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Things Only Adults Notice In Shrek

It's no secret that the Shrek movies are full of jokes that would make a Disney princess blush. After all, that's sort of the point. It's also no secret that the Shrek films were massive moneymakers for DreamWorks. Until 2017, Shrek was the highest-earning animated franchise of all time, bringing in a box office take of $3.51 billion over five films (four core movies and Puss in Boots).

The jokes and references are so thick and rapid fire in the Shrek films that we can't blame you for missing some of them. There's also the distinct possibility that you saw the films too long ago and just didn't get some of those more adult-themed gags. But if you sit down with the movies now, you'll find that, just like ogres and onions (and parfaits), the jokes in Shrek have layers, some of which only grown-ups will get. Here are some of our favorite Shrek jokes that went right over the heads of younger audience members.

Lord Farquaad is a clever way to mock an old boss

Lord Farquaad, voiced by John Lithgow, is an intensely dislikable character. He's arrogant, haughty, and a jerk about pretty much everything. He's also a way for DreamWorks president Jeffrey Katzenberg to make fun of his old boss.

That boss is former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

See, Katzenberg sued the House of Mouse after he wasn't given a promotion he claims was promised to him. He took the money he made from the settlement and founded DreamWorks ... and used it to flip the bird to his former employer.

Need proof? Well, Farquaad sells fairytale characters into slavery and lives in a giant castle surrounded by a theme park, which sounds an awful lot like a cynic's take on Disney. He even resembles Eisner. (Well, facially, anyway. Eisner is way taller than his on-screen counterpart.) So yeah, the joke certainly isn't very subtle once you know the history. Not to mention that "Farquaad" is probably just a way to get away with saying "F***wad" in a family movie.

Shrek's overcompensation joke

The dynamic between Donkey and Shrek changes throughout the franchise, but for much of the first film, Donkey remains fairly clueless to Shrek's more adult-themed jokes. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Shrek makes fun of Lord Farquaad's ... uh ... endowment when first arriving at his castle.

When Donkey and Shrek show up at Duloc, the camera pans upward to show off the massive scale of the place. As Shrek stares upward at it, a grin comes over his face, and he nudges Donkey. "Do you think maybe he's compensating for something?" he asks before starting to giggle. Donkey turns his head, completely perplexed by Shrek's joke, before the ogre gives up and walks away.

There are tons of jokes about Farquaad's stature in the first Shrek film. He has to repeatedly have things adjusted for him because all the other characters tower over him. His tiny size is explained in the Shrek musical. As it turns out, his mother was a tiny princess from "The Princess and the Pea" and his father was Grumpy (from Snow White). Thankfully, Shrek never truly confirms whether Farquaad's castle is compensating for his height or something else tiny.

Farquaad's voyeuristic tendencies

Unlike the urban legend of the "minister's erection" in The Little Mermaid — the bulge you see is his knee, which is fairly obvious in a later shot — the creators of Shrek did hide an animated erection in the first film. Of course, it comes to us courtesy of Duloc's creepy ruler, Lord Farquaad.

After Farquaad picks Fiona as the princess he wants to pursue, he becomes obsessed with her. In one scene, while lying in bed and sipping a martini, Farquaad calls to the Magic Mirror to show him Fiona again. The mirror makes a bit of a grossed-out face — maybe it knows Farquaad's favorite activity before bed — before bringing up a picture of the princess. Farquaad stares, then the blanket over his crotch starts to move a bit before he adjusts it, embarrassed.

Thank god Shrek was made all the way back in 2001. If it were made today, with social media and dating apps, we probably would've gotten a scene where Farquaad sends a nude painting of himself to Fiona by carrier pigeon with the message "U up?"

Robin Hood is only looking for one thing

The Shrek films are filled with memorable musical moments, just like the Disney animated features they poke fun at. But whether they be covers of popular songs ("Holding Out for a Hero" from Shrek 2 stands out as an impressive example) or catchy, original numbers, the songs are just another excuse for the series' mile-a-minute joke philosophy. This allows us to learn a bit about the Shrek universe's version of Robin Hood, and why he actually steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

It isn't out of the good of his heart.

The song "Merry Men" serves as an introduction to the flashy bandit, extolling his virtues and giving him a sweet dance number. It also features a telling few lines. Hood starts by singing, "I like an honest fight and a saucy little maid," followed by his Merry Men whispering, "What he's basically saying is he likes to get," before Hood interrupts them and shouts, "Paid!"

We can probably surmise that they were going to say "laid" before being interrupted, meaning Robin Hood is only playing the hero to get into the ladies' corsets. Gross.

Only adults will get the Cops reference

Children of the 1990s are surely aware of the show Cops, and they can probably sing the chorus of the theme song on cue. The show has lost a lot of its cultural relevance, but it was a massively popular series during its early years. And Shrek 2 wants you to know that its screenwriters remember Cops, too.

In the 2004 sequel, Gingy sits down to watch Knights, and the similarities are immediately evident. He tunes in to see the human version of Shrek in a high-speed chase. The voiceover, the amateur footage camera, and the dramatic angles of the chase are all direct from the old show. There are also references to O.J. Simpson (Shrek's "white Bronco"), Rodney King (Donkey shouting about "police brutality"), drug busts (the officers find, or maybe plant, catnip on Puss), and macing perps (the Knights use pepper mills). All this is in a clip that's just over 40 seconds long. Shrek movies do not take their time with jokes and references.

High school stoners in the Shrek universe

Many of Shrek's best adult-themed jokes live in the background, as less awkward questions are bound to come up that way. One of the best examples of the constant barrage of references comes in Shrek the Third, when our heroes go searching for Arthur at a boarding school. And when they arrive, we see all sorts of crazy gags.

For example, a terrible student driver crashes a carriage. A boy wearing braces and headgear plays Dungeons & Dragons with a friend, who gets a bloody nose when he laughs at a joke. Girls disgustedly walk away from Shrek, using a Shakesperian "eweth!" to voice their disgust with him. Homemade posters for homecoming and upcoming sports events are attached to the walls.

However, the best adult joke in the scene comes from recreational activities of another pair of kids. Shrek walks past a carriage (adorned with some graffiti) before a coughing boy stumbles out, followed by a massive cloud of smoke. In a stereotypical stoner voice, he then chastises his friend for "burning all my frankincense and myrrh."

Mission: Impossible

Not every "only adults get it" joke from the Shrek franchise is dirty-minded. Take the scene from Shrek 2 that pays homage to Mission: Impossible. Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are locked in a prison, and their friends come to rescue. Just like the intro to the Mission: Impossible television show, the scene begins with the lighting of a match and fuse. Then, the more modern version comes into play.

Pinocchio uses his strings to artfully drop into the dungeon where the trio is being kept, just as Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt did in the 1996 film. He artfully falls, even adding some aerial tumbling, as a very familiar song plays in the background. It's a pretty spot-on parody of the film. Then he gets tangled in his strings, we learn that Pinocchio likes to wear women's underwear, and the audience is supposed to kink-shame the poor puppet. It's still Shrek, y'all. We can't go too long without some sort of crass joke thrown in there.

Milkboarding the Gingerbread Man

Gingy's torture scene in Shrek is one of the standout moments of the film. It only lasts a little over a minute, but it sets up Gingy as a character, establishes Farquaad as a despicable villain, and has some of the more clever gags in the entire movie. Farquaad crumbling Gingy's leg in front of his eyes and threatening to pull off his gumdrop buttons is gold, but a moment at the beginning of the scene is exceedingly dark in contrast.

When Farquaad enters the room, we can just see a shadow on the wall of Gingy being dunked in a glass of milk. Shrek was released right around the time of the United States' invasion of the Middle East, and as a result, Gingy is being waterboarded. Maybe that's why they kept that gag as a silhouette.

Luckily, this super dark moment is surrounded by more lighthearted fair. There's a "Farquaad is short" joke, the torture devices are baking utensils, and the characters recite the Muffin Man nursery rhyme. Still, Gingy being subjected to a war crime in an animated family comedy is more than a little messed up.

Shrek's swimsuit issues

Gather 'round, all you whippersnappers. The old folks have a story to tell. Once upon a time, if you wanted to ogle pictures of scantily-clad women, it wasn't just a click away. For many a young lad, the first initiation to such pictures came in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And because these films love to keep things classy, Shrek 2 decided to pay homage to that.

When Prince Charming gets to Fiona's castle in the second film, he storms inside and finds the Big Bad Wolf lying in the bed, eating a snack and poring through an issue of Pork Illustrated. And of course, on the front of that magazine is a pig in a bright red bikini. However, we've got to ask one question ... why is the Big Bad Wolf looking at pigs in bikinis instead of wolves? Your guess is as good as ours. 

Old man anatomy and crazy trips

Poor Merlin. For being the insanely powerful wizard of lore, he's the butt of a lot of jokes in pop culture. Take his appearance in Shrek the Third, for example. He's fallen out of practice with his magic, and he appears as a bit of a kooky old man. He even wears socks with sandals!

In fact, when it comes to fashion, Merlin is just failing in every direction. In the scene where the characters are letting Merlin try out his spells, everyone is a bit nervous. Shrek reassures them by declaring, "If Artie trusts him, that's good enough for me. Even if his robe doesn't quite cover his..." And that's when Merlin interrupts him with some magical incantations.

Yes, Merlin is fairly old. Yes, his robe is pretty short. Luckily, Shrek the Third never shows the audience exactly what hangs out from the bottom of it. But then, after the spell takes effect, the group is transported and falls through the trees. Donkey (who's been magicked into Puss' body) declares, "Man, I haven't been on a trip like that since college." These movies just teach us all sorts of things about our favorite mythical characters.

Shrek and the waffle hole

This one might even go over the heads of some adults, as it takes a bit of an Urban Dictionary aficionado to recognize this reference. But apparently, Fiona is well-versed in dirty slang because she looks suitably disgusted when Shrek says this line to her.

In Shrek Forever After, Donkey is caught in a trap after being lured there by some delicious waffles. Later, when Shrek is talking to Fiona, he tells her, "My donkey fell in your waffle hole." She looks a strange combination of grossed-out and confused when he says this. So what's going on here?

Well, according to Urban Dictionary, a "wafflehole" is "the small, bumpy ring that is discovered upon entering the anal area." So Fiona's reaction to Shrek in this scene is a fairly justifiable one, as anyone using Urban Dictionary words in everyday conversation deserves a good thrashing. And honestly, it feels like the Shrek Forever After writers were stretching a bit too much to include this one in here.