A Look at the Voices in DreamWorks' animated Shrek movie.
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Voicing Shrek
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of Digital Media FX (digitalmediafx.com)

John LithgowLarge scale animated productions, like Shrek, depend on Hollywood celebrities to bring animated character voices to life. While having celebrities attached to an animated film is a major blow to voice actors, it provides major marketing potential for studios.

Celebrities starring in DreamWorks' Shrek include Mike Meyers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, and John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad.

The main star, of course, is Shrek - a disgusting ogre who reacts to his swamp home being invaded by fairy tale characters. As the star, it was important for the voice artist to bring out the disgusting habits of Shrek while still making him lovable.

"Shrek is no dreamboat, but Mike understood the heart and soul of the character and brought out his wonderful lovable qualities," says DreamWorks principle Jeffrey Katzenberg. In the way he brought Shrek's words to life, Mike gave him his heart and we were able to mold our physical character aroundMike Myers his voice."

Sometimes voicing a character creates opportunities to improvise, which brings more life to the character.

"We spent a lot of time in the studio discovering who Mike Myers as Shrek was, and experimenting with different voices and different accents," says Andrew Adamson, one of the films two directors. "The truth is, when you cast Mike Myers in a role, you don't just get Mike Myers; you get the plethora of characterizations he can create. He is the best at inventing a character and stepping into it. And once he's in it, he stays in it - even between takes - which gave him a great base from which to start improvising. The improv moments are gold; those are the moments that give the animators the most to go on, because at that point, it's not a written piece of dialogue - it's a character come to life."

Playing Shrek's "sidekick" is a donkey named Donkey. For the voice, the Shrek team selected Eddie Murphy. Murphy's last experience as a voice over artist came in Disney's Mulan where he played Mulan's sidekick, Mushu the Dragon.

Eddie MurphyMurphy freely admits that there are big differences between voice acting and live action acting.

"Animation is a much more collaborative process than acting with my body and my face," says Murphy. "It's a trip to have the director ask for a small inflection in your voice, and then, when the scene is drawn, you see how that slight change brings out the emotion. Another reason I like doing animated films is that, when they're done right, they're timeless, and my kids really get into them… They love hearing their father's voice come out of a cartoon."

Playing the role of the princess - who is unlike any past animated fairy tale princess - is actress Cameron Diaz. She describes the princess as "a little spark plug." What makes Shrek different for Diaz is that it is her first ever voicing of an animated character. She had no idea of what to expect.

Cameron Diaz"They told me that Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy were in most of my scenes, so I expected to walk into the room and find them both there and do lines together," says Diaz. "Instead, I got storyboards and a pointer stick running across dialogue on the bottom. I thought, 'Okay, this is different,' but it turned out to be very cool."

One of Diaz's sequences in the movie includes a fight scene that mimics some moves from The Matrix. Diaz was psyched about that part of the movie because she was doing intense daily martial arts training for Charlie's Angels.

"She would come in all pumped up from training and suddenly break into fighting noises and threaten to take one of the story artists out - in Chinese no less," laughs Adamson.

So, if all the main characters are voiced by Hollywood celebrities then you'd expect voice artists to get the minor roles, right? Well… not quite.

When storyboard artists and other crew pitch an idea to the directors, they act out the characters in the sequence, including character dialogue. The Shrek filmmakers were so impressed with some of these performances that they cast some of their crew as animated character voices. This includes story artist Conrad Vernon as the Gingerbread Man, Chris Miller as Geppetto (and as the Magic Mirror), Cody Cameron as Pinocchio (and one of the three little pigs), and Christopher Knights as one of the three blind mice.

A few real life voice artists did make their way into Shrek. One well-known voice artist, Jim Cummings, was cast as the Captain of the Guards. Cummings has voiced over 100 animated characters in his lifetime. This includes voicing Tigger and Winnie the Pooh in last year's Disney animated film, The Tigger Movie.

Here is a complete list of the voice cast for Shrek:

Mike Myers

Eddie Murphy

Princess Fiona
Cameron Diaz

Lord Farquaad
John Lithgow

Monsieur Hood
Vincent Cassel

Ogre Hunters
Peter Dennis
Clive Pearse

Captain of the Guards
Jim Cummings

Baby Bear
Bobby Block

Geppetto / Magic Mirror
Chris Miller

Pinnochio / Three Pigs
Cody Cameron

Old Woman
Kathleen Freeman

Peter Pan
Michael Galasso

Blind Mice
Christopher Knights
Mike Myers
Simon J. Smith

Christopher Knights

Gingerbread Man
Conrad Vernon

Wrestling Fan
Jacquie Barnbrook

Merry Men
Guillaume Aretos
John Bisom
Matthew Gonder
Calvin Remsberg
Jean-Paul Vignon

Val Bettin

Joe Tracy is the publisher of Digital Media FX (www.digitalmediafx.com)



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