Dec. 13 – Shrek the Halls

SHREK THE HALLS
Original Air Date: November 28, 2007

An ogre is in dire need of Christmas cheer, and a donkey is his only way to salvation

BACKSTORY
If the star of William Steig’s 1990 children’s book is sounds eerily familiar to German/Yiddish speakers, it’s because it’s derived from their words for “fear” and “monster.” Steven Spielberg obtained the rights to Steig’s tale of an ogre who teams up with a donkey and marries an ugly princess, but production didn’t truly get underway until the founding of DreamWorks in 1994.

Shrek’s original form

The movie expanded the story into a parody of classic fairy tales, yet production was halted yet again in 1997 after the death of its original star, Chris Farley, who had completed up to 90% of his dialog. Fellow SNL alum Mike Myers stepped in to the role of Shrek, and the movie released in May of 2001.

The original gang

Shrek became the first runaway critical and commercial success for the studio, more than doubling the box office of DreamWorks’ previous animated output, such as Antz and Chicken Run, and was the first-ever recipient of the Academy Award for Best Animated film.

Shrek at the 2002 Oscars

The Shrek franchise would go onto produce one Puss N’ Boots prequel,  a musical, two Christmas specials, one Universal Studios theme park attraction, and three proper sequels, which altogether have grossed 3 billion dollars worldwide.

BREAKDOWN
Perhaps the biggest miracle going down around these parts this season is… me softening toward Shrek.

A rather sunny start for a Christmas special

Now, I don’t really hate Shrek. I hate that Shrek tried to make me choose a side. Obviously, I’m an animation dork and I recall an ugly moment back in, I dunno, 2004, where DreamWorks seemed to believe that THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

Merry ChristmASS (God, I’m good!)

It saw a mild amount of success with Shrek and seemingly went after everyone else in the animation business just to eliminate all competition. This included releasing its DVD early on  Friday (ALL DVDs come out on Tuesday) in order to steal a little thunder from the movies releasing first-run in theaters that week. The movie in question just so happened to be The Incredibles,which is my favorite Pixar movie so I’d like to think it’s saying a lot that I still don’t forgive Shrek!

Plenty of Puss on display

Yes, Shrek had been a success. It took previously established comedic personas from Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and John Lithgow, and mixed it with topical parodies of American Idol, the Matrix and the WWF (pre-E) Big deal – that’s easy. Like a film made up of a bunch of Aladdin Genies.

Looks like the bought the place from Pee Wee Herman

It’d be one thing if Shrek had committed itself to being timeless and ever-lasting, but instead it seemed poised to sequelize itself like Nightmare on Elm Street, and as a sidequest, murder everything in its way.

It’s already not a particularly pretty movie, but its style kind of shat upon everything I love about animation. Fire up any Looney Tune or Disney short, and everything about them still works. Sure there’s a radio gag, or a reference to a celebrity who’s been dead for six decades, but nothing that takes you out of it for more than a second.

Love this pic

Shrek does that to me every couple of seconds, and in lieu expending the effort towards being timeless, DreamWorks seemed perfectly content to just keep making sequels to replace its disposable material. It’s like a cinematic South Park, with less bite and less wit.

Sweet. Angel… yeah, I can think of like 50 pick-up lines right now

That it seemed to want to be the only animated movie- a cartoon shark poised and ready to annihilate any other product that dared to project itself in theaters- made me hate it more.

Wait, did men ever wear stockings?!

Once Shrek the Third ate shit at the box office, I was doing victory laps, and needless to say, avoiding the crap out of Shrek the Halls. But you know what? It actually works.

Get it?! ‘Cause they’re handicapped!

Watching this and Prep & Landing this year reminded me of just how fast modern Christmas specials move. Those old Rankin/Bass classics can take their time, but that seems to be a blessing they were given with airing annually, then disappearing for 364 days, before a time of infinite choice and instant media gratification.

*DING*

I’m not getting on a curmudgeonly soapbox. Shrek the Halls works for your attention. When it comes to watching Xmas specials I’ve never seen before with a modern eye, it can certainly be more gratifying than sitting through 52 minutes of musical numbers meant to pad a paper-thin plot.

It’s a living…

Better still, Shrek the Halls actually works with its own canon. Yeah, the famous Scottish ogre knows dick about Christmas, but it’s been established that he’s spent much of his life in total solitude.

Dropping Yule Logs (More on that here!)

He’s not so much bah-humbuggy as he is baffled by the traditions of Christmas, just as anyone would be without a lifetime of indoctrination. Imagine just how perplexed aliens landing on Earth would be at the notion of bringing trees indoors, singing about roasting nuts, and a magical fat man we want to invade our homes annually.

“WTF is XMAS?”

Shrek doesn’t need to learn “The Meaning of Christmas” in any spiritual or metaphorical sense. He needs it literally defined for him, since he’s spent so little time living among the civilized, and everyone around him is behaving obnoxiously. Yes, mostly Donkey.

A mad dash for literature

This worked for me. Especially because, instead of being sung at about Christmas, Shrek keeps his ignorance in the closet and performs Holiday duties to the best of his abilities as interpreted by a textbook.

Makes a terrible Hanukkah gift

Am I talking about this too seriously? Apologies. It’s just usually when someone in a Christmas special has to ask “What is Christmas?” it’s some asinine character introduced to launch a cutesy toyline and test the established characters. Shrek’s confusion is genuine, and the special takes place largely from his outsider’s perspective.

“How exactly do I make the Yuletide gay?”

Shrek does his best to provide Fiona and his younglings with the Christmas they deserve, by performing Yuletide duties as he sees them. He throws a bunch of trash on the roof and nails his underwear to the mantle.

Ornaments are basically garbage for 11 months of the year

As is the case with Shrek, most of this is told through musical montage. Come to think of it, I think I counted like 40 licensed songs in Shrek the Halls, by far the most of any Christmas specials I’ve ever seen, including those that rely solely on singing into the camera for an hour. I wouldn’t be surprised if this special completely disappears due to rights issues.

Storybook shindig

Anyhoo, Shrek invites the while Storybook gang over to the house. Even when I’m actively trying to hate Shrek, I can’t help but laugh at Pinocchio and Gingerbread Man. Something about their half-assed voices causes me to lose my shit every time.

Santa killed Gingy’s girlfriend. True story

While inside the Shrekly home, there are many gags on display, my favorite of which involved different characters taking turns telling their own variation of Twas the Night Before Christmas. Honestly… I wouldn’t have minded if the whole special was comprised of this alone.

Twas the night before salsa

Of course it all goes tits up, as things tend to do when you pile several dozen kinetic characters into a space the size of hotel room, and Shrek throws everyone out.

To the wolves. Or at least one Big and Bad one

More in tune with Xmas specials, but less in tune with the characters, Fiona takes the kids and leaves Shrek with his inability to understand the holidays, which would be idiotic and unbelievable in anything but a Christmas special. Yes, please enjoy surviving a below zero night because people trashed our house and I yelled.

What’s best for the kids

Again, what follows would normally be a hackneyed, lazy, dare I say sitcomy gesture, were this not an Xmas special. You’d think Shrek would perform some magnificent act of apologetic grandeur to win back his friends, but instead the climax is comprised of Shrek appearing out of nowhere to apologize.

“You may continue comically trashing my place”

He invites everyone back to the crib…

A bedtime story for Bedtime Stories

And dispenses with the Shrekiest Christmas poem you ever did see!

You have no idea where that pixie dust is coming from

Seriously, I haven’t seen a Christmas special with this many boogers and farts since Ren & Stimpy.

Let’s hope it’s a missile labeled “PIXAR”

All is forgiven and the festive effort calls out to a certain someone like siren song.

“I bring you gifts of abrupt closure”

Not particularly clever, but pleasant.


None. There’s no place for Christ in modern day Christmas specials. DreamWorks has other religious iconography in mind…

Nice try


Appears briefly, albeit in both a classic and character-devouring form that could very well sully the man’s reputation

Cookies are people too


Quick, nice and funny, although not something I can imagine myself watching every year. It’s certainly entertaining enough, as is the case when you get Eddie Murphy to be Eddie Murphy, but parts of it feel a tad rushed and lazy. On that note, and this a minor gripe, the final six to seven minutes of this thing are credits! Not only is that 1/8th of the special they could’ve had back, those of us who grew up on classic Rankin/Bass or Charlie Brown specials are used to a quick exit, or at the very least an animated sequence underneath the credits!

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us!)

You can find Shrek the Halls on its own standalone DVD or bundled together with other DreamWorks Holiday tales. For the uber Shrek fan, why not pick up all the films in the Shrek: The Whole Story box set, which also includes Shrek the Halls and other Xmas goodies like Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular.

MORE CARTOON CHRISTMAS SPECIALS!

YESTERDAY’S XMAS SPECIAL
COUNT DUCKULA “A CHRISTMAS QUACKER”

 

LAST YEAR’S DEC. 13th XMAS SPECIAL
TOM & JERRY’S “THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS”

 

2010’s DEC. 13TH XMAS SPECIAL
NESTOR THE LONG-EARED DONKEY

 

2009’S DEC. 13TH XMAS SPECIAL
INVADER ZIM “THE MOST HORRIBLE XMAS EVER”

4 thoughts on “Dec. 13 – Shrek the Halls

  1. It really could have been a much worse Christmas special than it turned out to be. At least DreamWorks tries to treat their franchises right, they just need more to spread the love around (I’m looking at you despicable me)

  2. I have this on dvd, and watched it and loved it. It was soo funny when Donkey told his exaggerated Christmas Story, Everyone coming to Shrek’s house for the Christmas Party and overcrowded it. And Even when Shrek told his version of the story to his oger babies, I laughed when mom and the babes played kazoo in their sleep, and Shrek’s giant burp transformed the place. It was also funny when Dragon had overcooked Shrek’s holiday dinner, and knocked snow from the branch of the tree onto Donkey, and just looked innocent afterward.

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