5 Things You Didn't Know About the 'Shrek' Series

Who was the original voice of Shrek?

Having amassed a global haul of over a billion dollars, the Shrek series has rightfully earned a place within the pantheon of all-time great animated movies. But even if you’ve seen each of the films more than once, there are still plenty of things about the franchise that you might not know:

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Chris Farley Was Originally Set to Voice Shrek

Though it’s now impossible to envision anyone but Mike Myers in the role of Shrek, Chris Farley was originally cast as the big green ogre when the movie went into production in the fall of 1996 after Nicolas Cage turned the role down. The Tommy Boy actor had already recorded the majority of his dialogue when he tragically passed away on December 18, 1997.

DreamWorks Animation briefly flirted with the idea of finishing the movie using a sound-alike performer. Eventually, however, the decision was made to essentially start from scratch with a new performer, and after considering famous names like Nicolas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio, the filmmakers handed the plum gig to Mike Myers. The rest, as they say, is history.

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'Shrek 2' is Dedicated to William Steig

If you’re scratching your head right now wondering just who the heck William Steig was, you’re probably not alone. Most people don’t realize that 2001’s Shrek was actually based on a 32-page children’s book called published in 1990, which follows the title character as he leaves home for the first time and eventually falls in love. Though he wrote dozens of books and drew thousands of cartoons for the New Yorker, Steig was best known for creating DreamWorks’ most beloved (and profitable) animated character. After he died in 2003, the company decided to honor his memory with a brief mention in the end credits for 2004’s Shrek 2.

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'Shrek' Was the First Movie to Win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature

Animated features have a long history of being overlooked by the Oscars, with many of the genre’s finest efforts, including 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 1994’s , completely ignored in the Best Motion Picture category.

In 2001, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sought to correct this oversight by instituting a new category called Best Animated Feature, with DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek beating out fellow nominees Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Monsters, Inc. (This was one of only a handful of times that Pixar has lost the award, with the second being in 2006 when was defeated by Happy Feet.) The Shrek series made history again in 2004 after Shrek 2 became the first sequel to receive a nomination for the award, but none of the Shrek sequels (or the spinoff Puss in Boots) received the top prize.

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Paul McCartney and Tom Cruise Were Rumored to Voice Rumpelstiltskin

Top Gun
Paramount Pictures

Though Rumpelstiltskin appeared briefly in , the villainous dwarf was completely reimagined and redesigned after it became clear that he’d be playing a much bigger role in 2010’s Shrek Forever After. The filmmakers’ first step towards overhauling the character was to find just the right person to provide his voice, with the role temporarily filled by animator and story editor Walt Dohrn during the exhaustive search.

After considering A-listers like Paul McCartney and Tom Cruise, director Mike Mitchell decided to give the role to… Walt Dohrn. As Mitchell explained to ABC news, "We often do scratch tracks, temporary voices as we are working on a film. We found that Walt's voice was irreplaceable.”

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Shrek Didn’t Initially Speak with a Scottish Accent

After Chris Farley passed away, Mike Myers agreed to step into Shrek’s oversized shoes and initially felt that the character would be best served with a subtle Canadian accent. By the time he had recorded more than half of his dialogue, however, Myers changed his mind and instead wanted Shrek to sport a heavy Scottish brogue. As Myers told USA Today, "I always thought that Shrek was raised working class. And since Lord Farquaad was played English, I thought of Scottish."

The change wound up costing DreamWorks Animation somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million, but that’s small change now compared to the series’ global haul of over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office.