PRINCESS, OGRE, WIFE, MOTHER...WARRIOR!...
For a princess who one day dreamed of becoming Mrs. Fiona Charming, "Shrek Forever After" re-imagines the ogress as a fearless leader, determined to overthrow Rumpel and ensure freedom for all ogres.
A far cry from the spoiled princess introduced in the first film, Fiona has now traded in her tiara for a knife and battle-ax and her gown for a leather vest and battle armor. Fiona has become a force to be reckoned with, and feared.
"Fiona embraces her ogreness in this movie, and hides her human form from those around her," observes Jason Reisig, head of character animation. "She's been hit very poignantly by all the issues that Rumpel has brought forth and that in turn provides her motivation as a leader."
To further enhance the change from princess to warrior, Reisig and his team worked diligently to add subtle changes to the way Fiona was animated while at the same time keeping true to the core of the character.
"She's always been a powerful princess and not a pushover in any way," says Reisig. "But this takes her to a whole new level where she's a warrior. She also has to be Fiona but she has to have this kind of stature to her and a toughness. It was our task to find the right balance in movements and expressions by giving her a tough edge to her animation while simultaneously not changing who she is." All those subtleties in the animation provided a nice complement to the look and drive of a character transformed from royalty to warrior.
After spending years waiting for true love to find her, Fiona made peace with the fact that true love was not her destiny. Summoning her courage, she escaped the dragon's keep and started her life over by embracing the ogre inside and uniting the once solitary and lonely ogres living in fear of Rumpelstiltskin. Inspired by her newfound family, she has now channeled all her passion and energy into her work, determined to overthrow Rumpel and his witches.
"Even though Fiona has abandoned true love and she was able to escape from the tower, those walls of the tower still remain around her heart. Shrek now has to break through those walls to get to her," says producer Gina Shay.
Breaking through the walls of Fiona's heart turns out to be a bigger challenge for Shrek than he originally thought. When he first meets Fiona at the ogre camp, he is clearly taken aback by the transformation caused by Rumpel's new reality, directly the fault of Shrek.
"There are some beautiful moments between Shrek and Fiona where they are trying to understand why their connection is so strong, but she doesn't know him in this alternate universe. They are just pulled together by chemistry," explains producer Gina Shay. "There is a scene where they are sparring and their chemistry reminds me of two high school kids who like each other, and don't know what to do about it so they just punch each other. The animators really captured the subtlety dynamic."
One of the most notable physical changes to Princess Fiona's is her hairstyle. "Her hair is really a character unto itself," say director Mike Mitchell. As many in the field of animation will attest, executing CG hair is one of the most complicated tasks to accomplish, and most will agree that long hair just adds to the equation.
"Fiona's hair is some of the longest hair we've ever animated here at DreamWorks," says visual effects supervisor Doug Cooper." "Her hair is not only long, it is wavy and curly-and it's hard to create believable, wavy, curly hair."
To tackle the wavy strands and curls of Fiona, Cooper turned to his character effects team, led by character effects supervisor Oliver "Olee" Finkelde.
In order to achieve the desired effects, Finkelde and his team actually treated Fiona's hair like a separate character and created an entire independent rigging system for the red locks. The rig, however, was not without its specific challenges as the character effects team had to work closely with the animation team to ensure that both the rigs of the hair and the character of Fiona would not overlap each other when either moved.
"It is important to make sure those curls and waves don't intersect each other or cut into another part of the character, such as the shoulder, arm or neck," explains Finkelde. "The entire team did such an amazing job on Fiona, warrior princess," says director Mike Mitchell. "I could not be more proud."
Although they are basically working with the same characters from the previous films, the crew welcomes their altered designs. "It feels like you're animating them for the first time even though we all know them," says supervising animator Marek Kochout.
In expanding the world of Shrek and Far Far Away, the introduction of new ogres was pretty much a natural evolution for the filmmakers. "At some point, you have to just think, 'There's gotta be more than Shrek and Fiona, right?'" says producer Teresa Cheng.
Ultimately, the crew talked about who the ogres are and what they looked like. "They aren't as sophisticated as Shrek," continues Cheng. "He's the domesticated ogre, he's had the most human contact." The production finally settled on design that is slightly more ogre-ish in form, to illustrate that Shrek has become more evolved.
When Shrek stumbles upon a campsite populated by ogres, not only does he realize he's not alone in the world, he realizes that he's also the runt of the ogre litter. The designs for Fiona's second-in-command evolved into a bigger, tougher and smellier version of Shrek named Brogan, voiced by newcomer to the Shrek family, Jon Hamm. "We're used to seeing Shrek as a sort of big, hulking ogre and all of sudden we see him next to Brogan and he looks like his kid brother," says Hamm. "It's been an amazing journey working on the film and I'm thrilled to be a part of it!"
Additional members of the ogre clan include scene-stealers as: the camp's resident chef, aptly named Cookie, voiced by Craig Robinson and funny-gal Gretched, voiced by Jane Lynch. "Cookie is very proud of his chimichanga cart and without giving too much away, let's just say it's a good thing he brings it into battle," says Robinson.
The battle that Fiona and her band of ogres are preparing is with none other than Rumpelstiltskin and his army of witches. "The witches are Rumpel's henchmen," explains Cheng. "He has two types of witches-party witches that hang out with him at the palace and patrol witches, who are basically the ones that hunt down ogres for Rumpel."
Lending their voices to the band of witches are Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Mary Kay Place, Kristen Schaal and Meredith Vieira. "In 'Madagascar 2,' I played a newscaster so it was very close to home for me," says Vieira. For "Shrek Forever After," Vieira got to stretch her acting skills and develop a character outside her persona, stepping into a world with other actors. "This is a little different and now I appreciate the process of playing off another character."
Additionally, Rumpel's bounty hunter is the Pied Piper, whose melodic and hypnotic tunes lure the ogres out of hiding and into a trance, ultimately under the control of the minstrel. "It's actually a pretty elaborate and complex sequence," say Mitchell. "We were lucky enough to get Michael Rooney to come in and actually choreograph the dance sequence for us."
For his part, Rooney brought in about 30 dancers with the layout crew and cinematographer on hand to videotape for reference. "The goal was to have part of the story line threaded through a dance number," says Rooney, "so we have the music of the Pied Piper serving as the device to serve Rumpel's wishes."
"And that's just what Michael did," adds Mitchell. "He brought an art to the whole scene and it's telling a little story. It begins with these ogres being taken in by the Pied Piper, rounded up and led into cages. It's the most entertaining way to put someone in a cage I've ever seen!"
EXTREME PALACE MAKEOVER
In many respects, it might be a blessing in disguise that King Harold and Queen Lillian are not around to witness the garish transformation that occurred to their beloved medieval castle and home when Rumpel assumed rule over Far Far Away. An extreme home makeover gone horribly awry, Rumpel has taken "bad taste" to a whole new level.
"This was one of our most elaborate sets on the film," says production designer Peter Zaslav. "Maybe one of the most elaborate sets in any of the Shrek movies." Based on the architecture and models of the King and Queen's palace, Zaslav and art director Max Boas continued the motif of the oval shape that was introduced in the carriage park where Rumpel lived by transplanting the design of Rumpel's carriage to the palace, as if placing it right on top. The oval motif was also carried through to the interior of the castle as well.
Explains Zaslav, "We wanted to get away from the traditional way of portraying a villain as very angular, with everything around him being spiky and sharp. So we went in the opposite direction making all the shapes around him round."
Once inside the palace, garish golds, bright whites, reds and lavenders dominate the color palate. The look of Rumpel's pet goose Fifi even provides inspiration to the patterns of the décor throughout the rooms including Rumpel's VIP lounge located adjacent to the disco ballroom and the many alcoves where the witches gather to stand, pose, party and most of all, dance.
The palace also provides the location of two of the most visually challenging sequences in the film-a high-adrenaline Broom Chase scene, which finds Shrek and Donkey being chased by Rumpel's witches and the final climatic battle of the film with Shrek, Fiona and a dragon.
THE VISUAL EFFECTS
In what will arguably be remembered as one the most hair-raising sequences to be seen in the Shrek films, the broom chase through Rumpel's palace is one for the record books.
A novice at broom flying, Shrek is faced with navigating an out-of-control broom through the cavernous palace while being pursued by over a dozen bomb-yielding witches. Oh, and he's got Donkey riding shotgun.
After the sequence was storyboarded by Walt Dohrn's team, director Mike Mitchell turned to his layout and visual effects teams to create the wild sequence of events.
"The camera work is incredibly dynamic which makes the scene so effective," says Doug Cooper, visual effects supervisor. "Shooting in 3D created challenges in how we were going to light the space and how we would integrate the characters into the environment."
Since the scene involved Shrek being chased on a broom by over a dozen witches gunning for him, the sequence called for close collaboration between the layout/pre-visualization department and the character animation team, headed respectively by Yong Duk Jhun and Jason Reisig.
For the team, that meant using the stereoscopic camera in the most effective way possible. "Every shot composed with the stereoscopic camera is carefully controlled by the layout artists," explains Yong Duk Jhun, head of layout. "In complicated action sequences like the broom chase, the depth of field in the camera will be less than usual because the actual stereoscopic distance will cover the rest of the depth information."
The sheer complexity of visual detail in the palace itself-an ornate, ostentatious, over-the-top environment-could have hindered the action sequence, but instead, the visual effects team used the detail to complement the action shots.
Working with art director Max Boas and production designer Peter Zaslav, the visual effects team reigned in the detail of the palace so that audiences would be able to read what was taking place in the scene between the characters. The team spent hours taking the rich, detailed environment of the palace and organizing it visually so that all of the movements taking place throughout the corridors and hallways would make sense to the viewer.
The final showdown between the Ogre Army and Rumpel and his witches was one of, if not the most, technically complex and challenging sequences to animate. With hundreds of ax, chain and shield-wielding ogres, and witches flying through the palace lobbing exploding pumpkins, the visual effects team went into overdrive. "The scale of complexity in the final battle sequence is enormous," says Alex Ongaro, head of effects.
At the centerpiece of the battle is the bright, shiny new disco ball that Rumpel installs over the dance floor. What he doesn't realize is that is in fact a "Trojan Horse" concealing hundreds of ogres armed and ready for battle. On cue from Donkey and Puss, the silver rectangles of the disco ball give way, revealing the green army and their weapons. The reveal of the ogres proved to be an enormously complicated scene to execute and required a close collaboration between the visual effects and animation teams.
"You have characters that need to pose together with their shields to form a ball," explains Doug Cooper, visual effects supervisor. To achieve a believable look, the effects team orchestrated the choreography of the start of the scene, a task normally handled by the animation team. "The effects team made the explosion work as if the disco ball were breaking part, being pushed by ogres," says Jason Reisig, head of character animation. Once free of the disco ball, Reisig's team took over. "We created animation cycles that we could attach to the ogres' shields and which the ogres would then follow. We then turned it over to our animation crowd team, " he adds. The give-and-take between the two departments resulted in a breathtaking scene of visual effects and animation wizardry.
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Thus completes the journey of a green ogre that began in 1995 when Jeffrey Katzenberg and his team at DreamWorks Animation began the development process to bring William Steig's fractured fairy tale to the big screen for the first time. Four theatrical movies, an Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature Film, two television specials (one still in the works), a Broadway musical, theme park attractions and numerous animation and visual effects industry awards later, Shrek has become a global icon loved by millions.
"This film's legacy - and all the films - is really quite extraordinary," observes Cameron Diaz. "What Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Puss have all accomplished, and what they've given the audiences is something we're all very proud of, and I'm proud to have been a part of the journey."
In a fitting challenge for the final installment of the Shrek films, Shrek once again needs to save Far Far Away, win over the heart of Princess Fiona, and prove that he is worthy of True Love's Kiss. Only then can he save himself and return to his old, yet very familiar world and life. In so doing, Shrek come to terms with the life he briefly left behind, and by choosing it again becomes truly ready, willing and able to live out his real Happily Forever After . . .Shrek Forever After - Princess Fiona & The Visual Effects
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