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How Shrek Could Have Been Wildly Different In The Movies

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Unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 2001, the on-screen debut of a cranky, green ogre in "Shrek" marked the spawning of a family-friendly film franchise that would spin off multiple sequels, several TV specials, a musical, and a seemingly never-ending supply chain of ogre-the-top merchandise.

As presented in the original DreamWorks animated feature, the rotund, reclusive Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) lives a happily solo life in a hut hidden so deep in a surrounding swamp that others seldom visit -– which is exactly how Shrek likes it. So when his quiet existence is suddenly disrupted by a gaggle of fairy tale characters, creatures, and other storybook types, Shrek is one unhappy ogre. Then, he discovers that the newcomers have been booted out of their homes by John Lithgow's vile, pint-sized Lord Farquaad. As he's caught up in a quest to help out the homeless interlopers and reclaim his swampy solitude, Shrek teams up with a talking donkey, battles a lovelorn dragon, falls in love, and generally turns out to be a pretty good guy ... for someone who eats grubs and makes candles out of ear wax. But the fact is, there are a number of ways that the feature film "Shrek" could have been a very, very different movie.

The movie version of Shrek detours big-time from the original book

Long before there was a "Shrek" on your local theater's movie screen, there was "Shrek!" in its original form – a children's picture book from the iconic author and New Yorker Magazine cartoonist William Steig. Published in 1990, the book version of this quirky fairy tale adventure did have many key elements that turned up in the film. For instance, the book does feature a lumpy, green, anti-social grump as its main character, but Shrek himself is never actually referred to as an ogre. Another key departure from the film is the book's opening, where a young Shrek is literally kicked out of the house by his also-green-and-revolting parents, who want him to leave the comforts of home behind and go out and see the world.

And that's just the start of how the film and book go their separate ways with Shrek's narrative. In the movie, Shrek smells bad. But in the book, he's industrial-strength stinky, causing trees and plants to bend away in disgust as he walks by. Book-Shrek also has other traits the movie skips — he's able to cook food simply by giving it an ugly look, and he has fiery breath and toots smoke clouds from his ears. And as far as his adventures go, in the book, they don't really seem to go much of anywhere, with Shrek seen more as a simple, oddly cheerful, and blithely repulsive character just having a fairly random time experiencing an off-kilter world. So while it's likely that the on-screen incarnation of this obstreperous ogre is the one most people will remember, the film version of his story could have been wildly different if the scriptwriters had put more "Shrek!" into "Shrek."