold a viral hit. The long-promised Shrek 5 could also be a methods off, however fan-made creations like Shrekfest will maintain the love for Shrek going, simply as they’ve executed for the previous 20 years.

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